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Subway threat originated in Iraq

CNN | October 8 2005

The threat to New York's subway system originated in Iraq and involved the use of explosives hidden in bags or baby strollers, officials familiar with the investigation told CNN.

A previously reliable source tipped authorities to a terror plot involving 15 to 20 people, one official said.

The source of the information had trained at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan and passed parts of a polygraph test, the official said.

The threat mentioned Friday and Sunday as possible dates, the official added.

The tipster in Iraq failed some sections of the polygraph test, but passed the section pertaining to the information about the New York threat, the official said.

That information, sources said, led to a military operation Wednesday night in Musayyib, about 45 miles south of Baghdad, where, military officials said, three al Qaeda suspects were arrested.

More details on threat
Other details of the possible threat emerged from a Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The memo, according to the AP, said the attack was to take place on or around Sunday and involved timed or remote-controlled explosives hidden in briefcases, suitcases or baby strollers.

The memo, issued Wednesday to state and local officials, said that Homeland Security and FBI agents were skeptical, the AP reported.

But the memo provided four pages of advice about averting a possible attack, according to the AP.

Friday was three months to the day that four bombers carried out attacks on three London subways and a double-decker bus, killing 52 people and wounding 700. The July 7 morning rush-hour attacks were the city's bloodiest since World War II.

New York has been on orange alert, or the second-highest level -- indicating a high risk of terror attack -- since the color-coded warning system was established after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The announcement of a possible attack on New York's subway system prompted San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit to raise its alert, from orange to "enhanced orange," Friday. The measure was not taken because of any specific terror threat to San Francisco, a BART spokesman said.

About 300,000 people ride the BART system each weekday.

And last week, authorities said that Paris' subway, an airport and an intelligence agency's headquarters were suspected targets of an Islamic militant cell in France.

False alarms heighten tension
Jitters were evident among New York commuters Friday, a day after officials warned about a possible attack on the city's subway system.

Police at subway stations rummaged through briefcases, purses and bags, and two rush-hour false alarms intensified the tension across the city.

Authorities in New York temporarily suspended service on subway lines between 34th and 96th streets during the afternoon rush hour after an unattended bag was found on the tracks. The bag, found at the 50th Street Station on Manhattan's West Side, contained schoolbooks, police said.

During the morning rush hour, Penn Station at 34th Street was the target of what "appears to be a prank," said New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Police temporarily shut down parts of the station after a soda bottle filled with a substance resembling the household cleaner Drano was found near Amtrak's ticket counter, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the Washington Monument was evacuated for two hours Friday afternoon after authorities received a bomb threat, Park Police spokesman Scott Fear said. The park reopened after authorities found the threat wasn't credible, he said.

A bomb threat also interrupted a Rolling Stones concert in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Thursday night. The show resumed without incident.

President backs Bloomberg's decision
President Bush backed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to announce the threat publicly, despite questions by some federal officials about its credibility.

"Our job is to gather intelligence and pass them on to local authorities, and they made the judgments necessary to respond," the president told reporters.

Bloomberg said he wasn't second-guessing his decision.

"It is very different being an analyst in Washington looking at data as opposed to being here in New York, where you have to take responsibility to protect people's lives," he said.

"We believe that there is some credibility to this, and if I'm going to make a mistake you can rest assured it is going to be on the side of being cautious."

An average of 4.5 million people use the New York subways every weekday. Some riders at Pennsylvania Station said they were a little nervous but still had to get to work.

Bloomberg had encouraged people to ride the subway and rode it himself on Thursday and Friday morning.



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