FBI uncovers plot to blow up Holland tunnel in New York city
Washington, July 7 (UNI) FBI agents, monitoring Internet chat rooms used by foreign extremists, succeeded in unraveling a terrorist plot to attack New York City's tunnels, law enforcement officials said today.
The plot was intended to disrupt some of the city's vital transportation networks and strike a blow at the city's economy, possibly by flooding the Wall Street financial district, one official was quoted as saying by Fox television news.
One of the alleged plotters was arrested a few months ago by Lebanon authorities at the request of US law enforcement agencies.
The suspect is identified as Amir Andalousli. However, a senior Lebanese security official said the suspect was arrested a month ago and Assem Hammoud is his real name. CNN news said at least seven or more people were involved in the plot.
It was unclear how or when the plot was devised, but one target appeared to be the Holland Tunnel, the southernmost link between Manhattan and New Jersey.
The 79-year-old tunnel runs under the Hudson River and carried almost 34 million vehicles in 2005, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages bridges and tunnels in the New York metropolitan area.
The planning was not far along, one US official said, but authorities ''take aspirations of that sort seriously.'' However, FBI officials are so far downplaying the reports.
''At this time, we have no indication of any imminent threat to the New York transportation system or anywhere else in the United States,'' Washington-based FBI special agent Richard Kolko said in a statement.
A government official with knowledge of the investigation said while the alleged plot did focus on New York's transportation system, it was difficult to say whether it targeted the Holland Tunnel.
The planning for the tunnel attacks was first reported by the New York Daily News today, the first anniversary of the attacks on the London transportation system that killed 52 people and wounded another 700.
The Daily News reported that the would-be terrorists wanted to detonate a huge amount of explosives inside the Holland Tunnel to not only destroy the tunnel and kill everyone in it, but would hopefully blow a hole in the tunnel tubes big enough to send water from the Hudson through the streets of lower Manhattan.
It is being assumed by the officials that the plotters would try to use vehicles packed with explosives.
The tunnel, besides bedrock, is protected by concrete and cast-iron steel.
Experts also said that even if the tunnel cracks, the Financial District will not be flooded because it is above the level of the river.
Lebanon's government was asked by the United States to hold off announcing the arrest of Andalousli while operations to disrupt the plot were continuing, the Daily News quoted sources as saying.
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