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Terror Threat to Transit System Leads New York to Up Security

By William K. Rashbaum


Security in and around New York City’s subways was sharply increased Thursday after city officials said they were notified by federal authorities in Washington of a terrorist threat that, for the first time, specifically named the city’s transit system.

The measures were announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, along with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and the head of the New York FBI office, Mark J. Mershon, after a joint operation by the FBI and CIA in Iraq on Thursday aimed at disrupting the threat, according to law enforcement officials.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the operation ended with two people in custody. They said a third was being sought.

Some officials in Washington, in interviews Thursday night, played down the nature of the threat to some extent. While not dismissing the threat, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security described it as “specific yet noncredible” and an anti-terrorism official stressed that the details could not be verified.

Information about the threat, the officials said, came to light last weekend from an intelligence source who told federal authorities that the three men in Iraq had planned to meet with other operatives in New York. One official said the group would number roughly a dozen; another official said the total was closer to 20.

The men planned to use baby strollers, briefcases and packages to hide a number of bombs that they planned to detonate on the subways. “It was a conspiracy involving more than a dozen people aimed at delivering a number of devices into the subway,” one of the officials said.

One official said the information suggested an attack could happen as early as Friday; another pointed to the middle of the month.

“This is a piece of information that came in as a result of operations that go on all the time and to corroborate that information or not we had to go after certain people,” one official said.

Speaking at an evening news conference, Bloomberg tried to inform New Yorkers without alarming them. He said that while the threat was not corroborated, it was specific enough to warrant an immediate and overwhelming response.