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Entries in Terror Attacks (36)

Thursday
Apr262012

FBI: 'No Specific Threat' One Year After Bin Laden Killing

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- American law enforcement agencies say they have "no credible information" of a terror attack in the United States tied to next week's one year anniversary of the May 2 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Even so, in an advisory issued late Wednesday and obtained by ABC News, FBI and Homeland Security officials warned of "renewed efforts to target Western aviation."

European law enforcement officials said stepped up security was being planned at major airports and transportation hubs over the next several days.

"While there is no credible threat, there is much preparation based on the common sense consideration of the date," said one intelligence official. 

Officials told ABC News there are several uncorroborated threats against U.S. interests, including some on the Internet, that are being investigated but so far have low credibility.

"We assess that such threats are almost certainly aspirational and are not indicative of actual plotting," the law enforcement advisory said.

The killing of bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs led to numerous calls for attacks on the United States to avenge the terror leader's death.

The law enforcement advisory acknowledged al Qaeda would regard an attack on the U.S. "as a symbolic victory that would  help reassert the group's global relevance following the major leadership losses and operational setbacks it has suffered over the past year."

American law enforcement officials tell ABC News they regard the al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia as the most likely to be able to carry out an attack on the United States.

The Yemen-based group known as al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has attempted two attacks against U.S.-bound aircraft, according to the FBI, and "represents an enduring threat to the West." 

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec162011

'No Intelligence' on Christmas Terror Plots, US Finds

PAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in more than a decade, there is "no active intelligence" suggesting a possible terror attack timed to the Christmas and New Year's holidays, counter-terrorism officials from five American agencies told ABC News.

But the officials said there is growing concern that al Qaeda is targeting next summer's Olympic games, about which one law enforcement official said the threat level is considered "high," although there is no specific information pointing to an attack on the games.

"They do not want to expend any operatives or resources now on anything else, other than the Olympics," said the official, who was briefed on the latest electronic intercepts.

This week, on a teleconference involving American law enforcement and intelligence agencies, officials reported that electronic intercepts and human sources had turned up no evidence of a pending threat over the next few weeks.

In fact, "There are explicit discussions that nothing should be scheduled for the holiday period," the official told ABC News.

Even so, U.S. officials said there is going to be an "informal heightened alert status" given past al Qaeda efforts around the end of the year.

"It's too soon to say the coast is clear," said a U.S. counter-terrorism official.

Officials said they remain concerned about retaliatory attacks for the deaths of Osama bin Laden and radical al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

"We are not letting our guard down," the official said, pointing out that specific and credible threat information often does not emerge until days before a particular event.

In many cases, of course, there has been no specific warning.

In 2009, an attempt to bring down a U.S. jetliner over Detroit failed when an al Qaeda recruit failed to ignite explosives hidden in his underwear.

In 2000, U.S. law enforcement disrupted a bomb attack supposedly timed to New Year's Eve in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep302011

Officials Thought They Might Kill Anwar Al-Awlaki on 9/11 Anniversary

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- “This is a great day for America,” says a senior administration official, pleased with the news that terrorist leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed Friday.

The Yemeni government on Friday announced that an operation launched shortly before 10 a.m. in Yemen targeted and killed the New Mexico-born cleric -- a missile hitting him approximately five miles from the town of Khashef, 87 miles east of the capital Sana’a.

Senior administration officials say that the U.S. has been targeting Awlaki for months, though in recent weeks officials were able to pin down his location.

“They were waiting for the right opportunity to get him away from any civilians,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.

In fact, there was a flurry of activity on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

As President Obama shuttled between Shanksville, Penn., New York, and the Pentagon, officials “thought they had a good opportunity to hit him,” the official says. “We waited, but it never materialized.”

A senior White House official says Awlaki was “very operational, every day he was plotting, he had very unique skills, and it’s good to get him in Yemen where AQAP” -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- “is planting the flag.”

Out of deference to the Yemeni government, U.S. officials have been tight-lipped about the precise role the U.S. played, though the Yemeni military does not possess the kind of predator drone said to have killed Awlaki.

The senior White House official tells ABC News: “We’ve had a very intense focus on him.  And once we decide to put resources on one of these guys, I’d hate to be one of them.  Unless you’re literally in a cave, which is where we think (Ayman al-) Zawahiri is, any visibility -- and to be operational you have to have that, so one phone call, one email, one car ride -- and you’re found.”

