Two weeks after authorities raided a Miami warehouse and busted up a domestic terror cell they said was in the early stages of a plot to bomb the Sears Tower, the New York Daily News reported Friday (July 7) that a man is being held in Beirut, Lebanon, in connection with a plan to blow up tunnels in New York. A senior FBI official said two more suspects have also been detained overseas.
According to reports, Amir Andalousi, 31, was plotting to bomb New York's Holland Tunnel in an effort to flood the financial district in Lower Manhattan and create chaos in one of the key trading and financial centers in the world. The revelation of the scheme came on the one-year anniversary of the deadly train and bus bombings in London that killed 52 people and injured hundreds.
But, like the Sears Tower plot, which authorities said never got beyond an "aspirational" stage (see " 'Homegrown Terrorists' Indicted For Alleged Plot To Bomb Sears Tower"), sources were quick to tell CNN that the Holland Tunnel was never specifically mentioned as a target and that the threat was not ongoing. "At this time, we have no indication of any imminent threat to the New York transportation system or anywhere else in the U.S.," FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko told CNN. A former FBI official said the investigation that uncovered the plot goes back more than a year.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, the FBI revealed that Andalousi confessed to the plot, planned to carry it out in October and pledged his allegiance to al Qaeda. Mark Mershon, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI New York Field Office also said that authorities have two other suspects, who are also in custody abroad, Reuters reports. "We believe we have what I'll call eight principal players," he said. "We have them largely identified. ... Some are in custody, one of those has been charged formally in Lebanon."
New York Senator Charles Schumer said there was no evidence to suggest that the Holland Tunnel bombing plan ever got beyond the talking stages, with no sign of explosives purchased or any money allocated to carry it out. Investigators became aware of it when they intercepted "terrorists talking to one another," Schumer said, according to CNN.
The plan was reportedly inspired by the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina last August, which the plotters hoped to copy in New York's financial district by exploding the Holland Tunnel, which runs under the Hudson River. Engineers told CNN that would have been impossible, though, because Manhattan is above sea level. Other subways and tunnels were also reportedly being considered for attacks. The paper said Andalousi was arrested in Beirut recently and a source told CNN that the half dozen other suspects sought in connection with the plot are on watch lists, but not believed to be in the U.S.
As the latest terror scare was making headlines in the U.S., Britons were marking a solemn anniversary with a number of emotional tributes to the victims of last year's suicide transit bombings. Much of the country observed two minutes of silence at midday Friday to commemorate the worst bombings in London since World War II (see "Death Toll In London Bombings Rises To Over 50"). Earlier in the day, numerous wreaths were laid and commemorative plaques were uncovered close to the sites of the bombings in the three London Underground subway tunnels and the bus bombing at Tavistock Square.
In one of the most moving tributes, a 40-foot-wide, seven-petal arrangement of flowers was laid out on the ground in Queen Mary's Gardens near the site of a memorial service slated for Friday evening in London's Regent's Park. The template for the tribute was slowly filled in with flowers as people filed by on their way to work.
And, much as they did in the days and weeks after the devastating attacks carried out by four British citizens, Londoners were defiant in their determination to use the tube system as normal on Friday, even after news emerged on Thursday about a video aired on Al-Jazeera television in which one of the suicide bombers warned of more devastating attacks, CNN reported.
"What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a series of attacks that will continue and pick up strengths till you pull your soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq and stop your financial and military aid to America and Israel," suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer, 22, said in the tape, described as his last will.
[This story was originally published on 07.07.06 at 1:12 p.m. ET]