US on watch for domestic attacks

By Eileen Sullivan
Associated Press / May 3, 2011

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WASHINGTON — The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned law enforcement agencies across the country yesterday that Osama bin Laden’s death will probably inspire home-grown extremists in the United States to try to carry out attacks in the near term.

The agencies issued a joint intelligence bulletin that said the core Al Qaeda group is less likely to carry out attacks against the United States in the immediate future, but its spinoff groups around the world could use bin Laden’s death as an excuse to speed up plans for attacks.

The intelligence community has no information of advanced terrorists’ plots in the United States but believes American cities, aviation, mass transit, and government facilities will continue to be attractive targets for terrorists, according to the joint bulletin.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the government had no immediate plans to raise the terrorism alert level in the United States. But the State Department issued a warning on potential attacks against Americans abroad. It also boosted security at embassies around the world.

Several European nations tightened security and urged citizens to stay vigilant as Interpol warned of possible retaliatory attacks. Interpol told its 188 member countries to be on “full alert’’ for attacks to avenge the killing.

Law enforcement agencies across the United States added security measures as a precaution.

New York sent extra police to its subways, airports, bridges, and the World Trade Center site. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey added more police at the facilities it runs, which include the airports, the George Washington Bridge, and ground zero.

Washington’s Metro transit system also increased security. In Los Angeles, police were stepping up intelligence monitoring.

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee said the United States must temper victory with vigilance. Representative Peter King told NBC’s “Today’’ show the Al Qaeda terrorist organization could “try to avenge this death’’ and said “we’ll have to be on full alert.’’

King also said there will be “round-the-clock’’ government surveillance to determine if Al Qaeda is planning or organizing a retaliatory attack. He said federal agencies will be trying to find out if an attack is possible or imminent, “and how we can prevent it.’’

Governments and embassies across Europe boosted security.

British Prime Minister David Cameron cautioned in a televised statement that the country needs to be “particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead.’’ Extra police were assigned to look for terror plots, and the government warned Britons abroad to be cautious in public places and to avoid demonstrations and large crowds.

Like Germany, Britain’s Home Office said it had no plans to change the country’s overall threat level from international terrorism, which now stands at severe — the second-highest level, which means that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

The ANSA news agency reported increased security at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport, and police were also more visible at the Duomo cathedral in Milan. Top Italian security officials increased police presence at potential US and Pakistani targets.

Even as they congratulated the US government on the operation, many European leaders said the slaying was of symbolic value. They pointed out that the terror cells working in Europe have long functioned independently and may try to avenge bin Laden’s death.