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Official warns of election terror

Terrorists may see the change to a new U.S. presidency during the next six months as a prime chance to attack, no matter who wins the White House, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says.

“Any period of transition creates a greater vulnerability, meaning there's more likelihood of distraction,” Chertoff said in an interview Wednesday. “You have to be concerned it will create an operational opportunity for terrorists.” The risk is the same whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain is elected president on Nov. 4, he said.

McCain, 72, has been citing remarks by Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden on Oct. 19 that “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy,” should Obama win the White House.

Internet messages show that Islamic militants are paying attention to the election. Members of a jihadist Web site have urged al-Qaeda to stage an attack to boost McCain's chances of winning, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a Bethesda, Maryland-based group that monitors militant Internet sites.

Chertoff, 54, stressed he didn't know of any specific threat to the country tied to the election or transition, and said terrorist groups are likeliest to attack when their preparations are complete.

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