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New York subway threat was a hoax, security sources admit
The alleged terror threat that sparked a big security alert on New York's trains and subway last week turned out to be a hoax concocted by an unreliable US informant in Iraq, it emerged yesterday.
Uniformed and undercover police descended on the city's subway system on Friday after what was described as a "specific threat" that a terror cell was planning to explode bombs concealed in pushchairs, suitcases and rucksacks. At one point a section of Penn Station was sealed off as security staff wearing chemical hazard suits investigated a "soupy green substance" found in a Pepsi bottle. It turned out be a cleaning substance.But security sources yesterday told CNN that an informant in Iraq had admitted giving false information. Law enforcement officials said last week that the person who passed along the New York tip also gave information which led to the arrests of three al-Qaida suspects in Musayyib, south of Baghdad, said to have links to the alleged plot.
From the beginning some federal officials questioned the credibility of the plot, describing it as "specific yet non-credible". Some officials privately criticised the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, for overreacting to the alert, which came the day after George Bush claimed 10 big al-Qaida attacks had been thwarted since September 11 2001.
Law enforcement officials also told the New York Times yesterday that the investigation in Iraq had found no evidence that a plot was in motion or being actively contemplated. The officials said after taking the three men into custody last week they found no fake passports, no travel documents, no viable travel route to New York, and no apparent contact with people in New York. They said the informant had been right eight of the 15 times he gave information to his Defence Intelligence Agency handlers. He was right about information in Iraq and wrong mostly about actions elsewhere. "The process is not a clean one here. Ever," one official told the newspaper.
Mr Bloomberg said the extraordinary measures put in place last week, including police on every train, would be relaxed, but that the city would continue many of the safeguards it has taken to protect since the London bombings in July.