- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The FBI has warned oil and gas companies throughout the United States and Canada to be on the highest alert for retaliatory attacks ordered by fugitive Osama bin Laden in the event of his death or capture.
The warning, which contained no specific information on the method or specific target of such an attack but referred generally to natural gas pipelines, was outlined by the D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute in letters to its 400 members nationwide.
The FBI said such an attack would "allegedly take place in the event that either bin Laden or Taliban leader Mullah Omar are either captured or killed."
Attorney General John Ashcroft, during a press conference yesterday, confirmed that the Bush administration received information on a possible terror attack on the American natural gas sector, but noted that while the information was of "undetermined reliability," it was being taken seriously.
"There was, maybe 10 days or close to two weeks ago, an uncorroborated report of undetermined reliability about natural gas," he said. "Frankly, those are the kinds of reports which we take seriously, but we process and we work to elevate our security.
"And our ability to be successful, at least over the last several months, avoiding additional terrorist attacks, I believe, is a result of that kind of effort. And we're especially always concerned as it relates to things that might have substantial hazard," he said.
The information was sent by the FBI to its 56 field offices nationwide, and was then distributed to the industry by the individual offices and the institute.
"We have received uncorroborated information that Osama bin Laden may have approved plans to attack natural gas supplies in the United States," the institute said in the letters. The institute's letters also were forwarded to oil and gas industry officials in Canada, who immediately placed energy installations and pipelines on high alert for possible incidents of sabotage.
Dean Pelkey, spokesman for B.C. Gas Utility Ltd. in Vancouver, said that while the information had not been confirmed and its source remained in question, Canadian oil and gas industry officials were taking it seriously.
"When something like this comes out, you can't dismiss it out of hand," he said. "Since September 11, we have increased security at our facilities and we are being more vigilant in watching and monitoring our pipelines."
Oil and gas pipelines have been frequently mentioned as possible terrorist targets.
Last month, Algerian Islamists linked to bin Laden threatened to declare war on British and other "vital Western interests" by blowing up oil and gas pipelines that run from North Africa to Europe. That threat followed the arrest in Spain of six members of an Algerian extremist group for their role in a plot to blow up the American Embassy in Paris.
That threat named France, Germany, Britain and Belgium as the "European countries that persecute Islamists and cooperate with the U.S. in their struggle against bin Laden." It was issued by Hassen Hatab, who attended a meeting this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with bin Laden associates.
At the same meeting, the CIA filmed one of the hijackers who was on the plane that hit the Pentagon.
Earlier this month, the FBI warned law-enforcement authorities in California and seven other Western states to guard against terrorist attacks at major targets, specifically including the landmark Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland bay bridges.
Several states responded immediately, placing National Guard troops and local law enforcement officers at the facilities. The FBI later said the information was not credible, but it would continue to notify state and local authorities of any new threats.
Thousands of miles of gas pipeline cross the United States and Canada, most of which are buried.


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