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FBI denies issuing new terror alert

TIME article links latest warning to Zubaydah probe

Abu Zubaydah  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI denied Sunday a TIME magazine report that it quietly issued an alert to field offices last week warning of possible al Qaeda terror attacks on large apartment buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurants.

The magazine, citing "law enforcement officials," said the alert was "a response to statements made by the same man whose words put U.S. banks on alert two weeks ago -- captured [Osama] bin Laden aide Abu Zubaydah."

An FBI spokesman said the bureau had not alerted its field offices and the 56 federal terrorism task forces to urge local officials to tighten security, as TIME reported in the edition that hits newsstands Monday.

Al Qaeda's head of operations and chief recruiter, Zubaydah was arrested in a Pakistani raid in early April and transferred to U.S. custody. He is now being held at an undisclosed location.

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Authorities have said several statements from Zubaydah have prompted alerts. To date, none of the threats from Zubaydah have been followed by an al Qaeda attack.

Government officials said last month they don't know how much of what Zubaydah is telling them is truthful and said they are skeptical of all the information he has provided.

As one federal official put it, "Guys like [Zubaydah] are quite capable of lying for effect."

According to the TIME article, Zubaydah told interrogators al Qaeda was plotting attacks on nongovernment buildings and other "soft targets" that may contain large numbers of Americans. The report did not say whether the threat was domestic or international.

The magazine said the FBI distributed the alert "quietly" so that local police chiefs and mayors could be informed "discreetly" and security could be tightened without issuing a public warning that "might turn out to be a false alarm."




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