Washington: As the US temporarily closed its missions in Middle East and North African countries amid terror threats, a top US officer has said that Washington has intercepted al Qaeda plot to target not only Americans, but also citizens from Western countries.
"There is a significant threat stream, and we`re reacting to it," General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the ABC news.
"That part of it is unspecified. But the intent seems clear. The intent is to attack Western -- not just the US - interests," he said.
Congressman Charles Albert "Dutch" Ruppersberger, said the terror threat is credible and is based on intelligence reports.
"The most important issue is to protect Americans throughout the world, whether they`re in the intelligence community, our military or people in the State Department and citizens living throughout the world," said Ruppersberger, who is ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
"Well, we can only say the intelligence that we get. And, by the way, intelligence is the best defence against terrorism. Those operatives are in place because we`ve received information that high-level people from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack. And these are people at a high-level," he told the ABC news.
"Now, whatever that intelligence is, we act upon it because our first priority, again, is to protect the Americans in other parts of the world," he added.
"We know that al Qaeda and other people out there want to
attack us and kill us and our allies. The good news is that we`ve picked up intelligence. And that`s what we do. That`s what NSA does," said Ruppersberger.
"NSA`s sole purpose is to get information and intelligence to protect Americans from attack," he said.
According to the intercepts, al Qaeda operatives could be heard talking about an upcoming attack, ABC news reporters said, quoting an unnamed official.
The official described the terrorists as saying the planned attack is "going to be big" and "strategically significant.
"The part that is alarming is the confidence they showed while communicating, and the air of certainty," the official said, adding that the group – al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- appeared to have a media plan after the attack.
Authorities do not know the exact target of the planned attack, the official told the ABC news, saying that, "We do not know whether they mean an embassy, an airbase, an aircraft, trains."
The senior US official told the news channel that there is concern about devices that could be implanted inside the body of a terrorist.
"We are concerned about surgically implanted devices. These are guys who have developed the techniques to defeat our detection methods," he said.
The official was quoted that they were stunned that the group broke `operational security`, meaning they talked likely knowing it would be picked up by intercepts.