The United States has warned pilots and airports that Al Qaeda was preparing to launch an aerial attack against the US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, according to an advisory notice issued by the Homeland Security Office.

"Recent reliable reporting indicates that Al Qaeda was in the late stages of planning an aerial suicide attack against the US Consulate in Karachi.”

Tom Ridge was Bush's choice to head the
Department of Homeland Security in the
wake of al-Qaeda's 911 attack

The notice urges the public to report suspicious activity, and is in response to information based on analysis from the Terrorist Threat Integration Centre in the last 24 hours. The centre has only just opened this week.

"Operatives were planning to pack a small fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter with explosives and crash it into the consulate," the advisory claimed.

"This plot and a similar plot last year to fly a small explosive-laden aircraft into a US warship in the Persian Gulf demonstrate al Qaeda's continued fixation with using explosive-laden small aircraft in attacks," it continued, adding "general aviation aircraft that were loaded with explosives to enhance their destructive potential would make them the equivalent of a medium-sized truck bomb.”

Possible concerns of an attack in Karachi come at the same time as the Department for Homeland Security spokeswoman Rachael Sunbarger  announced a new US alert to the “to the aviation community, not in response to a specific threat."

The US alert went out to the Airport Information Centre, whose members include pilots and airports, has no connection with the threat to the US Consulate in Pakistan.

The heightened security concerns come at the same time as the US tries to bail its aviation industries out of bankruptcy, and India and Pakistan try to resume flights.

American Airlines narrowly avoided calling in the receivers when staff agreed to a pay-cut.

Indian Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Hussain announced before the US alert that the restoration of air links with Pakistan would help both countries to make and improve relations.