In early February 2010 -- fewer than two months after failed Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Faruq Abdulmuttalab, who had links to Awlaki, tried to strike -- the National Security Staff put out an early directive saying Awlaki is a valid target for killing.  Since the cleric was an American citizen, administration lawyers vetted the argument, ultimately concluding that Awlaki was a viable target since he cannot be captured.

Since then, Awlaki has been tied to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan of November 2009. Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who tried to strike in May 2010, said he was inspired by Awlaki.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep302011

American Indicted in Remote-Controlled Plane Terror Plot

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- A federal grand jury has indicted a 26-year-old American on terror charges relating to an alleged plot to strike the nation's capital with several explosive-laden, remote-controlled airplanes.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Mass., and Northeastern University physics graduate, was nabbed in an elaborate FBI sting after he told undercover officers exactly how he planned to arm "small drone airplanes" with explosives in order to hit the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol building before opening fire on the survivors, federal officials said in a statement.

Ferdaus was indicted on six counts, including "attempting to damage and destroy a federal building by means of an explosive" and "attempting to provide material support to terrorists."

An attorney for Ferdaus has not returned requests for comments on the charges against him.

According to the indictment, Ferdaus believed his attack could "decapitate" the U.S. "military center".

"Individuals, self-radicalized, they're not looking to cause big mass casualties like 9/11," said former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, "because they're trying to inflict fear."

Federal officials said Ferdaus appeared to have been radicalized online by Islamist videos and writings.  By 2010, Ferdaus believed he was working for al Qaeda when he began modifying cellphones to serve as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to be passed on to fighters in the Middle East.

"During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq.  Ferdaus responded, 'That was exactly what I wanted,'" the Department of Justice said in a statement after Ferdaus' arrest Wednesday.

The cellphones, however, never got anywhere near the Middle East as Ferdaus was actually handing them over to undercover officers for the FBI.  Still, Ferdaus appeared to want to do more, investigators said.

"Ferdaus envisioned causing a large 'psychological' impact by killing Americans, including women and children, who he referred to as 'enemies of Allah,'" the DOJ's statement said.  "According to the affidavit, Ferdaus' desire to attack the United States is so strong that he confided, 'I just can't stop; there is no other choice for me.'"

Ferdaus allegedly wanted to command a team of six operatives that would use up to three remote-controlled aircraft filled with explosives in the "aerial" part of the attack before firing on any survivors in a follow-up "ground" attack.

Federal investigators said Ferdaus traveled to Washington, D.C., to "conduct surveillance" and take photographs of his targets before acquiring his weapons, including six AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and what he believed to be C-4 explosives.

"Although Ferdaus was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan, including being told that his attack would likely kill women and children, the affidavit alleges that Ferdaus never wavered in his desire to carry out the attacks," the DOJ said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

9/11 Threat Still Under Investigation But Aspects ‘Eliminated’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Officials from multiple agencies tell ABC News that after six days of the U.S. government pushing its law enforcement and intelligence agencies to full tilt, no significant evidence has turned up to confirm the recent terror threat allegedly aimed at Washington, D.C. and New York.

While some officials remain concerned about the rest of this week in particular, a number of sources say they are almost ready to exhale a little.

“We are getting close to a sigh of relief,” one official said.

Despite the threat information not being confirmed at this time, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Tuesday that the threat was still ongoing.

“The threat has not been resolved and until it is resolved it is an outstanding threat that we are following up on.  Even though Sept. 11 has now passed, we do not believe that that necessarily means we should back down,”  Mueller told the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“[The FBI], Department of Homeland Security, NCTC [The National Counterterrorism Center], the intelligence agencies are pursuing that as heavily as we have over the last several days and will continue to do so until it’s resolved,” Mueller said.

“We consider it an ongoing threat and we continue to lean forward into confirming that threat,” Napolitano said.

Last week, the DHS and FBI issued a joint bulletin based on threat information from a credible source that there was an ongoing plot to detonate vehicle-born bombs in New York City or Washington, D.C.  The threat prompted a massive police show of force in the cities and sent the intelligence community into a race to try and run the threat information to ground.

Mueller told the Senate Committee Tuesday some actions the FBI has taken: “Since we first had word of that threat we have conducted hundreds of interviews.  We have been pursuing a number of leads and consequently there.  As a result of that, we’ve been now able to eliminate some aspects where we thought that we ought to be looking in order to determine whether it was indeed a valid threat.  But there’s still work to be done.”

