The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the
next target of Al Qaida could be the United States.
Arab diplomatic and industry sources, on the other hand, believe Al Qaida is targeting the Saudi oil facility at Ras Tanura, regarded as
the largest oil complex in the world.
U.S. officials said the suicide strikes in Riyad and Casablanca over the
last 10 days could be a prelude to a much bigger attack on the U.S.
mainland. They said the Al Qaida assassination of a pro-U.S. Afghan rebel
leader was meant to trigger the suicide strikes on New York and Washington
in September 2001.
"I can tell you that the reports that we received indicated that those
two attacks overseas might be a prelude to an attack in the United States,"
FBI director Robert Mueller said on Wednesday. "But we have no specificity
as to targets, or specific time."
The Arab sources said Al Qaida has ended its longtime ban on attacks against
Saudi installations, Middle East Newsline reported. In 1990, Al Qaida founder Osama Bin Laden ruled against
targeting Saudi or Gulf oil fields.
"Last summer, an attempt to bomb Ras Tanura Ñ the world's largest oil
terminal complex Ñ was foiled," Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi oil analyst, told the
Jedda-based Arab News. "But the intention of destroying these
oil fields was there and still exists.
Earlier, the United States raised its threat alert level from code
yellow to orange. Code orange denotes a high level of alert. The Defense
Department issued a similar alert for U.S. military forces in North America.
On Wednesday, the Qatari-based A-Jazeera television played an audio tape
of whom the satellite channel identified as Ayman Zawahiri, the chief aide
of Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden. Zawahiri, whose voice was identified by
U.S. officials, exhorted Muslims to launch a major attack on the United
States that would rival that of nearly two years ago.
"Consider your 19 brothers who attacked America in Washington and New
York with their planes as an example," Zawahiri said.
The FBI has alerted law enforcement officials throughout the
United States to brace for a major attack by Al Qaida. The FBI
bulletin did not specify targets or the timing of such an attack.
Officials said information obtained from the interrogation of captured
Al Qaida operatives as well as the interception of communications from those
connected with the group point to a number of scenarios for an attack
against the United States. They said the scenarios range from a missile
attack against a U.S. passenger airliner to another suicide hijacking
similar to that in 2001.
A U.S. interagency team has been investigating the attacks in the Saudi
capital. Mueller said the team of FBI agents and State Department
investigators have received the full cooperation of the Saudi kingdom.
"The lead in the investigation are the Saudis, but they have been
completely cooperative to date," Mueller said.
Officials said Al Qaida insurgents continue to operate in Iran. They
said the Bush administration has become increasingly concerned that the
insurgents, who include Bin Laden's son, helped plan the attacks in Riyad
"I'll leave the analysis to others," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
said. "But just from a factual standpoint, there's no question but that
there have been and are today senior Al Qaida leaders in Iran. And they're