- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

London's Heathrow Airport has been targeted for attack by al Qaeda terrorists, an Islamic radical arrested in London last month told investigators, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The type of attack being planned was not disclosed but officials said, based on al Qaeda's past operations, that it could be mass-casualty bombing.
Disclosure of the London airport plan comes amid warnings issued yesterday in Europe that terrorists have targeted ferry boats throughout Europe for attack.
The information on Heathrow was provided by Palestinian militant Umar Muhammad Umar Uthman, the leader of al Qaeda in Europe who is known as Abu-Qatadah, the intelligence officials said.
Abu-Qatadah was arrested in London last month after a yearlong security investigation by Britain's MI5 intelligence service, the official said.
Abu-Qatadah's information bolstered earlier threat warnings obtained from interrogations of al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan in March.
Abu-Qatadah, 40, is being held in a prison in southwest London. He is believed to be Osama bin Laden's key aide in Europe.
A week before his arrest, he gave an interview to an Arabic-language Internet site calling for jihad or holy war.
U.S. intelligence officials said Heathrow has been a major transit point for al Qaeda and other Muslim terrorists in the past year, in part because of the airport's practice of not looking under the veils of Muslim women.
At least 2,000 veiled travelers have passed through Heathrow in recent months without being checked by airport security personnel, offering a potential method of smuggling bombs onto planes, the officials said.
Regarding the threat to ferry terminals, British Home Office Secretary John Denham announced yesterday there was no specific intelligence that led to the security alert.
"The information that went out was part of reminding people of the need for heightened vigilance and heightened awareness," Mr. Denham said on BBC radio.
The warning was based on intelligence issued to shipping companies that a truck loaded with explosives would be placed on a ferry used to cross the English Channel.
The warning followed a speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday, in which he said British intelligence was detecting terrorist threats against British targets on a daily basis.
Britain's London Telegraph newspaper reported yesterday that police officers in London were working undercover as vagrants in an attempt to thwart suicide bombers.
The police are also using dogs to sniff out explosives on bombers.
In France, ferries sailing from Calais stepped up security to high levels, according to the port's operational manager, Jean-Denis Ringot. "Vigilance had been stepped up since September 11. Now, we've moved it up a notch," he said.
The governments in the Baltic Sea states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also increased port security last week after a warning from European law-enforcement officials.
In June, the Office of Naval Intelligence, quoting German police sources, stated in a warning notice that the suicide attacks were being planned against ferries and cruise ships in Northern Europe.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide