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Al Qaeda-linked website threatens Monrovia drone maker's executives

July 1, 2011 | 11:20 am

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Federal authorities have warned corporate executives at a Monrovia-based military contractor that builds drone aircraft that they are among about 60 targets suggested by members of an Al Qaeda-connected website forum.

In the wake of the warning, AeroVironment and authorities in Monrovia have stepped up security at the company’s corporate headquarters on West Huntington Drive.

“The briefing we received from the Monrovia police is there is a threat and we are taking that threat seriously and credible. We are working with AeroVironment and Homeland Security to enhance security at the facility and surrounding area,” said Scott Ochoa, Monrovia’s city manager. He noted that the corporate headquarters is in the San Gabriel Valley suburb but that manufacturing is done elsewhere locally.

“Our police department is working with the federal government to ensure security at AeroVironment given the Al Qaeda threat,” added Mayor Mary Lutz.

FBI officials in Los Angeles would not immediately comment on the threat.        

Homeland Security sources familiar with the potential threat said the forum members named past and present members of the military leadership along with corporate executives of companies prominent in the war on terror.

“All of the executives involved have been informed of the nature of the threat,” said a source, who asked that his name not be used. The source said the list was a suggestion of ideas rather than a specific plan. It was generated in response to a call to target Americans by former Southern California resident Adam Gadahn, a prominent member of Al Qaeda who grew up in Orange County and Riverside County.

AeroVironment manufactures miniature robotic unmannered aircraft, including the Raven, Wasp and Digital Puma. The tiny drones are  used to support troops in Afghanistan and in targeting Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The targeting of corporate executives from military suppliers first came public in May.  At a trial in Chicago,  an accused terrorist, David Headley, acknowledged that a Pakistan-based branch of Al Qaeda had plotted to kill Robert Stevens, the head of Lockheed Martin. The company manufacturers drones prominently used in targeting Osama bin Laden and other members of the terror network.

The list came from the Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Al Mujahedeen jihadist forum and was first made public on the Homeland Security Today website.

The security website obtained a jihadist “hit list” of 58 people that accompanied a June 6 Florida federal bulletin.

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-- Richard Winton

Photo: The Raven, a small unmanned aircraft built by AeroVironment. Credit: Associated Press

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