Report: 9/11 Probe Eyes Possible Fifth Hijacking
N E W Y O R K, Oct. 11 — Authorities interviewing an al Qaeda member in custody overseas are probing a new theory of the Sept. 11 plot: that suspect Ramzi Muhammad Abdullah bin al-Shibh was planning to pilot a fifth hijacked plane to strike the White House, The New York Times reported today.
The plan was disrupted when bin al-Shibh, who was captured last month in Pakistan, failed to obtain permission to enter the United States, where he had planned to attend flight school in Florida, senior government officials said, the Times reported.
Evidence that there were plans for a fifth hijacking team has also come from the debriefing of John Walker Lindh, but the possibility that bin al-Shibh was to be the leader of the fifth group has not been previously disclosed, the Times reported.
This theory has gained momentum in recent weeks as investigators have assembled new details about bin al-Shibh's movements around Europe in the months before the attacks, the Times reported. Investigators have also compiled a fuller picture of his relationship with Mohamed Atta, whom officials call the ringleader of the plot, and uncovered fresh information about the breadth of al Qaeda's original plan for the attacks, according to the Times.
More specific information about bin al-Shibh's role in the plot could emerge as a result of the arrest today in Germany of a Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi, who the local authorities say shared an apartment in Hamburg with bin al-Shibh, Atta and at least one other hijacker, the Times reported.
The officials said bin al-Shibh has provided only fragmentary information about the hijackings and al Qaeda's activities since the war in Afghanistan, the Times reported. The officials said bin al-Shibh had not said he planned to lead another hijacking group, according to the Times.
State Department Warns Americans Abroad of Terror Threat
W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 11 — Americans overseas should remain vigilant because of "the continuing threat of terrorist actions" against U.S. interests worldwide, including possible suicide attacks aimed at U.S. civilians, the State Department says.
The government "continues to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests," the department said Thursday in a global alert.
"American citizens may be targeted for kidnapping or assassination," warned the department.
The alert comes a day after the FBI issued a similar alert to state and local authorities across the country.
Both alerts cited as a reason for concern a recently released taped statement attributed to Osama bin Laden and separate information obtained from al Qaeda detainees indicating possible attacks against U.S. targets.
Still, the official color-coded national terrorist alert level remains at code yellow — "significant risk" — because officials do not have any specific information detailing where and when an attack might occur. Yellow is the third-highest of five threat levels.
Meanwhile, authorities in New York increased security Thursday at the city's landmark buildings, bridges, financial centers and tourist attractions in response to the FBI warning.