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Al Qaeda could try to recruit non-Arabs, FBI warns

Bulletin: Terror group might also seek out women

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI's weekly alert bulletin, sent to 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, focused this week on the possibility of al Qaeda recruiting non-Arabs to carry out attacks in the United States.

"Finding operatives with U.S. [citizenship or legal residency] status would greatly facilitate al Qaeda's ability to carry out an attack within the United States," the bulletin said.

The Department of Homeland Security first mentioned the possibility of such recruitment in December, when it raised the terror alert level from yellow to orange, saying there was intelligence that terrorists could be planning to use chemical, nuclear, biological or radiological weapons.

The new warning comes amid what the administration says is a continuous stream of intelligence indicating that al-Qaeda is determined to strike the United States in the summer or fall.

Neither the FBI bulletin nor intelligence officials have offered any indication of a possible time, place or method of attack, and some officials have said they see no significant increase in so-called "chatter" in the intelligence lines of communication.

Because of its hardline interpretation of Islam, al Qaeda favors using male operatives between 18 and 35, the FBI said.

But women could also be recruited, especially from areas considered more liberal on the subject, such as North and East Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, the FBI notice said.

Despite its warning about recruits from outside the Middle East, the bulletin said police and security personnel should not discount the possibility that Arabs could still be used in a U.S. attack, particularly if they are already in the United States.

Of particular concern are people with ties to Islamic extremist groups in North Africa and parts of Asia outside the Middle East.

Still, the FBI said, almost all al Qaeda operatives in the past have traveled at least once to Asia, particularly Afghanistan and Pakistan, for "consultation and training."

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