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Delighted Hodgson hands Kane his first England call-up

Hodgson included Kane in his 24-man squad for the March 27 Euro 2016 Group E qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley and the friendly against Italy later this month.

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The 21-year-old is the top scoring Englishman in the Premier League with 16 goals.

There was also a recall for Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, who was injured in September for England and has missed the last five internationals.

Hodgson named only two goalkeepers, leaving a berth open for England Under-21 keeper Jack Butland who may be added to the squad later.

Kane, the one uncapped player in squad, is another product of the England youth system having played for the Under-17s through to the Under-21s and Hodgson said he was delighted with his progress this season.

“I think the whole country is excited about Harry,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“His rise has been fantastic since he broke into the Tottenham team. He has done so well and it would have been much more of a surprise if he had not been selected, so I am delighted for him.”

England have six wins in six matches since their first round exit from the World Cup last year and Hodgson said he was delighted with the progress the team has made with new, younger players.

However, Kane would have to fight for his place in the starting line-up.

“We have done quite well since the World Cup with six straight wins, and the players who have been playing in those games have done a good job,” said Hodgson.

“So its not as simple as a new player coming in and the ones who have played stepping aside. The ones he is competing with won’t want to step aside.”

Squad:

Goalkeepers

Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City)

Defenders

Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)

Midfielders

Ross Barkley (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Man City), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal)

Forwards

Harry Kane (Tottenham), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin)

Sharks defy SARU and select top players for Super Rugby

SARU announced in February that they had reached an agreement with the five South African Super Rugby teams that they would not select certain players for more than five matches in a row.

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Flank Marcell Coetzee, flyhalf Patrick Lambie and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach fall into that category but they have picked for a sixth match in succession for Saturday’s clash with the Waikato Chiefs in Durban.

The Sharks said they cannot be forced into resting players and after a tough start to Super Rugby season, when they lost three of their opening five games, they will risk the ire of SARU.

“SA Rugby has confirmed that the Springbok player management agreement with the South African Super Rugby franchises is not a legally binding understanding. Instead SA Rugby expects them to stick as close to it as possible in the interests of the Springboks,” the Sharks said in a statement.

SARU CEO Jurie Roux said while clubs were encouraged to rest players, he understood that coaches also needed to look after team interests.

“The players are primarily the assets of the Unions and they will have their different dynamics and needs at different stages of the season,” Roux said in a statement.

“We worked towards the understanding to prioritise Springbok readiness for the international season and the Rugby World Cup but we realise it is a balancing act for coaches in terms of juggling their union’s needs and the national interest.

“The important thing for SARU was to take the initiative to try and find a solution to questions relating to player workload. If we get 90 percent compliance during the season it will be a 100 percent improvement on where we were a year ago when no player could expect any break.

“If franchises feel they are unable to stick to the letter of the understanding that is less than ideal but we would expect them to stick as close to it as possible in the interests of the Springboks.”

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Ireland bring in Fitzgerald, Healy for Six Nations finale

After Wales scuppered Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes by ending their unbeaten run last week, Joe Schmidt’s men narrowly fell behind England in the standings with a points difference of plus 33 compared to England’s plus 37.

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With England up against France in the last match of the ‘Super Saturday’ finale, Ireland want to set their rivals a sizable target and also recalled fit again prop Cian Healy in the only other change to the team that started in Cardiff.

“It has been a very long road back for Luke after a number of injuries but he has an exuberance and positivity that makes it difficult to keep Luke down for long periods,” Schmidt told a news conference.

“That resilience is something we’ll need on Saturday, I think Scotland has named a particularly good side, a really balanced side and I think there is a bit of desperation in both teams which will make for a really combative test match.”

Fitzgerald, an ever present in the Grand Slam winning side of 2009, went on to be a test match starter for the British and Irish Lions later that year at the age of 21 but has been beset by injury in recent years.

He last started for Ireland in a World Cup warm up game almost four years ago and last featured in a test match in Ireland’s narrow defeat to New Zealand in November 2013.

Fitzgerald has started every major match for Leinster over the last five months and replaces Munster winger Simon Zebo who drops out of the match day squad after Schmidt said he was showing a bit of wear and tear.

With Wales first up against Italy on Saturday and still in contention for the title if they can win by a wide margin, Schmidt warned that his players cannot be distracted by the other games.

He expected a tough outing against Vern Cotter’s Scotland.

