- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Al Qaeda terrorists, who crashed three fuel-laden jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, may have been in the final planning stages of a suicide attack with a small plane or helicopter on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, according to an advisory issued by the Department of Homeland Security.The advisory, sent Thursday to pilots and airports encouraging that “all unusual and suspicious activities” be reported, was based on intelligence data gathered by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, a counterterrorism office established by the Bush administration in the wake of intelligence-gathering problems uncovered after the September 11 attacks.The advisory warned that al Qaeda operatives based in Pakistan were planning to crash an explosives-laden small plane or helicopter into the consulate office, law enforcement authorities said. No date for any such attack was outlined in the advisory, which addressed what authorities said was a nonspecific threat.A small airplane loaded with explosives would have an impact similar to that of a truck bomb, law enforcement officials said.”Recent reliable reporting indicates that al Qaeda was in the late stages of planning an aerial suicide attack against the U.S. Consulate in Karachi,” the advisory said. “Operatives were planning to pack a small fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter with explosives and crash it into the consulate.”This plot and a similar plot last year to fly a small explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf demonstrate al Qaeda’s continued fixation with using explosive-laden small aircraft in attacks,” it said.The advisory noted that al Qaeda “has a fair-sized pilot cadre” and that an attack by a small plane, instead of a large commercial jetliner, was well within the organization’s capability.”Reliable information obtained last year indicated al Qaeda might use experienced non-Arab pilots to rent three or four light aircraft under the guise of flying lessons,” the advisory said.The warning coincided with the arrest yesterday in Karachi of two more men suspected of having ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network, along with the seizure of more than 300 pounds of explosives and several weapons. Pakistani police said the men were being interrogated about their potential links to the terrorist organization.The men were apprehended as they attempted to move the explosives and weapons, including at least two Russian-made AK-47 rifles, in sacks to a central neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistani authorities said.On Tuesday, six suspected al Qaeda terrorists were also taken into custody by Pakistani authorities, including Waleed Muhammed Bin Attash, a Yemeni believed to have been involved in the October 2000 attack on USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors.FBI agents from Washington were en route to Pakistan yesterday to help interrogate the six in connection with the Cole investigation.U.S. intelligence sources have said several al Qaeda fugitives who fled the U.S.-led coalition’s war on terror in neighboring Afghanistan had found a safe haven in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city with 14 million people.Pakistani authorities have arrested more than 400 members of al Qaeda and the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan since the United States began military operations in Afghanistan, which had offered safe harbor to al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and his top commanders.Last year, the consulate in Karachi was the target of a car-bomb attack that killed 11 persons and wounded more than 40.

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