U.S. officials are warning of a higher risk of terrorist attack as the nation prepares to mark the anniversary of last year’s September 11 assault on New York and Washington.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the government has raised the threat level to “code orange,” which means a high danger of a terrorist attack.
“The U.S. intelligence community has received information, based on debriefings of a senior al-Qaida operative, of possible terrorist attacks timed to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States,” he said.
The announcement came one day before ceremonies marking last year’s terrorist attacks, which killed more than 3,000 people.
Mr. Ashcroft says there are reports that cells of the al-Qaida terrorist organization operating in Southeast Asia may be planning attacks. The attorney general says targets include American embassies and military installations overseas. President George W. Bush says the United States is doing everything it can to protect the American people. “The threats that we have heard recently remind us of the pattern of threats we heard prior to September the 11th,” the president said. “We have no specific threat to America, but we are taking everything seriously obviously, so therefore we have gone to a different level of concern.”
The Director of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, urged Americans to be vigilant, but not to change their plans on the anniversary. “I don’t think America needs to be reminded that we are at war. However, this announcement is a reminder that there are people around the world who would do us harm,” he said. “Our response is to continue to be America, but to be alert, to be vigilant. We have persevered through this, we will persevere now.”
Increased security concerns have led Vice President Dick Cheney to alter his schedule and cancel a speech. Reportedly the vice president is in a secure, undisclosed location.
The U.S. Navy is warning commercial shipping companies that use routes in the Persian Gulf or near the Horn of Africa of a possible al-Qaida attack. The warning by the Navy is based on what are being called unconfirmed reports of planned terrorist attacks on oil tankers. A statement by the Navy says there are no indications an attack is imminent, but says the threat should be taken seriously.
— Meredith Buel – Voice of America in Washington
— Reprinted with the permission of Voice of America