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Obama step-grandma targeted by al Qaeda

May 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
More details are emerging about Osama bin Laden's plans to attack Western cities including Los Angeles. His private writings reveal that L.A. was high on the list of potential targets. In the wake of his death, President Obama's own extended family has also become a target.

It now appears President Obama's family in Africa may be the target of terrorism in retaliation to the U.S. killing of bin Laden.

Authorities in Kenya confirmed they have stepped up security at the Obama family compound. In such an impoverished area, officials have concerns about the Obama family being an attractive target for both kidnapping and crime.

Known as "Mamma Sarah" or "Granny," she is the president's step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, now in her late 80s. Kenyan authorities told ABC News her family compound there is now under heavy 24-hour security after al Shabaab, the Somali branch of al Qaeda, threatened her life.

It is one of more than a dozen specific threats that have followed the bin Laden's death.

In New York City, two American Muslim men appeared in court Thursday, accused of attempting to buy AK-47 machine guns and hand grenades as part of a plan to attack synagogues in the city. Police say the plot was under way well before the death of bin Laden.

Ahmed Ferhani, 26, of Algerian descent, and 20-year-old Mohamed Mamdouh of Moroccan descent, were under surveillance by New York Police for several months.

Until he was killed by Navy SEALs a week ago, bin Laden was obsessed with outdoing the 9/11 attacks, and specifically singled out L.A. as a focus.

He wrote, "Hit Los Angeles, not just New York. Target trains as well as planes. If possible, strike on significant dates, such as the Fourth of July and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."

Bin Laden's preoccupation with the West was actually splintering al Qaeda, because many members wanted to focus on smaller targets like Yemen or Somalia that were easier to hit, according to the Washington Post.

However, such smaller targets were not enough for the al Qaeda leader. He thought if the group could kill thousands of Americans in L.A., it might change U.S. policy toward places like Afghanistan.

L.A. has been a focus in the past. Al-Qaeda-trained terrorist Ahmed Ressam was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport during the millennium celebration in 2000.

His personal, handwritten journal and his massive collection of computer files show he helped plan every recent major al Qaeda threat the U.S. is aware of, including plots in Europe last year that had travelers and embassies on high alert, officials said.

Travelers going through LAX said the latest news has raised security concerns.

"It definitely worries me. I'm from New York, and we hear all of these threats all the time, so it's kind of hard to tell really what's real and what's not," said New York resident Zach Wyles.

Officials want to stress that there have not been any specific or imminent threats against L.A. or LAX since bin Laden's killing. However, intelligence officials say it will take weeks, if not months, to go through all of the information seized from the raid of the Pakistan compound.

"I think that with the awareness that everybody has now, probably things are going to work out OK," said Kansas resident Van Hawkins.

Meantime, LAX officials debuted a new crew of bomb-sniffing dogs that can track moving targets Thursday.

As the controversy over photos of the bin Laden's dead body continues, U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) personally viewed the gruesome pictures. Hunter said in a statement: "The photographs clearly show Osama bin Laden from the time after the raid to his burial at sea. Our nation's Special Forces did an exceptional job and deserve great credit for their work."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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