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U.S. oil and gas industry warned of potential strike

By Susan Candiotti and Bill Mears

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. oil and gas industry has put itself on an increased security alert following an FBI warning that followers of Osama bin Laden might be planning strikes, according to industry sources.

The FBI issued an alert Tuesday based on uncorroborated information that Osama bin Laden or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar may have approved plans to attack natural gas supplies in the United States if either was captured or killed, one source said. The FBI did not elaborate, the source said.

The FBI warning reportedly came from a "source of undetermined reliability," the source said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday that a warning was issued 10 to 12 days ago after consultations with energy industry officials.

"We take these kinds of reports seriously," Ashcroft said at a Washington news conference.

Guarded stations

Thirty pipelines, mostly underground and located in virtually every state, transport about 90 percent of the natural gas in the United States, according to the Interstate Natural Gas Association (INGA).

The increased security is most evident, an industry source said, at above-ground compressor stations located every 75 to 100 miles along pipelines. The stations are fenced and guarded.

The energy industry says it has stepped up security measures and has initiated better communication with various government agencies since the September attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan.

Gas companies "continue to monitor and patrol the pipelines regularly via aircraft, vehicles, and/or on foot," according to a statement on INGA's Website.

Industry officials would not discuss what specifics steps it may have taken to increase security since last week's alert.

"We have more of a physical presence than before... more of a mixture of more people and more cameras," an industry source said. "Let's call it more eyes than before."


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