US tightens security amid manhunt for Pakistani
WASHINGTON: Thousands of law enforcement officers in the United States fanned out across the country on Saturday, enforcing security measures following a new terrorism alert and looking for an illegal Pakistani-born immigrant the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants to question.
“We are still asking the public for help,” said an FBI spokeswoman, Charlene Sloan, adding that authorities so far had made no breakthrough in their hunt for the Pakistani-born immigrant, Mohammed Sher Mohammad Khan.
A nationwide search for the 36-year-old medium-built black-haired man, who has at least seven aliases, was launched on Friday, shortly after President George Bush approved raising national terrorism alert status to “orange”, or high. The “high”terrorism threat level was last declared in the US in September, when the nation marked the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Mr Khan, who is asthmatic and sometimes sports a beard, is believed to have entered the US illegally after September 1, 2001, according to the law enforcement officials. “Although the FBI has no specific information that this individual is connected to any potential terrorist activities, based upon information developed in the course of on-going investigations, the FBI would like to locate and question this person,” the Bureau said in a statement.
Mr Khan, who is also known to operate under the names of Muhammad Shir Muhammad Khan, Mohammed Essagh, Ja’Far Al-Tayar, Jaffar Tayar, Jaafar Al-Tayyar, Ali Abdul Qadir, Abdul Qadir, was born on November 11, 1966, in the Pakistani town of Swat, according to the FBI. But the Bureau warned his name and date of birth could be fictitious.
“Anyone with any information pertaining to this individual is asked to contact their nearest FBI office,” the statement said. Ms Sloan declined to say whether Mr Khan was a terrorism suspect or whether he was related to the Al Qaeda terrorism network. “I don’t think anything like that has been established,” she told AFP. “I think that’s part of why we are seeking to talks to him.”
While keeping an eye out for Mr Khan, heavily armed police patrolled areas around synagogues, Jewish businesses and cultural centres that, according to the law enforcement officials, could be targeted by terrorists. Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Friday that recent intelligence reports suggested that Osama bin Laden’s terror network had specifically planned for attacks on apartment buildings, hotels and other soft targets.
US tightens noose on flights: One day after the national terrorism threat level was raised to “high”, the authorities on Saturday slapped new restriction on aircraft flights near the US capital, extending a special security zone around the city from about 25km to nearly 49 (15 to 30 miles).
“Terrorists are known to favour targets in the transportation sector and to consider our civil aviation system an arsenal of improvised weapons,” said, head of the Transportation Security Administration, James Loy, as he announced the measures on Saturday.
The new measures, which take effect at 6:00 am (11:00 GMT) on Monday, require all general aviation pilots flying lower than 5,400m (18,000 feet) to maintain two-way radio communications with air traffic controllers, use transponders and discrete beacon codes, and file flight plans before entering the zone. —AFP