Counterterrorism officials are chasing what they call a credible but unconfirmed tip that al-Qaida has plans to set off a car bomb in New York City or Washington, with bridges or tunnels as potential targets. It was the first word of a possible "active plot" timed to coincide with commemoration of the terror group's attacks a decade ago.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department issued a joint intelligence bulletin Thursday night to law enforcement around the country urging them to maintain increased security and be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Officials told ABC News Thursday the alleged terror plot was initiated by new al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor, who had pledged to avenge bin Laden's death earlier this year at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.
"As we know from the intelligence gathered from the Osama bin Laden raid, al Qaeda has shown an interest in important dates and anniversaries, such as 9/11. In this instance, it's accurate that there is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information," Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said in a statement Thursday.
In addition to al-Zawahiri and a top lieutenant, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that three other suspected al Qaeda leaders could be involved. They included 22-year-old Jude Kenan Mohammad.
Mohammad, a Fuquay-Varina High School dropout, was amongst a group of eight prosecutors say was organized by Daniel Patrick Boyd that allegedly plotted to support overseas terrorism. Boyd pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country. One of Boyd's son's also agreed to a plea deal, while five others await trial.
Mohammad is not in custody. He left for Pakistan in October 2008, telling his family he was going to live with his father. He was arrested by Pakistani officials that month and accused of trying to travel illegally in a tribal area along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Mohammad was booked on charges of weapons possession for allegedly carrying a dagger and traveling without proper documents, but was released on bail. Pakistani officials said he did not show up for his next court appearance and hasn't been seen since.
A federal grand jury in North Carolina has indicted Mohammad for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons in a foreign country. There is a federal warrant for his arrest.