Three Al Qaeda Suspects Sought in ‘Credible But Unconfirmed’ 9/11 Terror Threat

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Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The United States has received "specific and credible, but unconfirmed threat information linked to the 9/11 anniversary," officials announced on Thursday night. According to information gathered by the CIA late this week, the alleged plot is believed to have its roots with Al Qaeda and would involve car or truck bomb attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Intelligence agencies are said to be "urgently pursuing leads overseas in an effort to gauge the seriousness of the threat."

The plot has been linked to three "seasoned" Al Qaeda operatives, whose common names have made their location difficult to determine, the Daily News reports. One of the suspects is an American citizen and two of them are thought to have U.S. documentation. The men are believed to have entered the United States through the Pakistan and the United Kingdom last month, with the Times reporting that they came originally from Afghanistan, selected by Osama Bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri to set off vehicular attacks on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. Information about the plot allegedly came from "a singular source, whom [officials] consider credible and reliable." According to some speculation, this plan "does feel more operational than most of the others we've had that have been more aspirational."

During a press conference last night, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced their intention to increase New York's already increased security level. Kelly said that additional security would be centered around bridges, tunnels, landmarks, places of worship, and government buildings, plus more bag inspections and bomb-sniffing dogs on the subway. Bloomberg, meanwhile, insisted the 9/11 memorial ceremony will proceed as planned. "For 10 years we have not allowed terrorists to intimidate us, we have lived our lives without fear and we will continue to do so," he said.

The mayor also stressed that the information remains uncorroborated and warned against overreaction, adding that he had no plans to avoid the subway. Indeed this morning, he reportedly took an express train three stops downtown to City Hall. "It's funny that it's news that I take the subway," he joked with a passenger.

Update: The Daily has obtained a bulletin issued by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, part of which can be seen here.

Update 2: As the weekend approaches, New Yorkers can expect to see even more bag checks on the subway and officers on patrol across the city, in addition to vehicle checkpoints especially around places of interest like Times Square. Understandably then, there's also the traffic that comes with keeping us safe. That goes for air travel as well, with JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark all increasing police presence and bag checks. On Friday afternoon, Governor Cuomo echoed Bloomberg and Kelly's response last night, saying in a statement, "The reports of a new possible terrorist threat against New York are cause for renewed vigilance and awareness, but not alarm or panic. We will not allow the terrorists to dampen our spirits on this anniversary."

And to assert his personal confidence in our safety, Bloomberg tweeted this evening, "The best thing we can do to fight terror is to refuse to be intimidated by it," accompanied by a photo of him riding the subway.

Feds: Zawahiri Launched Al Qaeda Terror Plot for 9/11 Anniversary [ABC News]
Investigators Assess Threat of Bombing Tied to 9/11 [NYT]
U.S. Told of Terror Threat [WSJ]
NYC on alert after 'specific, credible' threat of 9/11 car-bomb attack [NYP]
Authorities hunting for three Al Qaeda thugs who may be planning strike on 9/11 anniversary: sources [NYDN]

This post has been updated with additional information.