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U.S. urges vigilance for transit systems

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on July 7.)

WASHINGTON -- The Homeland Security Department asked authorities in major cities Thursday for heightened vigilance of transportation systems after a series of explosions on London transit systems.

President Bush, in Scotland for a meeting of the Group of Eight leaders, conferred in a secure video conference with national security and homeland security officials in Washington.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said there were no immediate plans to raise the nation's threat level.

''We do not have any intelligence indicating this type of attack is planned in the United States,'' Roehrkasse said.

The Homeland Security Department asked authorities in major cities for ''continued vigilance'' of their transportation systems, Roehrkasse said.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity because events were unfolding, said that an al-Qaida cell in Europe claimed responsibility for the attack on an Internet site, but it could not be immediately determined whether the statement was credible.

Still, because the attacks were well-coordinated and appeared fairly sophisticated, they were consistent with al-Qaida's methodology, the official said. The attacks did not appear to be the work of suicide bombers, the official said.

The information came from intelligence authorities in London, as relayed to U.S. intelligence.

Recent intelligence indicated that London was considered a prime target for Islamic extremists, in part because al-Qaida was having difficulty getting people into the United States, the official said.

Security was stepped up in the nation's capital, with bomb-sniffing dogs and armed police officers patrolling subways and buses -- ridden by about 1.2 million people a day -- and looking for anything suspicious. Passengers were being urged to report any suspicious activity.

A police helicopter repeatedly circled the Robert F. Kennedy stadium area, a major transportation hub with several bus stops and large commuter parking lots.

Other major cities also heightened security on transit systems.

In Los Angeles, a police official said police had activated a special command center and officials were meeting to decide whether to upgrade security levels around the city.

A spokeswoman for the Chicago Transit Authority said transit officials were working with Chicago Police on additional security measures. CTA spokeswoman Kimberly Myles said announcements were being made to riders to be aware of their surroundings and to alert transit workers about suspicious packages.

Similar announcements were made in Cleveland and several other cities.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

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