U.S. warns imminent attack
may target airliners, ships

Monday, March 22, 2004

ABU DHABI The United States has warned its nationals to be on alert for a major attack in the Middle East.

The State Department has issued an announcement that warned of an attack on civilian passenger jets in the Middle East. The announcement said Al Qaida-aligned groups could be planning strikes against U.S. interests in the region.

"Credible information has indicated terrorist groups may be planning attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East," the department said Friday.

"Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, hijackings or kidnappings. These attacks may involve aviation, ground transportation and maritime interests. While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat in many areas, use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents must be considered a possible threat."

This was the first U.S. warning to citizens in the Middle East since Nov. 6, 2003 and included the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. The department pointed to an increase in security around U.S. military and diplomatic installations, which could result in the targeting of civilian sites.

"Increased security at official U.S. facilities has led terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas, and public areas where people congregate," the statement said.

The statement said U.S. nationals in the Middle East and North Africa face anti-American sentiment as well as the risk of attack. The department urged Americans to maintain a high level of vigilance and increase their security awareness.

On Saturday, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid held talks in Sanaa with Yemeni leaders. The talks were said to have focused on military and security cooperation.

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