- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 1999

The FBI Thursday warned Americans to guard against the possibility of mail bombs being sent by unknown persons in Frankfurt, Germany, to U.S. addresses during the New Year's celebrations and urged citizens not to open "questionable packages."
"The U.S. government received unsubstantiated information that individuals may be planning to send bombs in small parcels to addresses in the United States," the FBI said in a statement. "The information received indicates that the parcels would be sent from Frankfurt, Germany.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the public is being promptly alerted to this information," the FBI said, adding that the public should be "cautious" with packages from Frankfurt "when the sender is unknown or unfamiliar with the recipient."
The statement, released at 3 a.m., comes as high-ranking government officials urged Americans to remain calm during the New Year's celebration, but at the same time to be vigilant against possible terrorist attacks.
During an interview taped earlier this week but broadcast last night on CNN's "Larry King Live," President Clinton said that during the New Year's celebrations, "a lot of people who may even be a little crazy by our standards, or may have a political point to make, may try to take advantage of it. So we are on a heightened state of alert.
"We're working very hard on it. No one can guarantee that nothing will happen… . My advice to the American people would be to go on about their business and do what they would intend to do at the holiday season, but to be a little more aware of people and places where they find themselves," he said.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Burlington, Vt., said Thursday a woman arrested at Beecher Falls, Vt., along the Canadian border, has ties to an international terrorist group headed by Fateh Kamel, who has been held in a French jail since April after his extradition from Jordan. Mr. Kamel is believed to have sponsored terrorist activities in Europe and Algeria.
The disclosure came as prosecutors argued successfully in court to keep Lucia Garofalo, 35, and Bouabide Chamchi, 20, in jail. Both were arrested Sunday at a remote border crossing. Mr. Chamchi was charged with trying to enter the United States from Canada with false papers. Miss Garofalo, a Canadian, was charged with trying to smuggle Mr. Chamchi across the border.
In court papers, prosecutors said they have linked Miss Garofalo's cell phone and the car she was driving to the Algerian Islamic League, whose leader is Mr. Kamel. They said that information came from American intelligence sources, which they did not further identify.
Federal authorities said they found a false French passport in Mr. Chamchi's coat and bomb-sniffing dogs signaled his car may have contained explosives. FBI agents later searched the vehicle but found no evidence of weapons or explosives.
The FBI statement was part of a continuing effort by federal authorities to issue warnings on possible threats in the wake of the arrests in Vermont and a separate arrest Dec. 14 of an Algerian man in Port Angeles, Wash., on charges he tried to smuggle bomb-making materials into this country.
Ahmed Ressam, 32, was indicted in Seattle and pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of making false statements to U.S. customs officers; trying to smuggle nitroglycerin across the border; transporting explosives; and committing a felony while carrying explosives.
Federal authorities are investigating any possible ties between Mr. Ressam and a terrorism organization headed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden. U.S. intelligence officials have said bin Laden, accused in the bombings last year of two U.S. embassies in Africa, issued Islamic calls to action known as "fatwas" in Arabic against the United States. Suspected terrorists arrested in Jordan last week also have been linked to bin Laden's network.
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has said Mr. Ressam has ties to bin Laden, and that he was trained to make bombs at bin Laden's base in Afghanistan. He used a French passport in another name to reach Canada in 1994, and immediately declared his true identity and claimed refugee status.
U.S. intelligence officials also continue to check reports that three U.S. cities Washington, D.C., Seattle and New York were possible targets for terrorists based in Montreal. NBC News said on Wednesday night that federal officials had asked police in those three cities to be on guard for suspected terrorists.
Federal authorities said Thursday they had no specific information on the report but that inquiries in the matter were continuing.
The FBI statement prompted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to begin screening incoming parcels and first-class mail from Frankfurt. Inspection Service spokesman Dan Mihalko said the agency knew of no specific threat, but suggested the public be cautious about suspicious parcels.
"Anything bearing a Frankfurt postmark, if you weren't expecting it, would be suspicious," he said, adding that postal inspectors were using X-ray machines to check the mail at U.S. airports.
In other related matters:
Federal agents charged a Brazilian citizen living in New Jersey with threatening to leave a van filled with explosives in a tunnel leading to New York City. Renato DeSousa Flor was arrested Wednesday at his Newark home by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force after America Online noticed a message was left on one of its Internet chat rooms. The message said, "F.B.I. and C.I.A. BEWARE."
Public accusations against bin Laden, the recent arrests of suspected followers of his in Jordan and the detention of the Algerians along the Canadian border have contributed to a potential for a backlash against American Muslims. Six million of the 260 million people living in the United States are Muslims.

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