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FBI Warns of Threat Against Northeast Banks

BY Admin  April 19, 2002 at 4:50 PM EST

Authorities said there was no specific information about the nature of the attack, or the institutions targeted, but a public warning went to 1,200 banks and law enforcement in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.

The FBI said a warning of possible “physical attacks” was based in part on information from by Abu Zubaydah, the highest-ranking al-Qaida terrorist leader in U.S. custody, two officials said. But they said it is not clear if Zubaydah was telling the truth.

Abu Zubaydah was one of Osama bin Laden’s top aides. He was captured by Pakistani and U.S. authorities in Pakistan a few weeks ago and is currently recovering from gunshot wounds he received in the raid.

Under the color-coded alert system established by the Office of Homeland Security, the threat status for Northeast remains yellow — an elevated level of threat.

To qualify for the next-level orange alert, the threat needs to include a specific time and date and be corroborated and credible.

The FBI said the warning came after discussions among the Justice Department, Office of Homeland Security officials and the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department is monitoring the situation closely, but regulators did not order banks to close.

“The FBI has said they have a responsibility to alert Americans when they are aware of a credible threat so that people can make informed decisions on their own,” a Treasury Department spokeswoman said.

Earlier in the week, banks in downtown Washington were closed after a threat that was later discovered to be a prank by a 13-year-old Dutch boy.