U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 24, 2014.Iraq has "credible" intelligence that Islamic State militants plan to attack subway systems in Paris and the United States, the prime minister said on Thursday, but U.S. and French officials said they had no evidence to back up his claims, reuters reports.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's comments were met with surprise by security, intelligence and transit officials in both countries. New York's leaders scrambled to ride the subway to reassure the public that the nation's largest city was safe.
Abadi said he received the information Thursday morning from militants captured in Iraq and concluded it was credible after requesting further details. The attacks, he said, were plotted from inside Iraq by "networks" of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"They plan to have attacks in the metros of Paris and the U.S.," Abadi told a small group of U.S. reporters while in New York for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. "I asked for more credible information. I asked for names. I asked for details, for cities, you know, dates. And from the details I have received, yes, it looks credible."
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, said the United States had "not confirmed any specific threat."
"What we've consistently said to the Iraqis is if they have information that is relevant to terrorist activity or terrorist plotting, that they can and should share that through our intelligence and law enforcement channels," Rhodes told reporters traveling with Obama on Air Force One from New York.
"We would certainly take seriously any information they are learning," he said.
French security services also said they had no information confirming Abadi's statement, a French government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The United States and France have both launched air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq as part of a U.S.-led campaign to "degrade and destroy" the radical Sunni militant group, which has seized a third of both Iraq and Syria.
In the past, the United States had received threats that various militant groups were targeting transportation systems but there is no recent information about an imminent plan by Islamic State, one U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Abadi also said that Iraq did not want to see foreign "boots on the ground," but stressed the value of providing air cover, saying Iraq's air force did not have sufficient capability.