FBI Probe 'Bin Laden Threat' On Guam
London (CNSNews.com) - The FBI is investigating after anonymous emails were sent to authorities on the American Pacific island territory of Guam, threatening a Christmas Eve chemical warfare attack unless the U.S. undertakes not to harm Afghanistan and its allies.
The emails, sent to the office of the Governor and to the Guam international airport, were written by someone claiming to be representing Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born militant wanted by the FBI for terrorist attacks against Americans, including the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Bin Laden is sheltering in Afghanistan, and that country's ruling fundamentalist militia, the Taliban, has refused to extradite him despite the imposition of U.N. sanctions, which were expanded this week.
Guam's News8 television quotes the message as saying: "As we have [done] what we wanted with the U.S. and its embassies, we have a propaganda from our leader Usama bin Laden to destroy Guam, which is a union territory of U.S. government.
"Our main objective is to spread our message and not to harm children and innocent people. The attack on Guam will take place on Christmas Eve, with deploying V agents and hazardous bioagents.
"The main targets are the hotels, restaurants and public places. It is our way to harm
and teach a lesson to U.S. government and a welcome note for your newly elected
President. The message is 'not to harm Afghan people and its allies anymore.' If the
messages are ignored we will deploy VX agents on the 1st of 2001."
Although the authorities have not been able to establish the credibility of the messages, they have called in the FBI.
"I don't give it much credence but still we have to be on top of things and you don't know what crazy people will do in this world, and we want to be sure we're in the safe side," Governor Carl Gutierrez was quoted as saying.
In a statement Friday, he said the threats had a low credibility.
"The FBI is investigating the use of Internet to send a threatening e-mail letter, which is a federal crime," Gutierrez said. "People need to remember in this day and age practically anyone can send an e-mail from anywhere saying anything and that is why there are federal statues against it.
"We have been assured that when the person who sent the e-mail is caught, he or she will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
The director of Guam's Civil Defense agency, Joe Javellana, has confirmed that the emails had come from a Yahoo! Mail address in India, but stressed that their validity remained in question. It's believed the emails originated in Bombay.
Local and federal officials held a briefing Friday morning to discuss the issue. Javellan said emergency teams would be on standby, "just like [in] any other emergency situation like a typhoon or tsunami."
Pacific Daily News reports, meanwhile, that FBI officials in Washington met representatives from the office of Robert Underwood, the congressional delegate for Guam.
Underwood's spokesperson, Cathy Gault, said the threat was not considered high-level. Underwood nonetheless expressed concern and urged the people of Guam to be on the alert.
A U.S. Attorney was quoted as saying threatening to use an agent of mass destruction was a violation of federal law and could carry a life sentence. Using electronic communication to make threats could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.
Guam is situated east of the Philippines, about 9,500 miles from Washington D.C. It is about three times the size of the District of Colombia and has a population of some 150,000.
Guam airport is a major regional hub, with daily flights to major destinations across the Pacific Rim. It boasts a number of international hotels.
'Hands Off Bin Laden'
America's quest to have bin Laden stand trial for his alleged role in numerous terrorist conspiracies led this week to the imposition by the U.N. Security Council of harsher sanctions against the Taliban, which controls more than 90 percent of Afghanistan.
The Security Council gave the Taliban one month to hand over bin Laden and close terrorist training camps in areas under its control, or face further punitive measures.
In retaliation, the militia shut down the U.N. office and called for a Muslim boycott of American and Russian products. Russia supported the U.N. resolution.
The Taliban claimed the steps would hurt the Afghan people most. They include an arms embargo on the Taliban - but not on opposition forces still holding out in the north against the militia - the closure of Taliban offices abroad and a ban on official travel.
In London, the Islamic International Front, considered an affiliate of bin Laden's militant network, plans a "Hands Off Bin Laden And Afghanistan" demonstration outside U.N. offices Friday.
In a statement released Thursday, the IIF said the threats against bin Laden and the Taliban provided Muslims with a further incentive, if any were needed, to continue their "all-out war."
"We warn the U.N., U.S. and their allies that it is not in their interests to open up another front against the Mujahideen [Islamic warriors], that it is not in their interests to put the lives of their representatives around the world in danger and that it is not in their interests to risk their institutions suffering the same fate as the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."
The August 7, 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 223 people, including 12 Americans. More than 4,500 others were wounded in the twin attacks, which the FBI has accused bin Laden of masterminding.