- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

The FBI yesterday warned law-enforcement authorities in California and seven other Western states to guard against terrorist attacks over the next five days aimed at major targets, specifically including the landmark Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges.
The warning was relayed to chiefs of police and other key law-enforcement personal throughout the state in telephone calls from FBI authorities, who said there was "credible and serious" information that terrorist strikes could occur between today and Wednesday.
California Gov. Gray Davis, at a hastily called press conference late yesterday afternoon, confirmed the warning, saying the FBI and law-enforcement officials from throughout the state had gathered "credible information from several different sources" that an effort could be made to "blow up" a major bridge during rush hour.
In addition to the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges, other possible targets were listed as the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles and the Coronado Bridge in San Diego.
"The best preparation is to let the terrorists know: 'We know what you're up to, we're ready for you,'" Mr. Davis said. "We are bound and determined to protect California and the vital assets of this state."
The FBI, in a statement issued last night, said investigators had not yet corroborated information of a pending terrorist strike in California, but decided to issue the warning anyway.
"Reportedly, unspecified groups are targeting suspension bridges on the West Coast," the FBI statement said, adding that "six incidents" had been planned during rush hour between today and Wednesday.
A federal law-enforcement official said last night that besides the bridges in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, the "incidents" were planned by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in at least three other Western cities.
The terrorists wanted to show that they could hit American targets anywhere in the country, the source said. The FBI statement was also sent to law-enforcement agencies in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Idaho.
On Monday, Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Americans of possible new terrorist strikes over the next several days, although he gave no information on any intended targets or how the attacks would be carried out.
In placing 18,000 police agencies nationwide on the "highest alert," Mr. Ashcroft said federal authorities viewed the threat as "credible" and that it "should be taken seriously."
Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker told reporters last night that the Western warning was "at a lower level" than Mr. Ashcroft's general alert Monday.
Mr. Davis said he ordered additional security around several bridges in the state, including an increased presence of the California Highway Patrol and the National Guard. He said the U.S. Coast Guard, which already has been patrolling California ports to guard against possible terrorist attacks, had been pressed into service to guard water accesses to several bridges.
California Highway Patrol Commissioner Dwight Helmick said last night the warning delivered by the FBI was "non-specific," but that the National Guard would be stationed at each end of the four bridges. He said none of the bridges would be closed.
"We are confident the bridges are safe," he said.
Officials at the Los Angeles Police Department said the agency had been on "heightened alert" since the September 11 attacks, but would pay "extra attention" to bridges in its area.
One high-ranking California law-enforcement official said no specific terrorist organization was identified in the FBI warning as being behind the threat, although authorities have since the September 11 attack on America focused on members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network as the prime suspects in any new attacks.
The Golden Gate Bridge is believed by authorities to be a prime target since it has long been the most recognizable symbol of the city much as the World Trade Center represented New York. The 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge located at the entrance of San Francisco Bay is crossed by about 125,000 vehicles each day.
The Bay Bridge consists of two suspension bridges that span more than 9,000 feet and connects San Francisco and Oakland. It carries more than 280,000 vehicles daily. The Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles is a cable-suspension bridge more than 6,000 feet long that has a daily traffic count of about 40,000.
The Coronado Bridge in San Diego is built on girders and spans a distance of more than 11,200 feet across San Diego Bay to Coronado Island. It carries 68,000 vehicles each day. Coronado Island is home to the North Island Naval Air Station, part of the largest aerospace-industrial complex in the U.S. Navy.
Authorities said terrorists looking to strike the bridges would probably use car or truck bombs, or attempt to steer a private airplane into one of the targets. They said hijacking a commercial jetliner now would be more difficult than on September 11.
Yesterday's warning follows by three weeks an earlier warning by the FBI that police in Los Angeles be on high alert for possible terrorist strikes against several Los Angeles-area movie studios. In response to that warning, several studios halted tours and hired additional security personnel.
Meanwhile, German authorities are investigating a suspected Taliban "hit list" of 106 enemies found in a now-closed office in Frankfurt that police suspect served as a source of illegal passports and visas and as a center for terrorist and espionage activities.
The four-page list, now in the hands of the German Federal Criminal Investigations Office, contains the names of major Taliban opponents, according to federal law-enforcement authorities, although none of those on the list was identified. German officials have declined to discuss the list, but authorities said the listed opponents were persons who lived outside of Afghanistan.
Authorities said the word "kill" was written next to several of the names, but no specific information was disclosed on whether anyone named had actually been murdered or whether any of those named on the list were U.S. citizens.
German police said the office, located in a "red light district" in Frankfurt, had been used to arrange visits by Taliban leaders in Europe.
The hunt by German authorities for possible accomplices in the September 11 attacks on America has continued unabated. Three of the terrorists who hijacked the jetliners that struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon lived in Germany for several years none of whom had been tied beforehand to the 17 radical Islamic groups monitored by Germany's internal security services.
U.S. intelligence officials have estimated there are more than 30,000 known members of fundamental Islamic groups operating in Germany, about 5,000 of whom have been linked to Islamic organizations with histories of violence including bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.


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