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Patrol dc vehicles stinger missiles

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FEB 13, 2003
Military patrols key US cities after terror warnings
Army vehicles and jets have stepped up surveillance in Washington and New York in response to threats of attacks

WASHINGTON - The United States called in the military to help patrol the streets and watch the skies over Washington and New York after officials warned of imminent terrorist attacks.

Heeding the warning, Americans are also stocking up on supplies such as drinking water and duct tape to seal windows in case of chemical attacks.

Military vehicles fitted with anti-aircraft Stinger missiles have been deployed around Washington, and fighter jets have stepped up their patrols in Washington and New York, officials told CNN.

Also in response to the heightened alert, the US Customs Service has increased its Black Hawk helicopter surveillance over Washington to round-the-clock patrols.

The moves came a day after London deployed troops and light tanks at Heathrow Airport in response to a potential terrorist threat that has been described as 'of the nature of the Sept 11 attacks'.

In the US, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief George Tenet warned on Tuesday that Al-Qaeda attacks might occur as early as this week.

The warning came just hours before a new message by Osama bin Laden, calling for fresh strikes at the US, was aired on an Arab television station.

Mr Tenet told Congress that Al-Qaeda might hit both in the US and on the Arabian peninsula, where thousands of American troops are massing for an attack on Baghdad.

The information led to last week's raising of the national terrorism alert level to 'orange', the second highest of five levels.

Mr Tenet said the information came from 'multiple sources with strong Al-Qaeda ties. The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists and their associates'.

'It is the most specific we have seen, and it is consistent with both our knowledge of Al-Qaeda's doctrine and our knowledge of plots this network - and particularly its senior leadership - has been working on for years.'

The information pointing to imminent attacks was gathered both in the US and overseas, said Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller, who with Mr Tenet and other intelligence chiefs briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on threats to national security, in an annual public session.

The CIA chief said the information suggests the attack may involve a 'dirty bomb' - a weapon that spreads radioactive material over a wide area - chemical weapons or poison.

But the officials said the US government had no specific information pointing conclusively to where, when, or how terrorists would strike.

They said raising the national alert level - and stepping up security at government offices and business centres - would make it more difficult for terrorists to carry out an attack.

Mr Elias Gallardo, 62, was among those who were re-evaluating the terror risk. He spent time last week translating the alert into Spanish for his co-workers at the US office of the Chilean Air Force.

Yesterday, he found himself at the supermarket, doing something he never thought he would: emergency shopping. 'This is the first time,' he said with a shrug, his cart loaded with bottled water and tuna fish.

'I've never been worried about it before... It's getting to me, maybe,' he said. -- AP, AFP, Washington Post

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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