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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 12:03 GMT
Americans warned of more terror attacks
Security is already high at US airports
United States Attorney General John Ashcroft says there could be more terrorist attacks on the US, or American interests abroad, over the next week.

Law enforcement agencies are on the "highest alert", said Mr Ashcroft, after the FBI said it had "specific and credible" information.

Mr Ashcroft said there were no details on terror targets.

The warning came hours before a US passenger jet flying from New York to Dallas was diverted to Dulles airport in Washington DC after a written bomb-threat was found on board.

The 141 passengers and eight crew were evacuated, and two airport runways closed while the FBI searched the plane with sniffer dogs.

No bomb was found and the airport has resumed operations.

In other developments:

  • American officials find traces of anthrax in mailrooms at three government departments in Washington
  • The authorities report two new cases of anthrax in New Jersey and one suspected new case in New York involving a critically ill, 61-year-old woman
  • UN special envoy for Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi meets Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf to discuss how to form a broad-based government to replace the Taleban
  • President Bush signs legislation clearing the way for a full resumption of economic and military aid to Pakistan
  • American aircraft target suspected underground command centres of Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network in eastern Afghanistan
  • American radio broadcasts advise Afghans on how to distinguish live cluster bombs from food parcels, both the same colour

Mr Ashcroft's warning is the second since the 11 September suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

New York Times/CBS Poll: based on survey of 1024 US adults
Approval of president Bush: 87%
Approval of US Congress: 67%
Likelihood of another attack: 53%
Confidence in US Government: 58%
Approval of war in Afghanistan: 58%

Appearing with Mr Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller said that the 11 October alert "may well have" prevented a planned terrorist attack.

The BBC's Tim Franks in Washington says the administration is taking a calculated risk, weighing the danger of causing undue panic against the benefit of heading off a possible attack.

New task force

President George W Bush earlier announced the setting up of a Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force.

It is designed to stop terrorists entering the country and also at tracking down non-American citizens in the US who may be planning attacks.

We've set up a Foreign Terrorist Tracking task force to make sure that the land of the free is as safe as possible

President Bush
Chairing his first Homeland Security Council meeting, Mr Bush said legal immigrants who wanted to come to visit, study or work were still welcome.

But he added: "What we don't welcome are people who come to hurt the American people.

"Therefore we are going to be very diligent with our visas and observant with the behaviour of people who come to this country.

"As an example... if a person applies for a student visa and gets that visa, we want to make sure that person actually goes to school."

Stronger enforcement

One of the 19 hijackers who launched the 11 September attacks had entered the country legally, using the kind of visa issued to some 600,000 overseas students every year.

"Never did we realise that people would take advantage of our generosity to the extent they have," said Mr Bush.

The BBC's Washington correspondent Rob Watson says that for now at least, America's immigration laws remain unchanged.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller
Mr Ashcroft asked people to go about their business

The focus is more on making sure they are properly enforced.

Mr Bush's new task force will look at whether those laws need to be changed to make entry for non-citizens more difficult.

"We've set up a Foreign Terrorist Tracking task force to make sure that the land of the free is as safe as possible," he said.

The task force is to be created by November.

Mr Bush's order also calls for the sharing of customs and immigration information with Canada and Mexico.

It will enhance the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service's investigative and intelligence analysis.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"Americans, it seems, can not escape bad news"
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Terrorists linked to the al-Qaeda network could strike any time this week"
Former National Security Council member Mara Rudman
"Those making the decision... are facing the most difficult of decisions"
See also:

27 Oct 01 | Americas
UN sets anti-terror deadline
10 Oct 01 | Americas
America's 'most wanted terrorists'
10 Oct 01 | Americas
Bush's man to thwart terror
14 Oct 01 | Americas
NY urged not to panic over anthrax
30 Oct 01 | Americas
New anthrax cases in US
24 Oct 01 | Americas
Q&A: The anthrax mystery
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