Matthew Olsen, the recently confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center told the Senate panel, “We’re not prepared to say that it’s been resolved and will continue to work to analyze it and share information about it.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep132011

Congress Pays Tribute to 9/11, Sings ‘God Bless America’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With the same sense of unity that pulled Congress together after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, members of Congress from both the House and Senate gathered on steps of the Capitol Monday night to pay tribute to the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks.

Congress was not in session Sunday during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  Instead, many members traveled to their home states to participate in local events marking the date, and to New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon to attend ceremonies.

“The 11th of September will always be a day of remembrance,” House Speaker John Boehner said.  “It is up to we who live on -- particularly we who serve -- to ‘never forget,’ to never yield, but to hold fast until we have preserved the blessings of freedom for those who come after us.  If we are successful, no one will have to tell them what to do.  They will know, and they too will ‘never forget.’”

Monday night was reserved for a moment of silence and the singing of “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol -- a sight recreated from the spontaneous rendition of the patriotic tune the night of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Here 10 years ago we reaffirmed in our own way that our commitment was for freedom and democracy -- that’s what makes America the greatest nation in the world,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of that moment.  “Little did we know then the effect that [Maryland Senator] Barbara Mikulski suggesting to us, members of Congress here assembled, that we would sing ‘God Bless America.’  We did -- the sweetest song I ever heard.”

Reid said the only reason that Members of Congress could share that experience in 2001 was because of the courage of the heroes on board United Flight 93.

“The plane was headed here,” he said.  “We’ve learned since then the ringleader of that evil band had made a decision that it would be the Capitol, not the White House, because it was a much easier target.  That night we didn’t know that when we met here, but we know it now.”

“It was clear what needed to be done.  No one had to tell them.  They saved countless lives.  They steadied our country before a watching world,” Boehner said.

Holding small American flags, hundreds of lawmakers sang along Monday evening while the Marine Corps band played “God Bless America,” 10 years after Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol to sing the song a cappella.

Each of Congress’s four top leaders also delivered brief remarks, touching on the themes of unity, patriotism, remembrance and progress that characterized the 10-year anniversary ceremonies last weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

All 9/11 Families, Except One, Have Received Compensation

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Ten years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, deceased victims' families and the injured have been compensated over $7 billion.

Of 2,977 people who lost their lives as a result of the attacks, only one victim's family has refrained from settling its claims with the airline and a security company they say was negligent.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, created by Congress, has distributed the money to survivors and victims' families.  They have received an average of just over $2 million tax-free per claim, according to Kenneth Feinberg, a former pro bono administrator of the fund.

In addition, 2,300 physically injured 9/11 victims or those who suffered from respiratory problems cleaning up the World Trade Center were each awarded $400,000 tax-free, on average, Feinberg said.

Feinberg started distributing compensation 11 days after the program was established and began cutting checks in April 2002, until the fund expired by statute in June 2004.

He said 94 families who lost a loved one on Sept. 11 opted not to participate in the fund and decided voluntarily to litigate in Manhattan.  And 93 of those 94 settled over the past five years.  Only the Bavis family is going to trial.

The Bavis family of Massachusetts will resume their lawsuit in New York City against United Airlines and security company Huntleigh on Sept. 19.  The family first filed the suit in September 2002.  Mary Bavis, the named plaintiff, is the mother of Mark Bavis who was aboard United Airlines flight 175 from Boston when it struck the south tower of the World Trade Center.

Other companies and cities that the Bavis' initially sued have been dropped from the suit over time.  The New York district court dismissed Massport, for example, which oversees Boston Logan airport, Don Migliori, an attorney representing the family, said.

The families that opted out of the fund and eventually settled may have received an average of under $5 million, using figures from the report of Sheila Birnbaum, the 9/11 mediator.  The information, however, is confidential.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

9/11 Anniversary Terror Plot? Feds Question, Clear 300 People

Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has questioned and cleared some 300 people since Friday and still no hard evidence has emerged to corroborate early alarms of a potential Sept. 11 anniversary terror attack, U.S. officials told ABC News, leaving potentially deadly questions unanswered and security still on high alert.

Last week, intelligence emerged from what several officials called a single "credible" source that there was an ongoing plot to launch a vehicle-born bomb attack on New York City or Washington, D.C., prompting a federal bulletin to law enforcement, public announcements by top U.S. officials and a nationwide manhunt for three men.  Since the alarm was first raised, the CIA, FBI and a number of federal and local agencies have been unable to find any evidence to back up the original information.

And though none of the men have been found, the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks passed relatively without incident on Sunday.  Federal and local law enforcement officials said that at least for a while, they won't be backing off the heavy, high-profile security that surrounded the anniversary.

