The U-S government has raised the level of a national alert, indicating a high risk of a terrorist attack.
Attorney General John Ashcroft Officials says the move reflects specific intelligence backed by what he described as multiple intelligence sources.
Mr. Ashcroft said the Al-Qaida terrorist network is still determined to stage attacks in the United States and abroad. He said the timing could coincide with the end of the Muslim religious pilgrimage, the Hajj, in mid-February.
The Attorney General said targets could include such lightly guarded places as apartment buildings or hotels, and pointed to the recent attacks on tourist spots in Kenya and Indonesia. Other targets could include U-S economic interests, including the transportation and energy sectors, as well as symbols of American power. Mr. Ashcroft also tied the discovery of the poison ricin in an apartment in London to the willingness of al-Qaida to launch chemical and biological attacks.
The Attorney General was joined by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge at a briefing in Washington. Both men said that Americans should continue with their regular routine, but with heightened awareness of their surroundings. F-B-I director Robert Mueller added that an alert public is the nation's best defense.
A White House spokesman said President Bush ordered the alert raised on Friday on the recommendation of the Homeland Security Council.
The new alert level is orange, the second highest on the five-level, color-coded chart of security warnings.
The last time the orange alert was in effect was September 10th last year, the day before the first anniversary of terrorist attacks in the United States. After two weeks, it returned to yellow, an indication of elevated risk, and the middle point on the scale.
On Thursday, the government again asked Americans worldwide to remain vigilant due to growing threats of terrorism at home and abroad. The State Department issued the warning, saying the use of chemical and biological weapons must be considered a growing threat.
The caution says terrorist groups would likely target U-S civilians and officials at public places, such as restaurants, schools or sporting events. It also warned that Americans abroad face the risk of being kidnapped or gunned down.