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September 26, 2001, Wednesday
A NATION CHALLENGED: THE CONSPIRACY; 2 Leaders Tell Of Plot to Kill
Bush in Genoa
By DAVID E. SANGER (NYT) 723 words
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 -- The president of Egypt and the
deputy prime minister of Italy say that Osama bin Laden's network of
Islamic terrorists threatened to kill President Bush and other leaders of
the industrialized world when they met at a summit meeting in Genoa last
The White House, in line with longstanding policy not to discuss
threats on the president, declined to comment today.
In an interview on French television on Monday, President Hosni
Mubarak of Egypt spoke in specific terms about the threat, saying that
''on June 13 of this year, we learned of a communiqué from bin Laden
saying he wanted to assassinate George W. Bush and other G8 heads of
state during their summit in Italy.''
''It was a well-known piece of information,'' Mr. Mubarak added in the
interview broadcast by the network France 3.
Separately, he told Le Figaro, a major French daily newspaper, that
Egyptian intelligence services had told the United States about the
threat and that the warning included a reference to ''an airplane stuffed
Several days before Mr. Mubarak's interview, in an appearance on
Italian television, Gianfranco Fini, the Italian deputy prime minister,
discussed parallels between the attacks on the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon, and warnings his government had received before the Genoa
meeting in July.
''Many people joked about the Italian Intelligence Force,'' Mr. Fini
said, ''but actually they had information that in Genoa there was the
hypothesis of an attack on the American president with the use of an
airplane. That is why we closed the airspace above Genoa and installed
antiaircraft missiles. Those who joked should now reflect.''
The senior American security official said the source of warnings from
foreign intelligence agencies was often unclear, and the volume was so
great that serious threats were frequently difficult to separate from
A senior administration official, who could not confirm the accounts,
said that foreign intelligence agencies frequently received tips about
threats to the president that they passed on to Washington.
While there was a general concern about Mr. bin Laden before the July
conference in Italy, there had also been concerns about Islamic
extremists at other summit meetings, including the Asian Pacific Economic
Cooperation meeting in Brunei last year, attended by President Clinton.
There was no attack in Genoa. It was marked chiefly by violent
protests in the streets by anarchists and anticapitalist demonstrators
that resulted in many injuries and the death of one protester at the
hands of the Italian police.
But participants and reporters who flew into the Christopher Columbus
airport, which was closed to commercial traffic, were greeted by the
unusual sight of antiaircraft batteries along the runways.
One senior American official who has been involved in a number of such
summit conferences said today, ''It's something I have never seen before,
especially in such an obvious spot.''
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, European and
American officials have been reviewing threats from Mr. bin Laden's
organization in June and July. Those threats resulted in a number of
public warnings around the July 4 holiday, and extra security precautions
for Mr. Bush.
But after nothing materialized, the concern waned.
The most specific warning that Mr. bin Laden planned an attack
apparently came from Egyptian intelligence sources.
In his interview with Le Figaro, published late last week, Mr. Mubarak
said: ''We had communicated to the Americans certain information from the
video made by bin Laden on the 13th of June. It spoke of assassinating
President Bush and other heads of state in Rome. It was a question of an
airplane stuffed with explosives. These precautions then had been
However, people who have viewed the tape say there is no reference on
it to any airplane stuffed with explosives, no specific threat to kill
the President, and no mention of an attack by aircraft.
President Mubarak added that ''no one had imagined that Boeings filled
with passengers would be crashed against the buildings.''
Italian officials say that the
antiaircraft batteries they set up in Genoa were primarily intended to
deter an attack from a small plane.