By Calvin Palmer
The U.S. government today stepped its terror alert to include transit systems, sporting stadia, hotels and entertainment complexes following the arrest of a Denver airport worker found with bomb-making instructions on his computer.
Extra police officers with bulletproof vests, rifles and dogs were assigned to locations such as Grand Central Terminal in New York.
A bulletin issued by federal counter-terrorism officials urged vigilance at sporting stadia, entertainment complexes and hotels.
An al-Qaeda training manual specifically lists “blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality and sin … and attacking vital economic centers”.
In a statement, the FBI and Homeland Security said that while the agencies “have no information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack, we believe it is prudent to raise the security awareness of our local law enforcement partners regarding the targets and tactics of previous terrorist activity”.
Counter-terrorism officials are also advising police officers to be on the lookout for any possible bomb-making at self-storage facilities, which have been used by terrorists to build bombs.
The bulletins came just days after similar warnings about the vulnerability of the nation’s mass transit systems and the danger of hydrogen peroxide-based explosives.
The warnings follow the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, 24, in Denver last week.
Zazi is charged only with lying to the government but law enforcement officials said he may have been plotting with others to detonate backpack bombs on New York trains in a scheme similar to the attacks on the London subway and Madrid’s rail system. Backpacks and cell phones were seized in raids on apartments Zazi visited in New York.
“It’s not totally clear to us at this point what it is they had in mind, though I think it is clear that something very serious and something very organized was under way,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Stadia around the country provided few specifics about how they were responding but stressed that they have been vigilant ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys new $1.15-billion stadium, police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said there was “no hardened target” identified in the bulletins issued. However, like agencies across the nation, Arlington police are responding to the alerts.
“We’re continuing to prepare for the upcoming game on Monday,” Ellis Richard said. “For safety reasons, we cannot elaborate on what is exactly being done.”
In New Jersey, home of Giants Stadium, the state homeland security office said there will be an increased police presence at key locations, random bag searches and greater use of surveillance cameras and undercover operations.
Bob Moore, spokesman for the Kansas City Chiefs, who play at Arrowhead Stadium, said, “We’re aware of the memo. It just underscores the high levels of security we’ve had and will continue to maintain. We’ve been in that mode for some time.”