FBI says government received threats against banks in Northeast

Friday, April 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The FBI said Friday that officials had received unsubstantiated information that terrorists were considering attacks against U.S. banks in the Northeast. A government official said the threat came from the al-Qaida terror network.

Authorities cautioned that they had no information about a specific plot or threats to any specific financial institution.

However, they issued a public warning to banks and law enforcement in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.

The FBI said the decision to issue the warning came after discussions among the Justice Department, Office of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department.

The FBI said the nation's threat status remains at ``yellow,'' using the new system of color codes assigned by the Justice Department and Office of Homeland Security. The threat status for the Northeast similarly was unchanged at yellow, the FBI said. Yellow represents the midrange of threat status.

Friday's warning came after a bomb threat earlier in the week against an unspecified national bank in downtown Washington. Many bank branches shut down but there was no explosion. Police later said the threat was a prank by a 13-year-old Dutch boy.

Friday's warning came on the seventh anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.

The threat to financial institutions came from al-Qaida operatives, said a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The FBI announcement came a few hours after the Treasury Department blocked financial assets belonging to a Pakistan-based group and nine people believed to have provided financial support to al-Qaida, the terror network operated by Osama bin Laden.

The Treasury Department, which worked with the FBI on the warning against banks, is monitoring the situation closely. But banking regulators did not order banks to close.

``The FBI has said they have a responsibility to alert Americans when they are aware of a credible threat so that people can make informed decisions on their own,'' a Treasury Department spokeswoman said.