WASHINGTON — The Al Qaeda terrorist network had initiated plans to attack the “rail sector” on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has announced. The agency has made clear, however, that the industry is under no imminent threat of terrorist attack.
The planned attack was revealed in information discovered Sunday, when Navy Seals stormed Al Qaeda boss Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. The plan was apparently to sabotage rail infrastructure near a valley or bridge so the train would fall down an embankment. The agency didn’t say whether a specific rail line or region was the target.
Matt Chandler, DHS’s press secretary, said the information is based on “initial reporting,” meaning it’s subject to change. He said the agency won’t immediately issue an alert under the National Terrorism Advisory Service. He said the Transportation Security Administration will issue a bulletin to “rail sector stakeholders.”
“We have no information of any imminent terrorist threat to the U.S. rail sector, but we wanted to make our partners aware of the alleged plotting; it is unclear if any further planning has been conducted since February of last year,” Chandler said.
TRAINS will update this story throughout the day as we talk with rail industry officials.
UPDATE, 10:09 a.m.
Patti Reilly, a spokeswoman with the Association of American Railroads, said her group is in close contact with the Department of Homeland Security. “We’ve been in contact and discussions with them since Bin Laden was first killed” he said. “All information we’re getting from DHS is being shared with our railroads.” She added that to the industry, security is a constant consideration even in absence of a specific threat.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the railroad is “immediately privy to any intelligence with respect to threats against rail. Amtrak employees remain at a heightened state of vigilance, and we will employ appropriate countermeasures as and when necessary.”
TRAINS has also learned the Department of Homeland Security’s guidance to railroads doesn’t specify whether Al Qaeda planned to target freight, passenger, or commuter rail.