- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 22, 2004

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The government announced a national terror alert yesterday, saying it has received information that al Qaeda was trying to recruit Hondurans to attack the embassies of the United States, Britain, Spain and El Salvador.

Security was heightened at the embassies three days ago after intelligence services first received reports of the plan, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said at a press conference.

“We are facing a state of preventative national alert, because our intelligence services report that al Qaeda foreigners have made offers for Hondurans to carry out sabotage both here and abroad,” Mr. Alvarez said.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, authorities said they had arrested a dozen al Qaeda-linked militants who had been planning to conduct simultaneous suicide attacks on government leaders and the U.S. Embassy that could have killed hundreds of people.

“We have infiltrated their network, and that is why we have made these arrests,” said Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat. “They wanted to destabilize Pakistan, they wanted to create unrest, and they wanted to weaken this government.”

In Tegucigalpa, Mr. Alvarez said some Hondurans had been offered money to carry out attacks, while others had been approached on ideological grounds.

The plot was linked to the war in Iraq and thus had targeted the United States, Britain and El Salvador, Mr. Alvarez said. However, it was not clear why Spain was targeted. Madrid pulled its troops out of Iraq earlier this year. Honduras withdrew its troops in April.

“We are trying to avoid any problems,” Mr. Alvarez said. “Starting three days ago, we have redoubled security measures at the embassies of those nations involved in Iraq. This situation will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Groups linked to al Qaeda have threatened to attack El Salvador before, but it was the first such alert in Honduras.

Pakistan announced previously that it had cracked a plot to sabotage its Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 14, but details were not revealed until this weekend.

Officials said about 12 persons, mostly Pakistanis, were arrested in the cities of Islamabad, Hyderabad and Lahore from Aug. 10 to 15. Mr. Hayyat said the suspects were linked to al Qaeda and that the plotters wanted to kill “important personalities,” including President Pervez Musharraf and ministers.

Security agencies seized a huge cache of weapons and ammunition, including dozens of bombs, grenades, rocket launchers and detonators, and electronic-surveillance devices. They also found belts used to strap explosives to a suicide attacker’s body.

Gen. Musharraf — who abandoned Pakistan’s support for the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks — narrowly escaped two assassination attempts in December that left 17 persons dead.

He since has stepped up the fight against terrorists. In the past five weeks, Pakistan says, it has captured more than 60 suspects, including some key al Qaeda operatives.

Information Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed said yesterday that authorities were hunting for four more suspects, including one man who had brought weapons for use in the Aug. 14 plot from Afghanistan.

Mr. Hayyat implicated Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the head of a religious school in Islamabad, in the plot, saying his car was used to transport weapons to a house in an upscale neighborhood of Rawalpindi that would have been the base for the attack.

Mr. Ghazi remains at large, and supporters, who say he is innocent, have staged rallies to protest raids on seminaries by police seeking his arrest.

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