FBI now calls fuel-truck warnings premature

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An FBI spokeswoman last week sought to dampen rumors that al-Qaida might be planning attacks in major U.S. cities using fuel trucks as weapons.

The prospect of such attacks, on many truckers’ minds at least since Sept. 11, 2001, was revived last Tuesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Los Angeles office, via a warning to local law enforcement agencies. Media outlets such as Fox News, CNN and talk radio reported and discussed the warning.

The FBI now says the warning was based on uncorroborated information and that its public dissemination was premature.

“Threat information was unsubstantiated,” FBI spokeswoman Cathy Viray said Friday.

Al-Qaida has a history of using trucks as terrorist weapons. For example, 19 American soldiers were killed in 1996 when an al-Qaida truck bomb exploded outside the Khobar Towers barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and 21 people died in 2002 when an al-Qaida truck bomb exploded outside a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia.

Other infamous attacks using truck bombs in the past 25 years include the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241; and the July 2005 attacks on the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh that killed 88. The worst truck bombing in the United States to date is the 1995 Murrah Federal Building attack in Oklahoma City that killed 168.