EEUU desactiva un nuevo 11-S
Un comando ligado a Al Qaeda tenía planes para atentar en Nueva York
Estados Unidos anunció ayer la desarticulación de una red terrorista que planeaba llevar a cabo un atentado masivo en Nueva York. Aunque, como suele ser habitual en estos casos, los terroristas todavía no habían empezado a poner en marcha su plan y las propias autoridades no parecen tener una idea muy clara de lo que querían volar por los aires, todo indica que el comando detenido planeaba una matanza similar al 11-S.
La primera detención se produjo ayer en Beirut, se trata de un libanés, de 31 años, llamado Asem Hamud -aunque su nombre de guerra es Amir Andalousli-, que dirigía un comando integrista. Horas más tarde, la policía estadounidense anunció la detención de otros dos presuntos terroristas y la identificación de cinco sospechosos.
Su objetivo era atentar en territorio estadounidense, aunque los primeros indicios apuntan a que no se había dado ningún paso para ello.
Hamud tiene pasaporte canadiense, es profesor en la Universidad Libanesa Internacional y pertenece a Al Qaeda desde 1994, según informó la televisión libanesa. Hamud habría recibido instrucciones para conseguir información sobre el Metro de Nueva York y otros medios de transporte de Nueva Jersey, lugares que visitó en varias ocasiones.
Sin embargo, el FBI aseguró ayer que ninguno de los presuntos terrosistas estuvo en EEUU y añadió que «ciertamente no están ahora».
El FBI explicó ayer en rueda de prensa que el plan estaba en sus etapas iniciales, aunque ya había «madurado» lo suficiente como para que los sospechosos empezasen a vigilar blancos y el proceso de obtención del material necesario para los ataques.
«Este no era el día en que pensábamos dar a conocer esta información», reconoció un agente del FBI, quien se negó a adelantar más detalles para no obstaculizar la investigación, aunque sí reconoció que se trabaja en conjunto con los gobiernos de siete países.
Al parecer, la red pudo ser desarticulada gracias a la detención en agosto de un miembro de Al Qaeda, identificado como Jaled, que poseía un pasaporte libanés, y que durante un interrogatorio confesó los planes de atacar EEUU, informa Efe.
Por su parte, el alcalde de Nueva York, Michael Bloomberg, pidió a sus habitantes mantener la calma y continuar con sus tareas normales. Una llamada a la calma basada en la información que maneja la policía de la ciudad, que señala que el plan «no estaba ni cerca de ser operativo».
La policía neoyorquina admitió, en cambio, que se había incrementado en las últimas semanas la vigilancia en el Metro para responder a esta posible amenaza, alerta que se incrementaba por el aniversario de los atentados del 7-J en Londres.
Bloomberg reconoció que «los terroristas ven a Nueva York, Washington y otras grandes ciudades como símbolos de lo que EEUU representa», por lo que se convierten en los blancos predilectos de sus ataques.
En un principio el New York Daily News, que fue el que destapó todo el caso, decía que el objetivo de los terroristas era volar el túnel Holland, que une Manhattan con el vecino Estado de Nueva Jersey. Sin embargo, fuentes anónimas de la propia seguridad de EEUU citadas por The New York Times han negado que el objetivo de los presuntos miembros de Al Qaeda fuera ese túnel. Esta versión, además, ha sido corroborada por el presidente del Comité de Seguridad Interior de la Cámara de Representantes, Peter T. King.
|3 Held Overseas in Plan to Bomb New York Target |
|Authorities overseas have arrested one man and have taken two others into custody on suspicion of planning suicide bombings in train tunnels beneath the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey, officials said yesterday.|
Five other men are being sought in connection with the plan, which law enforcement authorities said presented a genuine threat even though it was in its earliest stages and no attack was imminent.
The F.B.I. and New York City police officials have been aware of the group and its discussions for about a year, said Mark J. Mershon, the special agent in charge of the agency's New York office. Police presence at the tunnels in Manhattan that could have been targets has been increased in recent weeks in response to the investigation.
"The planning or the plotting for this attack had matured to the point where it appeared the individuals were about to move forward," Mr. Mershon said.
"They were about to go to a phase where they would attempt to surveil targets, establish a regimen of attack and acquire the resources necessary to effectuate the attacks, and at that point I think it's entirely appropriate to take it down."
Federal and local law enforcement authorities identified the main subject of the investigation as Assem Hammoud, 31, a Lebanese man who was arrested on April 27 in Beirut and was still being held there. The locations of the other two men in custody were not revealed. The eight "principal players" planning the attack, the authorities said, had secured no financing, had gathered no explosives and had not visited New York — or even the United States — to conduct surveillance. At least one of the planners has been in Canada, the authorities said.
