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Al-Qaeda Water Threat

Al-Qaeda has announced it's going to try to poison the U.S. water supply. Spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj told al-Majallah magazine in London that "al-Qaeda (does not rule out) using Sarin gas and poisoning drinking water in U.S. and Western cities.?

A U.S. intelligence official says, "It is very difficult to covertly poison a reservoir. It would take many truckloads of poison, which would make it difficult to do secretly. That is not really a viable threat."

Al-Ablaj also told the magazine that al-Qaeda was about to attack Saudi Arabia shortly before the suicide attacks there. "The consensus (in the intelligence community) seems to be?and I concur?that (al-Ablaj) is credible and does have a connection with al-Qaeda," says counter-terrorism analyst Ben Venzke. "The statements he makes should be taken seriously, especially in light of his apparent prior knowledge of the Riyadh bombings."

Al-Ablaj sent the magazine an e-mail on April 7, saying al-Qaeda "had completed their preparations to carry out a massive action targeting the (Saudi) regime?and that this action would be implemented within one month or less." The magazine decided not to publish the e-mail until they could check its validity. Meanwhile, the Saudis announced they'd broken up a cell of 19 al-Qadea members. Then on May 10, two days before the suicide attacks in Riyadh killed 34 people, al-Ablaj e-mailed them again, saying the plan "was not affected by the Saudi security services' success."

Al-Ablaj says he?s the commander of al-Qaeda's "mujahedin training center," but "Beyond his communications to al-Majallah, al-Ablaj is an unknown quantity," says Venzke?"The threat and the tone is consistent with other messages from al-Qaeda, and we believe that the communication channel is credible."

In February 2002, Italian police arrested four Moroccans, believed to be al-Qaeda terrorists, with 9 pounds of cyanide and maps of Rome's water supply, and a map with a mark next to the location of the U.S. Embassy.

An FBI bulletin says, "U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have learned that al-Qaeda members?specifically sought information on water supply and waste water management practices in the United States and abroad."

The intelligence official says, "It's more feasible if they try to poison a specific building, but even then, the volume of water already going through the system would dilute whatever was introduced. It would be very difficult to kill anyone. What would happen would be that people would get sick, which would cause panic."

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