From Cairo’s famed Sphinx to a football stadium in Buffalo, N.Y., the United States and its allies braced Saturday for the possible outbreak of terrorist acts in retaliation for the military assault against Iraq.
U.S. officials abroad responded to several incidents Saturday that appeared to be in retaliation for Operation Desert Storm, including the explosion in Manila of a powerful bomb near a library operated by the U.S. Information Service. An Iraqi was killed in the blast, apparently as he carried the device.
Nationally, already extensive security measures were tightened even more, with special focus placed on two National Football League conference championship games to be played today in Buffalo and San Francisco.
In Southern California, Long Beach Naval Station was twice placed on high-alert security Saturday morning when swimmers were spotted in restricted waters, and a 14-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly leaving a fake bomb near Los Angeles International Airport.
Tensions were increased when Baghdad Radio, which has advocated a “holy war” against the U.S.-led military coalition, on Saturday broadcast dual calls for terrorist strikes. The explicit appeals were attributed to Iraq’s ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party and the Palestinian guerrilla leader who masterminded the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
“There is no longer any room for delay because the great duel, the mother of battles, has begun,” the party said in a statement monitored in Nicosia, Cyprus. “Let the aggressors be set on fire and let them be hunted down wherever they may be in every corner of the world.”
The radio also broadcast an appeal from Abul Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, calling on his followers to “take up arms and strike and destroy the interests of the United States and its allies.”
PLF guerrillas seized the Italian liner Achille Lauro on a Mediterranean cruise and eventually killed an elderly American Jewish man before surrendering. Earlier this year, the group also attempted an attack on Israel by boat, helping to scuttle peace talks between the Palestinians and the United States.
Abul Abbas vowed that “the march of the faithful and holy Muslim fighters will reach Jerusalem and liberate it from the claws of Zionism.”
Although it was unclear if they could be attributed directly to Baghdad’s new call to arms, there were numerous suspected terrorist activities, along with other strong expressions of pro-Iraq sentiments:
* In Manila, a bomb killed an Iraqi who was believed to be carrying a passport issued to an Iraqi businessman. The explosion hurled his body from the street to the roof of a nearby home and wounded an Iraqi student.
* In the Persian Gulf, Rear Adm. William Fogarty, commander of U.S. Navy forces, said mines had been found floating near Bahrain and off Dubai, and he warned commercial ships that they would enter the gulf “at their own risk.” Canadian officials on gulf patrol have said that many of the mines being discovered have no rust or other signs of having been in the water long, suggesting that they were recently planted.
* In Beirut, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and 30 American staff members were evacuated from the embassy compound in the Christian enclave of Awkar and flown by Marine helicopter to the island of Cyprus. Tens of thousands of Lebanese demonstrated in support of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein across the country Saturday. A young Lebanese man was arrested in Beirut while carrying a homemade bomb near a French diplomatic office.
* In Jakarta, Indonesia, a guard Friday discovered a bomb hidden near the residence of U.S. Ambassador John Monjo. An embassy spokesman said the bomb was detonated harmlessly.
In addition to these overt incidents, there was widespread evidence of anxiety raised by the threat of terrorism.
State Department officials announced in Washington, for instance, that they had received evidence of a credible threat of terrorist action in Bangkok, Thailand, against U.S., British, Israeli or Australian facilities in the next 48 hours.
And in Cairo, where tourism has already suffered since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, officials closed the city’s three main museums until further notice and placed the Sphinx, the pyramids and other tourist sites off limits. Tourists were being allowed to walk around the monuments, but not to enter.
The National Football League, working in conjunction with police, the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration, said it was taking extra steps “to provide the highest level of public safety” at the championship games in San Francisco and Buffalo.
For example, in Buffalo, the FBI will have counterterrorism agents at the game to work with Erie County Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins, according to law enforcement sources. The FBI declined comment on whether such agents will also be used in San Francisco.
Rich Stadium in Buffalo and Candlestick Park in San Francisco are being secured 24 hours a day, according to NFL officials. Normal security forces have been doubled. Moreover, the FAA will prohibit all air travel within a two-mile range and a 4,000-foot ceiling over Rich Stadium, where the Bills face the Los Angeles Raiders. All commercial and private aircraft are prohibited.
In San Francisco, where the 49ers are scheduled to play the New York Giants, plans were to deploy an additional 140 San Francisco Police Department officers and private security guards, according to police and league officials.
Long Beach Naval Station officials said they were unable to locate swimmers who were twice spotted in waters just off the facility. The early morning incidents prompted extensive, and unfruitful, searches for bombs or other evidence of terrorist activity.
As an anti-terrorist precaution, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power closed public access to the Hollywood Reservoir and dispatched security guards to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, according to DWP spokeswoman Valerie Gray.
The popular Universal Studios Tour in Universal City, which daily attracts thousands of tourists, including many foreign visitors, began beefing up its security force Wednesday, when the war began.
A Jewish elementary school in the San Fernando Valley hired two security guards to patrol the campus and locked the front door to the school office.
And along Rodeo Drive, 20 security guards--twice the normal number--lined the glitzy commercial strip.
“I don’t think Hussein can do anything on this street right now,” guard Ahmad Ayamuddin said. “He’s too busy. But beyond that, anyone with a bag on Rodeo Drive gets a good eye-search from us.”
Wallace reported from Manama, Bahrain, and Serrano from Los Angeles. Contributing were Times staff writers Mayerene Barker, James M. Gomez, Louis Sahagun and Henry Weinstein in Los Angeles, Bob Drogin in Manila, and T.J. Simers in Buffalo.