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U.S. warns of possible Al Qaeda plot on U.S. interests
( 2003-11-22 09:38) (Agencies)

The U.S. government has issued an advisory warning of al Qaeda's "continued desire" to plot a terrorist attack on American interests abroad, but there has been no change in the U.S. terror threat level, officials said on Friday.

A uniformed U.S. Secret Service officer scans the White House grounds from the roof of the executive mansion during a temporary evacuation November 20, 2003. The U.S. government has issued an advisory warning of al Qaeda's 'continued desire' to plot a terrorist attack on American interests abroad, but there has been no change in the U.S. terror threat level, officials said on Nov. 21. [Reuters]
A senior intelligence official said a classified advisory was sent to law enforcement and security personnel late on Thursday regarding "al Qaeda's continued desire to plot or plan terrorist attacks with an emphasis on U.S. interests abroad."

A Homeland Security spokesman said there was no change in the color-coded threat level, which remained at "yellow" or an elevated risk of attack.

"Based on assessment of current intelligence, we have no plans to raise the threat level," department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.

Another official said the advisory mentioned increased fears of violence when the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends early next week. He said the government was concerned because suicide bomb attacks in the Middle East had been occurring steadily over the past weeks.

"We're not seeing a downplaying of (the attacks) and particularly with Ramadan coming to an end ... out of an abundance of caution the advisory was issued," the second official said.

A third U.S. official cited the recent attacks, the end of Ramadan and intelligence "chatter" -- communications from al Qaeda suspects picked up by intelligence agencies -- as reasons for issuing the advisory. The official said there was no information about a specific date, time or place for a potential attack.

The classified advisory followed recent violence in Turkey where bomb attacks in Istanbul have killed more than 50 people and wounded hundreds since Saturday.


The State Department, which has a legal obligation to warn U.S. citizens abroad of any threats, updated its worldwide caution to include mention of the Turkish attacks.

"We therefore assess that other geographic locations could be venues for the next round of attacks," added the caution, using language identical to that in its Sept. 26 warning.

A statement purported to come from a unit of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al Qaeda network said the unit carried out twin truck bomb attacks on British targets in Istanbul, five days after two similar attacks on Istanbul synagogues.

The United States blames al Qaeda for the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked airline attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (news - web sites).

The United States joined Britain in warning its citizens to defer nonessential travel to Turkey, reflecting fears of further attacks there. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos also issued a warning on Friday, advising American citizens not to travel to an upscale commercial area of Nigeria's biggest city.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told Reuters on Thursday the department had no plans to raise the terror threat level in the United States despite the recent violence abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security created its color-coded terror alert warning system in March 2002 to help Americans prepare better for future attacks.

The alert level has generally remained at "yellow" -- the middle of the five-color scale -- but has been raised to "orange" -- signaling a "high" risk of attack -- on four occasions. The last time it was at orange was in May, after deadly suicide bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

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