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Possible new threats may be linked to al Qaeda

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI warned Thursday the government has "reason to believe" terrorist attacks may occur over the next several days in the United States and against U.S. interests overseas.

Other U.S. officials cited a "high probability" of such attacks by individuals linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

The FBI warning was prompted by "certain information" that was "not specific as to target," according to a news release on the bureau's Web site.

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Other U.S. officials said they have intelligence that "there is a high probability" of such attacks linked to al Qaeda.

The information is not specific but it is "credible," the officials said. They declined to say how or where the information was obtained.

The FBI alert was based on "new intelligence received since Monday," said Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker.

She said similar alerts have been issued to local law enforcement agencies "five or six" times since the September 11 attacks.

The FBI urged Americans to report any unusual activities.

"The FBI has again alerted all local law enforcement to be on the highest alert, and we call on all people to immediately notify the FBI and local law enforcement of any unusual or suspicious activity," its Web site statement said.

"No one is ready to bet the farm that the threat is real," a senior administration official told CNN.

But, the official said, "there are indications coming from not one but several of the agencies keeping an eye on this, not what you would call specific target information but a cumulative gathering of data and hints and activities, that [have] people a little exercised.

"I would not be alarmist in reporting this," the official said, "but there is a lot of evidence of activities coming together from a number of sources at the same time. That could be explained simply by the notion that we have a lot more people looking at this and that we are being a lot more vigilant.

"But it was a collective decision that there was enough information that we had a responsibility to remind people, and make clear that people need to be on the highest level of alert."

A second official said "the information is not specific but is substantial" and is related to "talk of attacks or activities that suggest the threat of attack on the United States or U.S. interests."

Wednesday, Attorney General John Ashcroft called for increased security at water treatment plants and nuclear power facilities.

-- CNN's John King, David Ensor and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.



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