- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Plans for a mass terrorist attack have reportedly been disrupted through the arrest of terror suspects and U.S. officials plan to subvert other such threats by detaining suspected Iraqi agents should a war in Iraq begin.

Two newspapers Tuesday reported the anti-terror moves. The Washington Times said al Qaida plans a series of smaller assaults, including assassination of political figures, before launching a large-scale attack. The Washington Post reported that the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies were tracking suspected Iraqi agents and planned to forestall any retaliatory acts should the United States go to war with Iraq.

"We and our allies are bracing for a terrorist offensive, and we are keeping track of Iraqi intelligence officers around the world," a senior U.S. intelligence official told the Post.

The newspaper said allies were tracking suspected Iraqi agents in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and in Africa. The FBI is reportedly searching for several thousand Iraqi nationals, in the United States illegally, who are missing. Officials said the overall campaign stems from the suspicion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would order terror-style assaults on U.S. interests should Iraq be attacked.

The Post said CIA Director George Tenet sent Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., a letter that said Saddam "might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamic terrorists in conducting a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

The Washington Times said recent intelligence reports show that communications between cells of al Qaida operatives were picking up. The newspaper said the threat was included in reports sent to the White House last week. The warning did not say whether the main assault would be in the United States or some other country.

"This attack will be large-scale," an unnamed intelligence official told the Times.

Although details were not reported by the newspaper, it did say the main strike would come after a series of smaller attacks, including assassinations.

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