Las Vegas — as a symbol of Western decadence — has surfaced in the past as a target of Islamic terrorism, and now it has come up again: “U.S. government officials said yesterday they believe some of the passengers boarding one of the three Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles that were canceled this week because of security concerns might have intended to hijack it and crash-land in Las Vegas or another city along its flight path.” So says the Washington Post.
“Police in Paris questioned 13 people who had checked in for two Air France flights that were canceled Christmas Eve because of a terrorism warning from U.S. authorities, but no evidence of wrongdoing was found, the French Interior Ministry said. All 13 were released.
“But U.S. officials said they are suspicious about some of the passengers who did not show up at the airport to claim their seats on the ultimately aborted Flight 68 from Paris to Los Angeles. One of those who did not appear for the Christmas Eve flight apparently is a trained pilot, one U.S. official said.
“‘We still have an interest in talking to those people who didn’t show up,’ said one U.S. official knowledgeable about the investigation. ‘There might be more to come on this.’ Despite French statements suggesting some of the American fears about the Air France flights were unfounded, U.S. government officials said they believe they might have averted a terrorist attack by arranging for the flights’ cancellation. Officials said they feared that al Qaeda operatives planned to hijack one of the flights and use the plane as a missile to attack a site on or near its route.
“Moreover, U.S. officials said intelligence indicators suggest that al Qaeda might have set other terrorist operations in motion that do not involve aviation and are not centered in California. As on other occasions when terrorist fears are heightened, U.S. officials said their main concern is that al Qaeda might use a chemical or biological weapon, or a radiological ‘dirty’ bomb.
“‘Our fear is that other things are going on’ that have nothing to do with jetliner flights in or out of U.S. airports, said one U.S. official briefed on high-level intelligence. ‘The concern is that there still could be a lot of activity that was underway.’
“Another government official with access to the classified reports said U.S. security officials ‘are really concerned something major will happen’ despite the cancellation of the three incoming and three outgoing Air France flights between Paris and Los Angeles on Christmas Eve and yesterday. One scenario embraced by a number of U.S. security officials is that al Qaeda operatives were in the final stages of planning an attack in this country, and were awaiting final direction from al Qaeda superiors to proceed.”