Issues Missile Launcher Alert
WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI told police departments an empty launcher for a
shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile found near a military base in Saudi
Arabia was linked to al-Qaida, but cautioned there were no signs terrorists
planned to fire on U.S. commercial jetliners.
Instead, the FBI indicated it believes al-Qaida may try to use such weapons
against U.S.-led military forces in the region.
The FBI message, marked ``law enforcement sensitive,'' noted that U.S.
planes have used the Prince Sultan Air Base, south of the Saudi capital
Riyadh, since the 1991 Gulf War. The FBI said Thursday it was unknown how
long the missile tube had been there before its discovery by Saudi soldiers
about three weeks ago.
The FBI sent the message May 22 urging state and local police departments to
remain vigilant, but cautioned there was no hint of any attack plot. ``We
have no information to indicate al-Qaida is planning to use any type of
missile or weapons systems against commercial aircraft in the U.S.,'' the
Saudi security guards at the base found the 4-foot-long launcher for a
Soviet-made SA-7 missile about two miles from the nearest runway, inside the
base's outer perimeter fence and near an inner fence.
A cover on the front of the launch tube was intact, but there were scorch
marks on the back of the tube, indicating it could have been used to fire or
try to fire a missile. The discovery puzzled and worried U.S. military
officials. No pilots reported seeing, hearing or detecting any missiles, and
officials said there were no reports of any threats against the air base.
About 4,500 U.S. troops and an unspecified number of American warplanes use
the desert base.
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