Officials said Mr. Hammoud would likely be tried in Lebanon and that no charges were pending against him in the United States.
Monitoring of Internet chat rooms used by Islamic extremists led to the arrest of Mr. Hammoud, according to Lebanese authorities. At least one American official said the members of the group had never even met one another.
"There was a lot of discussion, there was planning being done; but there was no indication that there was any movement toward these facilities," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said yesterday. "There is no indication that materials were secured or that specific reconnaissance was done."
One counterterrorism expert who had been briefed on the plan, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the news media, said, "These are bad guys in Canada and a bad guy in Lebanon talking, but it never advanced beyond that."
"Like most plots that you get before they develop, it doesn't look that serious, but you never know," he said. "It's busted up; I think it's another good success."
He added: "They never were in New York, they never were in the States, they never got materials together. So in that regard, it's less serious than some of the others. Until you get materials together, it's not that serious; it's still in the speculative stage."
Mr. Mershon said an attack was to have been carried out in October or November; Lebanese authorities confirmed that timing. Mr. Mershon said Mr. Hammoud told Lebanese interrogators that he had pledged "allegiance to Osama bin Laden and he proclaims himself to be a member of Al Qaeda." But it was not clear the suspect had ever interacted with Mr. bin Laden or his top deputies.
In a statement, the Lebanese Internal Security Directorate said that under questioning Mr. Hammoud had said he was a member of an extremist organization and had been planning a major bombing in the United States.
Separately, a senior security official in Beirut said Mr. Hammoud's arrest in April came under an Interpol order. Lebanese authorities wanted to publicize his arrest at the time, the official said, but American authorities sought to keep the issue quiet, believing the investigation would lead to other information.
Officials in Lebanon said Mr. Hammoud is from a religious family, lives with his mother and teaches at a private university.
The arrest and the bombing plan were first reported yesterday in The Daily News. It reported that the would-be suicide bombers had intended to blow a hole in the wall of the Holland Tunnel, allowing the Hudson River to flood the tunnel and Lower Manhattan.
But authorities said yesterday that the focus appeared to have been on two PATH railroad tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey. Those tunnels exit Manhattan at the World Trade Center site and just south of Christopher Street.
Mr. Hammoud told his interrogators that one of the plans discussed was to put suicide bombers with explosives in backpacks on a PATH train to destroy the tunnel, said a law enforcement official who was granted anonymity because the investigation is continuing. Another official said the planners wanted to use seven or eight bombers.
The first official said, "There was discussion about where to do it, how to do it, what it would take, what effect it would have in different gradations, that a key player was getting ready to depart to a country where we know was an Al Qaeda presence." He noted, however, that Mr. Hammoud was not known to be "a major Al Qaeda player."
Last night, Mr. Kelly said during an appearance on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" that the attackers "looked to, in some way, shape or form, open up the water — walls holding the water back — that would then go into the PATH tunnels that go under the Hudson River." Mr. Kelly suggested the plan involved the two tunnels and the PATH station near Pennsylvania Station. He said that way the water would enter the subway system as well.
Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican and the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he had been briefed on the investigation for nine months. He said his understanding was that the target was not the Holland or Lincoln Tunnels, which carry cars and trucks, but one of the two PATH tunnels.
Six foreign governments are assisting in the investigation, federal officials said, though they declined to identify them. Of the five suspects still being sought, Mr. Kelly said, "Their whereabouts are known, and they're being observed."
The authorities seemed to have moved in very early in the plot, as with the recent arrests of terror suspects in Florida.
"We did not wait, and we do not wait, until the fuse is lit; we swoop in as early as possible," Secretary Michael Chertoff of the Department of Homeland Security said of the matter yesterday at a news conference in Boston. "We were not at a point where we were concerned that something might happen imminently."
He said, "There was never a concern that this would actually be executed."
Still, in recent weeks, the New York Police Department has increased its presence in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Kelly said. Officers focused on access points to the PATH system. Security on the subway system was also beefed up yesterday, the first anniversary of transit bombings in London in which four bombers killed 52 other people, Mr. Kelly added.
The Lebanese Internal Security Directorate said Mr. Hammoud, going by the nom de guerre Ameer Andalusi, was initially noticed on an Islamist Web site used to recruit jihadis.
The Lebanese authorities located him based on the Internet Protocol address imbedded in his postings, which showed him to be in Beirut, the statement said. The authorities said Mr. Hammoud had sent out maps and plans for an operation to other members of his group over the Internet and said he had been planning to travel to Pakistan for a four-month training mission.
(The New York Times)
Especial: 11-S. Operación global contra el terrorismo: El análisis de los profesionales