Stepped-Up Security on Amtrak Trains; Mass Transit Chiefs Briefed on Threat
By RICHARD ESPOSITO Oct. 4, 2010 ABC News
U.S. authorities plan a law enforcement surge this week along Amtrak routes, an exercise called operation RailSafe, and the heads of the country's biggest mass transit systems were briefed today on the possible terror threat, all part of what is being called an abundance of caution.
Amtrak is holding a high-security exercise on Friday in which uniformed officers will be a visible presence on national transit routes. RailSafe will include all the local police agencies along the Amtrak routes involved in the exercise. Amtrak's counterparts in Europe and Britain will also be holding an exercise called "Rail Action Day" on Friday, according to a senior Amtrak official in the security sector.
A senior DHS official said the exercise is "long-planned" and "is not connected in any way" to the terror threat in Europe.
The stepped-up security comes as the U.S. took to the air Monday, using drones to attack a suspected center of the plot in Pakistan.
The target was one of the terror training camps in the Waziristan region where U.S. officials say a contingent of German citizens of Afghan and Turkish descent have been preparing for jihad against Europe.
U.S. officials say some have already been dispatched, likely those with their faces obscured in a recently released propaganda tape.
But Pakistani officials told ABC News that at least eight Germans, including the group's leader, known as Commander Fayaz, were killed today by CIA missiles launched from an unmanned aircraft. The suspected militants belonged to a group called Jehad al Islami.
The strike comes a day after the State Department issued a highly unusual travel advisory for Americans going to Europe because of the potential threat of Mumbai-style commando attacks on civilians, possibly by terrorists of German origin based in Waziristan. Authorities learned of the possible plot this summer from a German national who had been training for jihad and is being held by the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Terror Cell In Hambuirg
In an interview Sunday, Pakistan's Ambassador Husain Haqqani told ABC News that the plot's leaders had been identified and targeted.
"I think that several people who were involved in the plotting have been targeted, and the others are certainly on the radar of U.S., Pakistani and European intelligence services," Haqqani said.
Among the possible targets in the suspected European terror plot are pre-security areas in at least five major European airports, a law enforcement official told ABC News. Authorities believe terror teams are preparing to mount a commando-like attack featuring small units and small firearms modeled after the Mumbai attack two years ago that killed 175.
U.S. authorities say they have tracked one of the suspected German terror cells to the German city of Hamburg.
Some of the suspects worked as cleaners at the Hamburg airport, and many also attended the same mosque in Hamburg where the 9/11 hijackers gathered.
To the amazement of US officials, it turns out the leader, the imam, of the mosque is the same man accused by the U.S. nine years ago of helping finance the 9/11 plot, Mamoun Darkazanli.
"The mosque went back to being a very radical place where people are recruited for attacks where attacks are discussed," said former White House national security official Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant, "and German intelligence apparently stopped looking closely at the mosque where a lot of 9/11 was planned."
Darkazanli, who was never charged by the Germans, declined to comment about the latest plot when approached by ABC News.