The Israeli gossip site Debka, which usually relays the gossip of the intelligence community (and has had a lot of false alarms) is now reporting that Alqaeda is planning a “dirty bomb” type attack on a major city, perhaps New York.

DEBKAfile’s Giora Shamis told Ynet earlier that the Americans had much to fear.

The report triggering the security hike said that there has been a rush of electronic chatter on al-Qaeda sites, one saying there would be an attack “by means of trucks loaded with radio-active material against America’s biggest city and financial nerve center.”

NY City cops went on alert for nuclear material, although whether their vigilance actually went up or the press just noticed the routine high level of caution was being debated. (Doctors have long known that patients who were treated with I131 for thyroid cancer had been picked up by NYCity cops when they set off radiation alarms).

A single rumor does not a scare make, but another puzzling piece of the puzzle is that many Al Qaeda training camps in NW Pakistan, near the Afghan border, have been deserted with only a few local Taliban in charge.

A lot of the Taliban’s resurgence is that Pakistan essentially made a peace treaty with local tribes because their Army which is infiltrated with Islamicist sympathizers, did not want to attack that difficult area. As a result, training camps have reappeared there…but why are they now deserted?

Would this be to protect the more highly trained non Afghan terrorists in Alqaeda from a retaliatory attack? But given the state of Pakistan, the US is unlikely to invade or bomb that friendly country for fear of destablizing Musharraf. Yet a direct attack on the US mainland would make attack of the camps more likely.

The emptying of the camps is a cause for great concern in the military and intelligence communities. “We don’t know where they went to or who was in the camps,” the military officer told The Fourth Rail. “They are well trained, these aren’t your entry level jihadis. They are dangerous.”

“This is one of the reasons that we are worried about a major CONUS [Continental United States] attack,” the senior military intelligence source told The Fourth Rail, noting the recent influx of news of terror cells attempting to penetrate the US. “If they evacuated their bases, they almost certainly did so out of fear of more than just the Pakistani army.”

Another worrisome question is Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and what would happen if they were given to terrorists by a sympathetic military, and also what would happen to Pakistan’s nukes in case of a coup or government turnover. The writer of the article ridicules the US worries, pointing out that India isn’t worried, although they would be the more likely target…ignoring that a Pakistan that nuked the cities of India would get their cities nuked back, but an “unknown” person placing a bomb or even a dirty bomb in a major US city may only get a cruise missile strike on their camp, if not an attack by Special Forces who are roaming in that area.

The fact that the Saudi masterminds have fled is not a good sign.
The US media tends to underplay the worries about terrorist attacks, while over hyping threats that often are thwarted or non existent. Then when nothing happens the non attack is used to bash Bush.

Yet those of us living overseas know that there are many threats out there that are thwarted by police and intelligtence officers with little or no publicity: Just last week, a bomb aimed at the wife of the US Embassador was found, and a safe house with a J.I. trained bomber and bombs was found.And often the plots are thwarted even earlier in the planning stage by something as simple as speeding on a highway, or a fire from a careless hot plate, or an alert border inspector noting a driver is nervous.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician  living in the rural Philippines.

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