Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Financial institutions in New York were told by the FBI that they face a potential terrorist threat from al-Qaeda, a spokesman for the bureau said.
The banks were given briefings last month on the possible threats from al-Qaeda after published reports surfaced focusing on those businesses, said Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The threat information is that it’s not imminent and not specific,” Margolin said yesterday in a phone interview.
The FBI and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the New York Police Department, regularly give briefings to the public sector about terrorist threats, he said.
“In the nearly 10 years since 9/11, we give briefings as circumstances warrant,” Margolin said. “This threat was in the course of a periodic updates given to them in the evolving threat stream.”
In January, an editorial written by Anwar al-Awlaki was posted on the Internet magazine Inspire, published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the terrorist organization that took credit for Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Yemeni-American cleric supports violence against U.S. targets and encourages the targeting of major Western financial institutions under an editorial titled: “Is it halal to dispossess the wealth of the disbelievers in America and other Western Countries?”
“We therefore suggest that the following should be targeted: Government owned property, banks; global corporations,” he wrote. “Wealth belonging to disbelievers with known animosity towards Muslims.”
Al-Awlaki, who was born in the U.S., also has posted videos on the Internet justifying the killing of American civilians and urged Muslims in the U.S. Army to kill their fellow soldiers.
Both the U.S. government and its citizens should be targeted, he said.
“The reasoning behind comparing the booty to hunting and wood gathering is because the property which exists in the hands of the disbelievers is not considered to be rightfully theirs,” al-Awlaki said.
In October, Faisal Shahzad, who drove a bomb-laden vehicle into New York’s crowded Times Square in May, was sentenced to life in prison.
“The Koran gives us the right to defend, and that’s what I’m doing,” Shahzad told U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum in New York at his sentencing. “Brace yourself, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me only a first droplet of the flood that will follow me.”
U.S. authorities have been closely monitoring the use of mail and shipping as a potential method for terrorists attacks after two bombs were discovered in printer cartridges being shipped on U.S.-bound aircraft in October.
Investigators have been looking at whether the shipments were staged as rehearsals for a future attack, a U.S. official has said.
United Parcel Service Inc. said the FBI checked packages on three jets from Europe, while FedEx Corp. embargoed shipments from Yemen in October after a parcel from the country was seized by officials at its Dubai facility.
The attempted bombings seem to be the work of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, in a November television interview.
The sophistication of the bombs “shows that it was an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula effort,” Brennan said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
A spokesman for the New York Police Department, who didn’t give his name, declined to comment when asked about the FBI threat announcement yesterday. Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, also declined to comment.
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