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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 18:29 GMT
US urges vigilance after terror alert
Body of victim taken out of the rubble on Saturday, 9 February 2002
Victims are still being found at the ruins of the WTC
United States Attorney General John Ashcroft has appealed to the public for information on more than a dozen people the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes are planning a terrorist attack.

Mr Ashcroft was speaking to police chiefs in San Antonio, Texas, a day after the FBI issued a new terror alert - one of the most specific since the 11 September attacks on the US.

Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei
It is not known whether al-Rabeei is in the US
The alert identified a Yemeni national - and more than 16 associates - the FBI believes could be plotting an attack in the US or Yemen.

The main suspect is named as Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei - who is believed to have been born to Yemeni parents in Saudi Arabia in 1979.

The US has been on a high state of alert since the terror attacks on New York City and Washington DC.

Following the latest warning, a Yemeni security official said his government had taken all the necessary steps to prevent a possible attack.

Work was continuing normally at the White House in Washington and at the US consulate in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

'Be alert'

"A planned attack may occur in the United States or against US interests in the country of Yemen on or about 12 February 2002," the FBI alert said.

Click here for full list of FBI suspects

Mr Ashcroft said the information leading to the alert had come from US military officials in Afghanistan and from interviews with al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects being held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"I want to encourage all law enforcement officials and frankly all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert in regard to these individuals," Mr Ashcroft said.

"I encourage individuals to report any thing they consider to be suspicious."

The FBI alert said most of the suspects came from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, with possibly one of Tunisian origin.

The FBI said it was not known whether Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei was in the US.

The alert listed a dozen aliases for him, including "Furqan".

Fourth alert

This is the fourth general alert to be issued by the FBI and the newly-established Homeland Security Council.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the warning was meant as a preventive measure.

"It's exactly this type of action that helps disrupt or prevent terrorist attacks, which is why the FBI does it - and properly so," Mr Fleicher said.

I encourage individuals to report any thing they consider to be suspicious

Attorney General John Ashcroft
He said President George W Bush had not altered his public schedule, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who has gone to secure locations during times of high alert, was working at the White House.

The most recent alert preceding the latest warning was issued in early December to cover the Christmas holiday period.

It was then extended to include the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and is due to expire on 11 March.

Other warnings to specific locations and industries - including nuclear power plants - have also been issued.

Yemen was the site of an attack in October 2000 when the American warship USS Cole was bombed in the southern port of Aden. Investigations have been continuing into the attack which killed 17 US servicemen.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"This was the most detailed alert since 11 September"
Former CIA agent Peter Earnest
"In a wartime situation you do everything you can"
See also:

12 Feb 02 | Americas
Alert stirs US terror fears
12 Feb 02 | Americas
FBI's new terror suspects
11 Feb 02 | Americas
US probes Afghan missile strike
11 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Timeline: Yemen
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