- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Muslim militants have issued an open call for attacks
on U.S. civilians and allied interests worldwide, U.S. security officials
- Intelligence officials said they were
taking the calls very seriously and that they considered them to be fatwas,
or religious rulings, although the exact identity of the Muslim clerics
issuing the purported edicts was not known. The threat was not tied only
to the prospect, averted for now, of U.S.-led strikes on Iraq in the standoff
over U.N. arms inspections, they said.
- The calls were distributed by a coalition
of Islamic groups in London and by Usama Bin Ladin, a Saudi national branded
by the State Department as a ``well-known terrorist,'' the officials said
in a statement released by Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican who chairs
a Senate panel on terrorism. The militants called for ``attacks on U.S.
persons and interests worldwide and on those of U.S. allies,'' said the
memorandum from the Counterterrorist Center at the Central Intelligence
Agency dated Monday.
- Both purported edicts said attacks should
continue until U.S. forces ``retreat'' from Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.
The one distributed in the names of Islamic groups in Britain also blessed
attacks until economic sanctions on Iraq are lifted.
- ``These fatwas are the first from these
groups that explicitly justify attacks on American civilians anywhere in
the world,'' the center said in its memorandum to Kyl, who chaired a hearing
on Tuesday on foreign guerrilla operations in the United States. ``We are
still concerned about the threat. It is something that is being taken very
seriously,'' one official said, notwithstanding the agreement between Iraq
and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that ended the immediate threat of
U.S. military action.
- The counterterrorist center said both
Bin Ladin and the coalition of militant groups had ``hinted in the past
that civilians are legitimate targets.''
- ``This is the first religious ruling
sanctifying such attacks,'' it added. The clerics who issued the rulings
were not named, but the group in London referred to unidentified religious
authorities in Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
- After reading three paragraphs of the
memorandum at the hearing, Kyl asked an FBI terrorism expert who was testifying
whether the United States had entered a ``period of heightened risk.''
``Certainly Americans should be concerned about these threats,'' Dale Watson
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's International Terrorism Operations
- ``We do see, working with our counterparts
in the (CIA), increased threats toward American targets, not only military
but soft targets around the world, U.S. businesses, businessmen, women,
tourists and targets of that nature,'' he said. ``I think this is a trend.''