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  Updated: April 15, 2010

Al-Qaeda 9/11-style plot to prick into Iraq holy shrines thwarted: US officials

By: Ismail Zabeeh

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Iraqi and US security officials say Iraqi forces have foiled an al-Qaida in Iraq plot for a 9/11-style attack to hijack airlines and fly them into the holy shrines housed in Iraq.

Talking to the Associated Press on Wednesday two senior Iraqi officials said they have arrested two men allegedly linked to the plan, which shut down the airport in holy Najaf for days and Baghdad airport for hours last week.

They said al-Qaeda planned to hijack flights as they were leaving Iraqi airports, prompting Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to order tighter screening including searches of security forces and background checks of pilots and airline crews.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi said in Najaf that the airport "will be reopened soon, after discussing the needed security measures."

In Washington, two senior U.S. intelligence officials confirmed the plot but said it's doubtful the alleged plotters were very far along in their planning or even had the ability to carry it out.

All spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

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