U.S. Upgrades Terror Warning

ByABC News

July 19, 2001 -- U.S. facilities in the Persian Gulf region are on a heightened state of alert, bracing for a possible terrorist assault as early as today.

The State Department said Wednesday it has "strong indications" of an "imminent" terrorist attack against Americans is the Arabian Peninsula, and urged U.S. citizens in the region to "remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution."

"The United States Government has strong indications that individuals may be planning imminent terrorist actions against U.S. interests in the Arabian Peninsula," the department said in a statement.

"As always, we take this information seriously," the statement said.

It said the government had no further information on specific targets, timing, or method of attack, but warned that civilians may be as likely targets as government personnel.

Sources told ABCNEWS that the information the government has received suggests two possible sites for an attack — Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — and indicates a terror assault could occur today.

The sources said the quality of the information is good. It is derived from a coded message believed to have been sent to a very important operative in Osama bin Laden's organization, a person suspected of heavy involvement in coordinating terrorist attacks in the past, the sources said.

U.S. Concerns Persist

The announcement updates a worldwide caution issued by the department in May. At that time, U.S. authorities said they had received information that American citizens abroad might be targeted by extremist groups with links to bin Laden's organization, Al-Qaeda.

Bin Laden, an exiled Saudi millionaire, is accused of orchestrating a wide range of attacks against American interests, including the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

Last month, citing information suggesting an "imminent" terrorism attack, U.S. military forces in the Persian Gulf region went on high alert and some 20 U.S. warships were put to sea. Routine military air traffic was halted, the movement of some 20,000 military personnel was restricted, and a Marine Corps exercise was stopped.

U.S. government facilities in the Persian Gulf region have been on heightened alert since the terrorist attack on the USS Cole as it refueled in the port of Aden, Yemen, which is on the Arabian Peninsula. The October 2000 bombing killed 17 sailors.

Citing a suspected increased terror threat to Americans in Yemen, the State Department in June authorized the departure of nonessential personnel from the U.S. Embassy and warned against travel in Yemen. The FBI has also pulled out its personnel investigating the Cole attack, first from Aden, then from the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa.

In late May, U.S. officials said there was a "serious and specific" terrorist threat to Americans in Aden.

ABCNEWS' Martha Raddatz and John McWethy and ABCNEWS.com's David Ruppe contributed to this report.

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