16 June 2004

Terror groups shifting sights to 'soft targets'

Terror groups shifting sights to 'soft targets:

By Lisa Hoffman
Scripps Howard News Service

The revelation Monday of an alleged terrorist conspiracy to blow up an Ohio shopping mall came not long after the federal government publicized a separate plot to target New York apartment buildings.

Taken together, these reported schemes give added weight to the contention by terrorism experts inside and outside the Bush administration that it is so-called 'soft targets' that are now in terrorists' sights.

As government buildings, airports and power plants have been enveloped in tighter security measures, lesser-protected targets such as malls, schools, hotels and stadiums have grown more attractive to those seeking to attack America at home, experts said Monday.

'If terrorists want to strike at the heart of America, they are more likely to strike next where we're not prepared. It's only logical,' said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a national consulting firm based in Cleveland.

Earlier this year, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security spread the word that Islamic extremists have shown interest in recruiting women and men who don't look like they are of Middle East descent to carry out attacks at shopping malls, subway stations or bus lines.

On Monday, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that a native of Somalia living in Ohio had been indicted on suspicion of conspiring to detonate a bomb at an unidentified shopping mall in the Columbus area."

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