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Friday, September 9, 2011

Clinton says Qaeda behind US threat as Panetta warns against any attacks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that al-Qaeda was behind a specific, credible but unconfirmed report of a threat to harm Americans, notably in New York and Washington, as Defense Secretary warned against messing with America.

“We are meeting here in New York ... with the news last night of a specific, credible but unconfirmed report that al Qaeda again is seeking to harm Americans and in particular to target New York and Washington,” Clinton said in a speech.

President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a redoubling of counter-terrorism efforts in the face of the threat ahead of Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, US officials said.

In a speech ahead of the anniversary, Clinton said it was impossible to foil every plot and that al-Qaeda was still capable of regional and international attacks, according to Reuters.

However, she said Washington would wage a “relentless” campaign against it and, later this month, would set up Global Counter-Terrorism Forum to gather officials to identify threats, devise solutions and share expertise.

The group, to be co-chaired by the United States and Turkey, will also include Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, the State Department said.

"We will come and get you"

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday that America’s response to 9/11 shows that “you don’t mess” with the United States and that when attacked, “we will come and get you.”

Panetta -- who as former CIA director oversaw the raid that killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden on May 2 -- said the hijackers underestimated the country.

“The people who attacked us on 9/11 were trying to weaken America, trying to hurt America. And instead they strengthened us,” Panetta told an audience of police and emergency workers, according to AFP.

“Because you don’t mess with this country,” he said.

“And what we made clear, is that when that happens, we will come and get you.”

Panetta thanked the firefighters and other “first responders” who rushed to the Pentagon after it was struck by a hijacked airliner on September 11.

“For 36 exhausting hours, firefighters battled what was truly an epic blaze,” he said.

Panetta, who took over as Pentagon chief in July, recounted where he was on the day of the attacks ten years ago.

Out of government at the time, Panetta was on Capitol Hill briefing members of Congress as part of an oceans commission when he was informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

“Everybody in the room had kind of made the spontaneous decision, better get the hell out of there,” he said.

With all commercial flights cancelled, Panetta had to rent a car to drive home to California.

“I have to tell you what I witnessed that day driving across the country is something that's also seared into my memory,” he said.

“Because I witnessed this country coming together. As I was driving across the country, there were signs coming up, ‘God bless America,’ there were flags people were putting up, people going to churches, people holding hands,” he said. “People coming together to try to confront what had happened.”

After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Panetta -- a veteran Democrat and Washington heavyweight -- was named chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, where his top priority was waging a shadow war against al-Qaeda.

Panetta oversaw a dramatic increase in bombing raids by robotic drone aircraft against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as well as a concerted effort to track down Bin Laden.

When a trail of intelligence appeared to pinpoint Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, Panetta won approval from Obama for a daring nighttime raid to go after Bin Laden even though there was no guarantee that the al-Qaeda mastermind was in the compound.

Without notifying Pakistani leaders about the raid in advance, the team of Navy SEAL commandos gunned down Bin Laden and hauled away a trove of documents and computer files.

Al Arabiya

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