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U.S. studies credibility of new terror threats

Officials: No specific targets mentioned

From Kelli Arena

Officials: No specific targets mentioned

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland security officials told CNN on Friday that they are weighing the credibility of information regarding threats to target the United States, particularly New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, California.

Department of Homeland Security officials stressed they had no specific threat information beyond a mention of New Year's Eve as a possible date. No targets have been mentioned, they said, but suicide bombing has come up as a possible tactic.

"We have remained concerned about the volume of the reporting of threats," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "And that is why the Department of Homeland Security has sent out several bulletins over the past few weeks to homeland security officials and law enforcement personnel urging all to continue to be on a heightened state of alert, especially as we enter the busy holiday season."

Other officials cited concerns that al Qaeda may be in the final stages of planning an attack in Saudi Arabia and continued concerns over two terrorist cells involved in recent bombings in Turkey, one of which is believed linked to al Qaeda.

This week, the State Department authorized the departure of nonessential diplomats and families of U.S. officials from Saudi Arabia.

An audiotape played Friday on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera -- purportedly from Osama bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- included a direct reference to a possible strike on U.S. soil or against a U.S. ally.

"Two years after [the battle of] Tora Bora [in Afghanistan], thanks to God as we are chasing America and its allies everywhere, even in their own home," the tape said. (Full story)

There was no immediate confirmation of the speaker's identity, and it was not known how recently the tape may have been recorded.

New York, Los Angeles and Washington are the cities usually mentioned when concerns rise over the possibility of a domestic terror strike, but officials in New York played down the threat Friday.

The police department and New York FBI office issued similarly worded statements disavowing any specific, credible, imminent or inevitable terror threat to the city.

"We often receive threat information. We run it out. We pursue it," the FBI's Jim Margolin said.

Added New York Sen. Charles Schumer, "The U.S. has also received general information regarding possible suicide bombings like those seen in Israel and persistent reports of attacks on airports."

Homeland Security officials said that though they have discussed raising the national terror threat level, there is no plan to do so.

The threat level was raised to "high," or "orange," for eight days in May but has stood at "elevated" -- "yellow" -- since then. (Interactive: Homeland security advisory system)

Last month, the United States warned that there was a potential for terrorist attacks to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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