According to former White House counter-terrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the business of pulling back on the massive security effort without a resolution to the bomb plot could be tricky business.

"They have to unwind the heavy security very slowly and in gradual steps -- make it appear that some of the heavy security has gone away while actually keeping a lot of surveillance the public won't see," Clarke said.

In New York, police officials said they would maintain the tough security at least through Monday morning.

"The threat for me is fundamentally the same.  It hasn't changed.  We don't have really additional information to add," NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly told ABC News' New York affiliate WABC-TV on Sunday, referring to the alleged bomb plot.  "But there's no reason to lessen our alert status."

The FBI will continue its expanded security effort through the day and perhaps as long as it takes to investigate the alleged bomb plot, law enforcement officials told ABC News.  The Department of Homeland Security is following suit, maintaining additional security at major transportation hubs and federal buildings.

In addition to the FBI interviews, a public alert about the potential plot also drew hundreds of citizen reports about suspicious packages and individuals.

In two separate instances on the 9/11 anniversary, fighter jets were scrambled to escort passenger planes after passengers on the flights allegedly acted "suspiciously."  But in both cases, the suspicious activity turned out to be non-terror-related -- one case of frequent bathroom trips, another of a couple "making out" in the lavatory, federal officials said Sunday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

9/11 Remembered: 'Nothing Can Break Will of USA'

David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama closed a day of tributes and memorials with a paean to the resilience of the American people in the decade following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, saying that "nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America."

Obama spoke of the men and women who have chosen to sign up for military service in the last decade, saying that too many of them "will never come home" from tours abroad.

"Our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace," he said in his speech at the Concert for Hope in Washington D.C. Sunday evening.

Obama made it clear that the character of the United States has not changed since 9/11.

"These past 10 years underscore the bonds between all Americans.  We have not succumbed to suspicion and mistrust.  After 9/11, President Bush made clear what we reaffirm today: the United States will never wage war against Islam or any religion," he said, reaffirming the phrase on the Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum -- out of many, we are one.

"The determination to move forward as one people" will be the legacy of 9/11.  "It will be said of us that we kept that faith; that we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger," Obama said.

The president's speech came at the end of a day when families, rescue workers and politicians gathered amid a mix of tears, applause and patriotic cheers of "U-S-A" at 9/11 memorials in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks brought special ceremonies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the planes crashed.

Obama laid a wreath of white flowers outside the Pentagon as a brass quintet played "Amazing Grace" Sunday afternoon, before he and first lady Michelle Obama spoke with family members of victims.

Earlier, Obama read a Psalm at the morning ceremony at the World Trade Center, and then arrived to applause and chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" at a wreath-laying ceremony in Shanksville at noon, where he and the first lady shook hands and spoke with many members of the crowd gathered there.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Sep112011

President Obama Remembers, Looks to the Future on 9/11

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11, President Obama said that in the years following one of America’s darkest chapters, the country has kept its faith.

Addressing a 9/11 memorial concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the president said that the country’s resilience in recovering from 9/11 proves that the United States has not given in to fear.

“Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith — in God and each other — that has not changed,” Obama said. “These past 10 years have shown America’s resolve to defend its citizens, and our way of life.”

The 9/11 memorials in New York, Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon, the president argued, are symbols of the country’s unbreakable will.

“It will be said that we kept the faith, that we took a painful blow, and we emerged stronger,” he said.

Obama praised the 2 million men and women who have served in the U.S. military in the decade since the 9/11 attack.

“America has been defended not by conscripts, but by citizens who chose to serve,” he said. “The sacrifices of these men and women, and of our military families, reminds us that the wages of war are great.”

Obama described the nation’s commitment to continue bringing U.S. troops home after 10 years of war.

“Our troops have been to lands unknown to many Americans a decade ago — to Kandahar and Kabul; to Mosul and Basra. But our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace.”

Years from now when Americans reflect on 9/11, they will think that the country endured and moved forward with resolve, Obama told the audience.

“They will remember that we have overcome slavery and Civil War; bread lines and fascism; recessions and riots; and Communism and, yes, terrorism,” he said.

The President chose to invoke God on several occasions during the speech. He opened with a quote from the Bible -- “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” -- and closed with a rousing "God Bless the United States of America." This recalled the President's decision to read from the Bible at the Ground Zero memorial ceremony on Sunday morning -- a bold move following controversy surrounding the role of religion in the public services honoring the victims of the attacks.

Obama is expected to make remarks Monday morning in the Rose Garden urging Congress to pass the newly created American Jobs Act.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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