Top U.S. officials say the terrorist group al-Qaida is poised to hit the United
States sometime during the next several months. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
says authorities are seeking six men and one woman believed to be linked to preparations
for a terrorist attack.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said there is credible information that a
terrorist attack in the United States may be imminent. "Credible intelligence
from multiple sources indicates that al-Qaida plans to attempt an attack on
the United States in the next few months. This disturbing intelligence indicates
al-Qaida's specific intention to hit the United States hard," he said.
Mr. Ashcroft said statements from al-Qaida after the terrorist bombing in
Madrid in March say it is 90 percent ready to carry out an attack.
But he says there is no information indicating where or when that could happen.
poster of individuals sought in connection with possible terrorist
threats against the United States
The FBI has released the names of seven individuals accused of links to al-Qaida,
including a U.S. convert to Islam, a Pakistani woman known as an al-Qaida operative
who studied in the United States and two Africans indicted in the 1998 terrorist
bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
"They all are sought in connection with possible terrorist threats in the
United States. They all pose a clear and present danger to America. They all
should be considered armed and dangerous," said Mr. Ashcroft
Mr. Ashcroft would not say if intelligence agencies know for certain whether
any of the seven or other terrorist suspects are currently in the United States.
At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said that possibility cannot
be ruled out. "In terms of the possibility of terrorists being here in the
United States, we have to work under the assumption there are terrorists here
and the intelligence reporting we have seen from time to time there may well
be people in place ready to carry out attacks," he said.
U.S. officials point to several events they say could be attractive terrorist
targets - including the Republican and Democratic political party conventions,
a summit of the Group of Eight and the presidential elections in November.
However, previous terrorist attacks against U.S. interests have not necessarily
been linked to major events.
But Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge is playing down any need
for public alarm. "We don't need to raise the threat level to increase our
security," he said.
Attorney General Ashcroft said a special task force has been set up to deal
with the current threat.