Saudi warned US of possible attack in early October: report

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A credible warning that Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen was planning a terrorist attack against the United States was given by Saudi Arabia to Washington as early as early October, The New York Times reported late Friday.

Citing unnamed US and European officials, the newspaper said the Saudi warning came days after US officials intercepted several packages in mid-September that contained books, papers, CDs and other household items shipped to Chicago from Yemen.

US intelligence services believed those parcels might be a test run for a terrorist attack.

Last week, two packages addressed to synagogues in Chicago containing the hard-to-detect explosive PETN hidden in printer ink cartridges were uncovered in Dubai and Britain's East Midlands Airport, sparking a global scare.

On Friday, the Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the plot and for the September downing of a UPS cargo plane, the monitoring website SITE said.

The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group posted the message on "jihadist" web forums, and called for more explosive parcels to "enlarge the circle of its application to include civilian aircraft in the West as well as cargo aircraft," SITE said.

According to The Times, taken together, the Saudi warning and the suspected dry run provide a more detailed picture than US officials had previously described.

A tip from Saudi intelligence officials to the administration of President Barack Obama came on October 28.

It said that bombs might be on cargo flights heading toward the United States and prompted officials in the US and several other countries to begin a frantic search.

That tip was the third and most specific alert from the Saudis in a chain of increasingly urgent warnings to intelligence and counterterrorism officials in Britain, Germany and the United States, the paper said.

The first tip, in July, was a general warning of an attack against the United States or Europe, The Times noted.

Saudi intelligence provided a much more detailed warning on October 9, saying that Al-Qaeda in Yemen had four days earlier completed planning for an attack against the United States or Europe that would use one or two airplanes, possibly simultaneously, the report said.

The warning indicated that the attacks would unfold within a week or so, The Times noted.

But a US official said the intelligence gave no specific information on how the attack would be carried out, the paper added.

© 2010 AFP

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