WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida could attempt to commandeer helicopters, limousines and other rental vehicles to launch attacks inside the United States, according to the FBI.
Helicopters are more maneuverable than fixed-wing airplanes, especially in urban areas such as New York, said the FBI, and they also have a "non-threatening appearance" that might allow them to fly undetected and be crashed into buildings.
"Al-Qaida has apparently considered the use of helicopters as an alternative to recruiting operatives for fixed-wing aircraft," said the bulletin, sent Aug. 6 to police and government officials nationwide.
A second bulletin warned that terrorists could use a variety of rental vehicles to conceal powerful bombs, including limousines that have a larger storage capacity than rental cars.
The FBI said limousines might also be able to gain access to locations that would be denied other vehicles because "they often convey an impression of authority or prestige."
Both bulletins urge extra vigilance by people who operate these businesses and those who handle airport security. The FBI repeated the government's concern that al-Qaida intends to attack the United States in the next few months, prior to the Nov. 2 election.
Still, White House officials are optimistic that recent arrests of suspected terrorists and seizure of detailed surveillance of financial buildings have undermined plans to attack the United States.
The terror alert was based on computer files uncovered in Pakistan, containing surveillance information concerning five prominent financial sites in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J.
Three laptop computers and 51 disks seized in a July 24 raid in Pakistan detailed how al-Qaida operatives could use speed boats and divers to carry out attacks in New York harbor before the November election.
A senior Pakistani al-Qaida operative who formerly ran one of the terror group's training camps in Afghanistan was arrested in the UAE and was been handed over to Pakistani officials.
When called about the limousine alert, a spokeswoman at the Los Angeles office of the FBI said the FBI routinely passes on information received from intelligence sources, so law enforcement and the private sector can take appropriate precautions. She also warned that the public should remain especially vigilant during periods of heightened threats.
For more information or to report suspicious activity, call your local FBI office or 202-324-3000.