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Airlines Warned of New Terrorism Threat

Airlines Warned of New Terrorism Threat

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Department of Homeland Security has told airlines and law enforcement agencies that al-Qaida may attempt new suicide hijackings sometime during the next few months.

The vague warning came from information gleaned from interviews of at least one al-Qaida prisoner as well as intercepted communications, said one intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The information was developed in the last few weeks.

"We continue to investigate this information to determine its level of credibility," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

There was no specific information on any potential targets, nor did officials know who in al-Qaida might attempt any attacks. The officials said al-Qaida could launch strikes in the United States or Europe. There was no specific date, only a general sense that an attack could take place in the late summer, officials said.

"The intelligence community continues to receive information about al-Qaida's interest in using the commercial aviation system," Johndroe said. "Because of this the Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory this weekend to the nation's airlines and law enforcement personnel."

The warning was not provided to the general public, but officials acknowledged its distribution in response to queries.

"We advised airline and law enforcement personnel to take a look at all their practices and initiate additional measures they may feel are necessary," Johndroe said.

The information points toward a Sept. 11-style attack using hijacked planes as weapons, rather than a traditional hijacking, officials said.

The national terrorist threat level remains at yellow, signifying an elevated risk of attacks. There was no immediate sign that officials would raise it to orange, signifying a higher risk. The highest alert status is red.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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