The U.S. government put the country on the second-highest level of security alert on Friday and warned people to be on their guard for terrorist attacks.

The decision for an increased threat condition designation, Attorney General John Ashcroft said in a news conference and transcription on the White House web site, “is based on specific intelligence received and analyzed by the full intelligence community. This information has been corroborated by multiple intelligence sources.”

The increase puts the color-coded threat level to orange. "Since September the 11th, the U.S. intelligence community has indicated that the al Qaeda terrorist network is still determined to attack innocent Americans, both here and abroad," Ashcroft said. "Recent reporting indicates an increased likelihood that al Qaeda may attempt to attack Americans in the United States and/or abroad in or around the end of the Hajj, a Muslim religious period ending mid-February 2003."

According to Ashcroft, intelligence reports suggest that Al Qaida leaders have emphasized planning for attacks on apartment buildings, hotels and other soft or lightly secured targets. There are also indications, he said, that Al Qaida is interested in carrying out chemical, biological and radiological attacks. Those are bolstered by the recent arrests in London where the deadly chemical ricin was discovered, he said.

Historically, the intelligence community has indicated that Al Qaida might also seek economic targets, including the transportation and energy sectors, as well as symbolic targets and symbols of American power.