WASHINGTON -- The FBI considers a tip about a possible terrorist attack against the United States or against Americans in Yemen to be credible, even though the information does not cite specific targets and is not corroborated by other sources.
Investigators distributed photographs of men believed to be involved and police nationwide were put under orders to detain any of them immediately.
The warning identified one possible attacker as Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei, a 22-year-old from Yemen. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Rabeei is believed to have links to al-Qaida but is not believed to have been involved in the attack against the USS Cole in the Yemen port of Aden in 2000.
Officials acknowledged they did not know whether al-Rabeei was in the United States and could not be sure even that he was still alive. A hurried review of U.S. immigration records indicated al-Rabeei has never been in the United States, a Justice Department official said today.
Internationally, allies were trying to determine where al-Rabeei and his associates have traveled recently, but those efforts were being hampered by aliases the men might be using. The FBI listed at least 14 aliases for al-Rabeei, including "Furqan The Chechen."
Officials said they decided to issue the warning out of an abundance of caution and because of the immediacy.
"We had credible information, we had a specific name," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "It's exactly this type of action that helps disrupt or prevent terrorist attacks, which is why the FBI does it -- and properly so."
He said the president had not altered his public schedule. Vice President Dick Cheney, who has gone to secure, undisclosed locations during times of high alert, was working at the White House Tuesday, Fleischer said.
The warning, issued Monday night, came after interviews with detainees in Afghanistan and Cuba, where some al-Qaida operatives are being held, officials said.
The FBI's alert listed about a dozen associates of al-Rabeei, most from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
One associate was listed as possibly coming from Tunisia.
The bureau published the alert and photographs of al-Rabeei and his associates on its public Web site, www.fbi.gov, to help Americans identify the possible perpetrators.
The alert, sent to 18,000 law enforcement agencies, cautioned that, "recent information indicates a planned attack may occur in the United States or against U.S. interests on or around Feb. 12, 2002.
One or more operatives may be involved in the attack."
The FBI asked police "to stop and detain" any of the individuals named in the alert and said all "should be considered extremely dangerous."
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