The FBI is warning police that al-Qaida cells may attempt to use fuel trucks as weapons to attack Los Angeles, New York and Chicago on the fourth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history.
Though officials stress the warning is based on uncorroborated intelligence, the FBI used a computer network to spread the word that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network could hit the U.S. again on or around Sept. 11.
The intelligence originated from FBI headquarters in Washington. It was not immediately clear why the bulletin was sent without details on its reliability.
The warning grew out of intelligence developed from an overseas source indicating that terrorists might seek to steal fuel tanker trucks in order to inflict “mass casualties” by staging an anniversary attack, officials told the New York Times.
The information led FBI joint terrorism task forces in Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., to alert other government and law enforcement officials privately this week about the threat, the law enforcement officials said.
Several government officials in Washington who were briefed on the threat said it was described as credible and specific enough to warrant attention.
There are no immediate plans by the Department of Homeland Security to raise the national threat level.
Domestic security officials have long thought that tanker trucks could be used in terrorist attacks. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are considered at the top of potential targets, along with Washington and Las Vegas, because of their size, high profiles, traffic, symbolic value and past plots by al-Qaeda, reports the Times.
The original alert, issued by an FBI terrorism task force in Los Angeles warned that “al-Qaida leaders plan to employ various types of fuel trucks as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in an effort to cause mass casualties in the U.S. prior to the 19th of Sept,” according to a law enforcement official who had read it. “Attacks are planned specifically for New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. It is unclear whether the attacks will occur simultaneously or be spread out over a period of time, and the goal of the attack is to collapse the U.S. economy.”
It also warned that terrorists would seek to hijack gasoline tankers or trucks hauling oxygen and ram them into a gasoline station to cause major explosions. Confirming what the FBI has never confirmed before – that al-Qaida has active sleeper cells in the U.S. – the report said “the attackers will be members of small al-Qaida cells, which are spread throughout the U.S.”