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Anti-Terror Preparation - 2003-02-13

The newly-created U.S. Department of Homeland Security, acting on “specific information analyzed by the intelligence community,” and after conferring with the Homeland Security Council, decided late last week to increase the National Threat Level in the U.S. from yellow, or "elevated risk" to orange, or "high risk.” President George Bush approved the decision, and the public has been put on heightened alert for possible significant terrorist activity at home or abroad.

Here’s VOA-TV’s George Dwyer with the very latest in our weekly update of developments in the War on Terrorism, and on the threat level in the U.S.

On Tuesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller told members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, al-Qaida is ready to attack, possibly with weapons of mass destruction.

“The greatest threat is from al Qaida cells in the U.S. that we have not yet been able to identify.”

CIA Director George Tenet also warned of the threat of terrorist attacks against targets on U.S. soil or on the Arabian peninsula, possibly as early as this week.

“The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists and their associates. It is the most specific we have seen.”

Mr. Tenet said the United States has intelligence information on suspected al-Qaida plots that could include the use of "dirty bombs," as well as poison and chemicals. He said the plots are timed to occur as early as the end of the Hajj Muslim pilgrimage in mid-February.

According Mr. Tenet, al-Qaida is developing or refining new means of attack, including the use of missiles against airplanes, and underwater methods to attack maritime targets. He said the United States also sees disturbing signs that al-Qaida has established a presence in both Iraq and Iran.

U.S. officials believe al-Qaida is particularly targeting New York City and Washington D.C. Washington's decision to raise the state of alert to “high” prompted heightened security at public places. Measures include setting up checkpoints and posting armed personnel at so-called "soft targets" such as hotels.

The Government has also recommended that citizens prepare personal “disaster supply kits,” including materials to seal doors and windows against a possible chemical or biological terror attack.

Also this week in the War On Terrorism, in Indonesia a key suspect has admitted taking part in the October 2002 terrorist bombing on the island of Bali. Ali Imron says the attack was intended to kill Americans, and that the bombers were not helped by any outside organization.

More than 190 people died and dozens more were injured when two bombs were detonated on a street lined with restaurants and bars in Bali's busiest tourist district. Most of the dead were foreign tourists, and a large number of them were Australian.

Imron apologized to the families of the victims, and asked them for forgiveness.