LAX, Port Security Beefed Up After 9/11 Anniversary Spurs Terror Threats

Unrest, Conflicts and WarAir Transportation DisastersTransportation DisastersInternational TravelSeptember 11, 2001 AttacksLos Angeles International AirportAir Transportation Industry

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- Authorities are on high alert in Southern California after a series of terror scares struck Los Angeles International Airport during the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Counterterrorism officials announced a "credible but unconfirmed" terror threat days ahead of the September 11th anniversary, and while Los Angeles was not mentioned in the threat, LAPD increased patrols over the weekend around LAX, seaports, federal buildings and tourist attractions as a precaution.

Police investigated a bomb scare at LAX Sunday morning after a TSA K-9 reacted suspiciously to a catering truck entering the airport. A nearby restaurant and an Air France cargo area were temporarily evacuated before the threat was deemed harmless.

An American Airlines flight bound to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was escorted through its landing by fighter jets after three passengers acted suspiciously in the restroom during the flight.

Officials say the scares represent the overall fear of travelers, especially since two of the flights hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001 belonged to American Airlines.

"With all of the people like you watching and everybody on such high alert, I think it's going to be safer today than it was on 9/11," said one traveler ahead of the anniversary.

"I think there's enough safeguards on now that (I have) no problem flying," said another airline passenger.

Federal authorities say they are searching for three individuals linked to a "credible but unconfirmed" terrorism threat which, according to intelligence, pointed to possible car bomb attacks on New York and Washington's bridges and tunnels.

The plot was said to target Washington, D.C. or New York around the anniversary of 9/11.

Federal authorities are searching for three individuals, two of whom are U.S. citizens, in connection with the threat. terrorist attacks.

In New York, police amassed a display of force Friday including checkpoints that snarled traffic in response to intelligence about a car or truck bomb plot linked to the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Officers armed with automatic weapons were stationed at city landmarks including Wall Street, Times Square and the September 11 memorial site where the Twin Towers once stood.

There was reason to believe threat may be linked to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

New Yorkers who have grown accustomed to bag searches at subway stations and random displays of police presence encountered increased vigilance after the threat, which prompted President Barack Obama to order a redoubling of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

A manhunt was under way for two or three suspects, U.S. officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. One said there could be a link to Zawahri, who took the reins of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed in May in a U.S. raid in Pakistan.

Near the site known as Ground Zero, where a new World Trade Center is under reconstruction and Obama attended Sunday's commemoration, police established a checkpoint behind the historic Trinity Church, stopping vehicles, opening the cargo bays of trucks and checking drivers' licenses.

Similar checkpoints went up at Times Square, Columbus Circle on the southern edge of Central Park and outside the Macy's department store in midtown, creating traffic jams all over Manhattan.

"I think for our safety it is good," Eva Kurzawska, 57, said as she watched irritated drivers a checkpoint in midtown.

"The commute on the train this morning was horrible but it was worth it because we are being protected," said Mario Vigorigo, 42, a wireless manager from Brooklyn.

Sam Ginzburg, a senior trader at First New York Securities, said warnings of a potential attack was one factor unnerving traders before the weekend. "There is an extreme amount of negativity," he said as U.S. stocks fell on Friday.

A senior law enforcement official told Reuters police patrols and security would be stepped up beginning at 3 p.m. EDT to coincide with the evening rush hour. The operation would involve a "big show of force" which would include teams of officers armed with heavy weapons.

While the rush-hour operation had been planned some time ago, the forces and tactics deployed were increased after authorities received the intelligence threat.

A Reuters news report contributed to this article.

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