August 10, 2006

Foiled air plot “comparable to 9/11″

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The plot foiled by Britain to blow up
U.S.-bound flights would have been a disaster on the same scale
as the September 11 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people,
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on

The suspected plotters were "a couple days from a test, and
a few days from doing it," according to a U.S. intelligence
official. Chertoff said the plan would have involved
coordinated multiple suicide bombings.

President George W. Bush tightened airline security and
said the plot was a "stark reminder" the United States was "at
war with Islamic fascists."

"If these plotters had succeeded in taking down multiple
jets carrying hundreds of people, we would have seen a disaster
on a scale comparable to 9/11 with hundreds and maybe thousands
of people being killed," Chertoff said in an interview on PBS's
"NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

He said al Qaeda might have been involved, that the United
States was in a race against "terrorist ingenuity" and that the
sophisticated plot was "in the top level of the kind of
terrorist activities we've seen over the past 10 years."

About 10 transatlantic flights were targeted, including
those of U.S. and British airlines but possibly others as well,
an intelligence official said. ABC News reported that the plot
included concealing explosive gel or liquid in a sports drink
and detonating it with the flash from a disposable camera.

Bush said the United States was safer than before the
September 11 attacks but that it would be a mistake to believe
there was no longer a threat.

Bush launched a global war on terrorism after the 2001
hijacked plane attacks on New York and Washington. Faced with
public discontent over the 3-year-old war in Iraq, he often
tells Americans the threat remains.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles, Todd Eastham,
David Morgan and Kristin Roberts in Washington)