NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The upcoming terror trial of a radical Muslim cleric is prompting fears of a attack in New York City, a top NYPD official told the New York Daily News.
But while the Police Department is on high alert, Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond that law enforcement officials have no intelligence suggesting an attack is being plotted to coincide with Abu Hamza al-Masri‘s trial, which begins April 14 — the start of the Jewish holiday Passover.
Al-Masri is the second of third terror suspects scheduled to be tried in Manhattan. He is being charged in a 1998 attack on tourists in Yemen that killed four people.
The Egyptain-born al-Masri is also accused of conspiring with others to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.
Rebecca Weiner, director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD, told the Daily News the department is “attuned to the possibility that his upcoming trial may inspire more (terror). It is a major priority for us in the next couple of weeks.”
Al-Masri is a hook-handed cleric with a global following, Miller said.
“Much in the way, if you compared him to another defendant, the ‘Blind Sheik,’ in that he has inspired people before and that his resurgence into the public eye and discussion could inspire others,” Miller said.
Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as the “Blind Shiek,” helped orchestrate the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plotted several other unexecuted attacks on New York City landmarks. He was convicted in the United States on terrorism charges in 1995 and sentenced to life in prison.
The NYPD is working with the federal government to secure the Manhattan federal courthouse and surrounding area for al-Masri’s trial. The Police Department is also working with businesses in the area to encourage them to report any suspicious activity.
Last week, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, was convicted in Manhattan of conspiring to kill Americans by serving as al Qaeda’s spokesman following the Sept. 11 attacks.
During an appearance in New York on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said it was fitting that Abu Ghaith, “who publicly gloated about the attacks on the World Trade Center, stood trial near where those buildings once stood, before a jury of New Yorkers and in full view of many of those who lost loved ones in the attack.”
Holder added that he still believes Manhattan is the right place to put Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, on trial — a decision he reversed amid rising political opposition. The attorney general, however, said he would not revisit the decision and that Mohammed will be tried before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
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