Iraq reports bomb plots in the US and Europe
BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities have obtained confessions from captured insurgents who say Al Qaeda is planning suicide attacks in the United States and Europe during the Christmas season, two senior officials said yesterday.
A senior US intelligence official confirmed the threat as credible.
Jawad al-Bolani, Iraqi interior minister, said the botched bombing in central Stockholm last weekend was among the alleged plots the insurgents revealed. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called the claims “a critical threat.’’
Both Bolani and Zebari said Iraq has informed Interpol of the alleged plots and alerted authorities in the United States and European countries of the possible danger. Neither official specified which country or countries in Europe are alleged targets.
There was no way to verify the insurgents’ claims. But Western counterterrorism officials generally are on high alert during the holiday season, especially since last year’s failed attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber who tried to blow up an airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
Bolani said several insurgents claimed to be part of a cell that took its orders directly from Al Qaeda’s central leadership. He said at least one of the captured suspects was a foreign fighter from Tunisia.
The confessions were the result of recent operations by Iraqi security forces that have netted at least 73 suspected operatives in the last two weeks, Bolani said.
An Iraqi intelligence official said threat information appeared to indicate that Denmark might be attacked, but he refused to give details.
Similarly, a senior US intelligence official in Washington said authorities were closely watching two people in an unspecified European country suspected of being linked to the plot. The people did not appear to be homegrown terrorists, according to the US official, who would not say where they were believed to be from.
Links between Al Qaeda’s central leadership, believed to be hiding in Pakistan, and the terror organization’s front group in Iraq are tenuous as the Iraqi branch in recent years has been run by local insurgents.