[quote]NEW YORK - A terrorist plot to inflict death and destruction by attacking train tunnels used by tens of thousands of commuters each day was thwarted before the men could travel to the United States, authorities said Friday.
Eight suspects — including an al-Qaida loyalist arrested in Lebanon and two others in custody elsewhere — had hoped to pull off the attack in October or November, federal officials said. But federal investigators working with their counterparts in six other countries intervened.
“It was never a concern that this would actually be executed,” said
Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff. “We were, as I say, all over this.”
Initial reports said that the terrorists wanted to attack the Holland Tunnel, a major thoroughfare for cars entering Manhattan. But officials said the group had specifically mentioned only the PATH train tunnels that commuters travel through on their way to New York and New Jersey.
“This is a plot that involved martyrdom and explosives” and focused on the “tubes that connect Jersey and lower Manhattan,” said
FBI Assistant Director Mark J. Mershon.
A federal law enforcement official said the suspects hoped to inflict damage on the U.S. economy.
The men believed that by bombing the train tunnels, they could unleash a severe flood on lower Manhattan, including Wall Street, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The official said investigators believe that an attack on a PATH tunnel, unlike the Holland Tunnel, could have achieved that goal.
Investigators decided in recent weeks that the “plotting for this attack had matured to a point where it appeared that the individuals were about to move forward,” 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."
“At that point it’s entirely appropriate to take it down.”
Details of the plot — first reported by the Daily News — emerged on the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the London transportation system that killed 52 people. Officials said the timing of Friday’s report in relation to the anniversary was coincidental.
In the latest case, a federal official said FBI agents monitoring Internet chat rooms used by extremists learned of the plot in recent months and determined that tunnels were possibly being targeted after investigators pieced together code words from their conversations.
Another U.S. official also speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing called the plot “largely aspirational” and described the Internet conversations as mostly extremists discussing and conceptualizing the plot. The official said no money had been transferred, nor had other similar operational steps been taken.
Officials cited the arrest of the Lebanese suspect — described as the scheme’s mastermind — as a significant break in the investigation. A Lebanese official said the Beirut man confessed to plotting to attack New York City tunnels later this year, and that he was acting on
Osama bin Laden’s orders.
Police arrested the man on April 27, acting on information from the FBI, said a senior security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The suspect uses the alias Amir Andalousli, but his real name is Assem Hammoud.
The 31-year-old suspect told investigators he was acting "on a religious order from bin Laden and said 'I am proud to carry out his orders’," the official said.
The suspect’s family denied any al-Qaida links and his mother, Nabila Qotob, said Hammoud taught economics at a local university.
“His morale is high because he is confident he is innocent,” she said of her son, who turned 31 on Thursday.
A U.S. law enforcement official said one of the others accused in the plot is believed to be Canadian, but said there were no apparent links to the 17 people arrested last month in a plot to bomb buildings around Toronto.
Our tax dollars at work. :bravo: