- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

From the streets of London and Singapore to the yachting marinas of New Zealand, authorities report heightened security alerts as the world prepares to mark the grim anniversary of the September 11 terrorist strikes.

Foreign embassies in Washington are reluctant to discuss specific measures their countries have adopted, but many privately say they worry that tomorrow's anniversary will prove a tempting target for al Qaeda terrorists eager to show they are still a force.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner David Veness told British reporters Friday that Britain had been placed on alert, with mobile armed roadblocks at critical points around London this week.

"There may be individuals who think here is an anniversary which is a world stage in terms of publicity and for their own reasons might attack," Mr. Veness said. "We shouldn't underestimate these individuals."

Germany's BKD federal criminal police, the equivalent of the FBI, has warned Berlin authorities in a letter that al Qaeda could be looking to exploit the September 11 date with a new strike.

"The organization has a tight, well-functioning communications network. Many leaders are still operating underground. Each of the groups worldwide can plan and carry out attacks individually," the BKD warned in a letter last week that was leaked to German newspapers.

The fears have spread to the elite world of America's Cup yachting, where the first races in the five-month competition are due to start Oct. 1 in the waters off New Zealand.

With some of the world's richest men competing in well-heeled syndicates, police in Auckland have instituted Operation Marlin II to establish a security screen for the racing teams.

"I think every police agency in the world went 'gulp' and thought they had to take things more seriously," Auckland City Police Superintendent Howard Broad told the New Zealand Herald Friday. "You can assume that the cops have done something very deliberate on this."

Authorities in Europe and Israel apparently have managed to foil several attacks in recent days, as individual operatives have stepped up activity.

German officials last week arrested a Turkish man and his German-American fiancee on charges they planned to bomb the U.S. Army European headquarters base in Heidelberg. The couple were said to have had five pipe bombs and nearly 300 pounds of chemical explosives when they were arrested.

A reported sympathizer of the ousted fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan narrowly missed a spectacular symbolic blow against the U.S.-backed regime when he failed to hit Hamid Karzai despite pumping four bullets into the president's car during a visit to the provincial city of Kandahar last week.

With al Qaeda's terrorist cells around the globe driven underground, officials and private terrorism analysts can make only educated guesses about the organization's operational strength.

Mr. Karzai argued that the attempt on his life in Kandahar Thursday pointed to weakness in the capacities of the Taliban and of al Qaeda.

The use of a lone gunman in the assault "means they are no longer capable of mobilizing as groups, so they act as individuals," he said.

Still, police around the world believe that while Osama bin Laden's capacity to act has been dented, it is far from eliminated.

Vice President Richard B. Cheney, in a weekend television interview, said, "There is a temptation, I think, for terrorists to try to stage events that hark back to historically significant dates, and I wouldn't be at all surprised that that's the case here.

"I'm not saying something is going to happen on September 11th, but as these major milestones come along we often receive reporting that it's tied into one of those dates."

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