US expects terrorist revenge threats in wake of bin Laden death

02 May 2011 19:05  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Monday that it anticipates threats of terrorist retaliation in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of US special forces, but it was not issuing specific terrorism alerts.

The department declined to say whether it believed key US infrastructure facilities, such as chemical plants and refineries, were at any heightened risk as a consequence of the killing of bin Laden.

Bin Laden was killed earlier on Monday in a night time attack on his secret compound in Pakistan by a small number of US Navy Seals, who assaulted the million-dollar residence and safe-house in two helicopters.

The terrorist leader’s body was buried at sea only hours later, according to US officials.

The possibility of revenge attacks against US interests at home and abroad was already being considered by DHS and senior officials of the Obama administration, according to official statements and comments.

“We certainly anticipate threats of retaliation,” said a DHS official in response to a query. “This is an organisation [al-Qaeda] that declared war on the US more than a decade ago.”

“We remain at a heightened state of vigilance and our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue,” the official added.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that while the department would “respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond”, she does not intend to issue a terrorism alert at this time.

In April, DHS abandoned the old colour-coded daily terrorism threat level alert system and instead instituted a new programme, the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS).

Under that system, the department would issue specific terrorism alerts only when intelligence officials have detected a credible and imminent threat.

In a briefing for reporters after the death of bin Laden was announced, a senior administration official said: “I should note that in the wake of this operation, there may be a heightened threat to the homeland and to US citizens and facilities abroad.”

“Al-Qaeda operatives and sympathisers may try to respond violently to avenge bin Laden’s death, and other terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to strike the US,” the senior official said.

The on-the-record briefing for reporters was provided on condition that the briefing officers be identified only as “senior administration officials”.

Asked whether DHS or the Obama administration overall had heard of any specific revenge attacks, the senior official said no.

“However, in any type of event like this, it is very prudent for us to take measures so that we can ensure that the security measures that we need to institute here and throughout the world are in place,” he said.

“We don’t have any specific threats at this time related to this,” he said, referring to the killing of bin Laden.  “But we are ensuring that every possible precaution is taken in advance.”

Some 5,000 US petrochemical plants, refineries and downstream chemical facilities are considered at high risk for a possible attack by terrorists hoping to cause massive off-site casualties.

Those facilities are subject to antiterrorism security standards set by DHS.


By: Joe Kamalick
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