- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

The FBI yesterday warned law enforcement agencies nationwide of unconfirmed reports that terrorists aligned to the al Qaeda network might attempt to target shopping malls and supermarkets.
According to federal law enforcement authorities, the warnings were sent to the FBI's 56 fields offices nationwide and then routed to nearly 18,000 state and local police agencies with a caution that the information was unsubstantiated and potential targets and methods of attack had not been determined.
The warning follows by five days a separate FBI alert to law enforcement agencies and the media that "unspecific terrorists" were considering attacks against U.S. financial institutions in the Northeast, particularly banks, as part of an ongoing campaign against U.S. financial interests.
While the FBI acknowledged that its Friday warning also was "unsubstantiated" and the bureau had not identified any specific plot or targets, it issued the alert "out of an abundance of caution" to law enforcement authorities in the District and 12 states, including Virginia and Maryland.
Yesterday's warning, which came with no notice and was not given to the media, reportedly was based on information obtained from Abu Zubaydah, the highest-ranking al Qaeda member now in custody. Zubaydah has been described by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as "a very senior al Qaeda official who has been intimately involved in a range of activities" for the terrorist organization.
Zubaydah, 30, was captured March 28 during a Pakistani police raid, supported by FBI agents and CIA operatives. His location is not known, although he is believed to have been transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where other suspected al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists are being held.
Yesterday's warning, according to the authorities, had no impact on the country's current threat status, which remained at "yellow" which places the potential security threat at an "elevated" level. Orange would be in the "high" range and red is considered "severe."
It was not clear how much information Zubaydah has about potential terrorist attacks, if any, and whether he has told authorities about would-be threats in order to create confusion and concern.
The FBI issued an alert in February, when it warned of a potential terrorist attack by "individuals who may be associated with Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network." The warning focused on a pending attack by more than a dozen men against U.S. targets here or abroad. No attack took place.

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