“The one thing I would do is throw a word of caution around trying to chase anything other than getting our nose in front of Scotland,” said Schmidt, who began his coaching career in Europe at Clermont Auvergne with fellow Kiwi Cotter.

“It’s going to be a heck of a Saturday.”

Ireland: 15-Rob Kearney, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Jared Payne, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-Luke Fitzgerald, 10-Jonathan Sexton, 9-Conor Murray, 8-Jamie Heaslip, 7-Sean O’Brien, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 5-Paul O’Connell (captain), 4-Devin Toner, 3-Mike Ross, 2-Rory Best, 1-Cian Healy.

Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Martin Moore, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Jordi Murphy, 21-Eoin Reddan, 22-Ian Madigan, 23-Felix Jones.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Alan Baldwin)

Parisse out, Haimona returns for Italy RU

Captain Sergio Parisse has been ruled out through injury but Kelly Haimona returns at fly-half as Italy prepare to draw a line under their disappointing Six Nations campaign at home to Wales on Saturday.

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Parisse was forced off in Italy’s 29-0 defeat to France in Rome last week and has not recovered from his ankle injury in time, meaning Fijian-born Samuela Vunisa comes in at No.8.

Italy team manager Luigi Troiani explained: “Parisse has made a lot of progress since Sunday, he’s walking normally… but to have picked him would have put his recovery at risk.”

Haimona was dropped last week in favour of Tommaso Allan but, with the latter sidelined after suffering a hamstring tear in the defeat to France, the New Zealand-born number 10 returns to rekindle his half-back partnership with Edoardo Gori.

Italy have also made two changes to the front row, with Martin Castrogiovanni returning at tighthead prop and loosehead Michele Rizzo coming in for Dario Chistolini, who drops back to the replacements bench.

Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini takes over the captain’s armband from Parisse.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel said: “Leonardo is one of the three vice-captains along with Marco Bortolami and (Quintin) Geldenhuys. He’s the only one of the three in the starting XV, so the choice was logical.”

Parisse’s absence and Vunisa’s switch to the No.8 position means Brunel has brought Mauro Bergamasco in at openside flanker in what will be a rare start for the 101-times capped veteran.

Italy beat Scotland 22-19 at Murrayfield three weeks ago to claim their first win of the campaign but despite sitting second bottom of the table two points ahead of the winless Scots, they remain in danger of finishing with the wooden spoon for the second successive year.

Scotland are at home to title-chasing Ireland in Edinburgh.

Brunel added: “We’re disappointed with our performance against France because we wanted to confirm our good display against Scotland.

“I expect a difficult game on Saturday, but I also expect us to show what this team is capable of compared to our performance at the (Stadio) Olimpico last week.”

Team (15-1):

Luke McLean; Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti; Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Gori; Samuela Vunisa, Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto; Joshua Furno, George Biagi; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), Michele Rizzo

Replacements: Andrea Manici, Alberto De Marchi, Dario Chistolini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Roberto Barbieri, Guglielmo Palazzani, Luciano Orquera, Enrico Bacchin

England’s four Champions League places look safe – for now

England has been able to enter four clubs — currently three directly into the group phase and one into the playoff round — since 2001-02 and there seems little realistic danger of that situation changing until the 2017-18 season at the earliest.

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Even then it would need comparable failures in both the Champions League and Europa League over the next two seasons — and a big improvement by Italian clubs — to significantly impact on the UEFA coefficient system that ranks clubs and countries and determines their allocation of Champions League and Europa League places.

However, English teams cannot rest on their laurels because Italy is set to close the coefficient points gap by the end of this season.

Currently the top three countries -– Spain (94.713 points), England (80.105) and Germany (77.986) have four Champions League places, while Italy (66.010), Portugal (60.882) and France (51.916) get three.

The system allocates points to countries on the performances of their clubs in both competitions over the previous five seasons.

But at the end of this season England will lose the bonus points they accumulated in 2010-11 when Manchester United reached the Champions League final.

The exits of Liverpool, in the group stage, and Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea in the last 16 in the Champions League and the early departures of Tottenham Hotspur, Hull City and Liverpool in the Europa League will mean a lower overall figure for England because this season’s tally will be lower than those gained in 2010-11.

England manager Roy Hodgson, asked about this season’s European disappointments on Thursday when he named his England squad for the upcoming internationals against Lithuania and Italy, said: “No doubt the Premier League and the top clubs won’t want to lose the fourth Champions League place.

“No English team in the last eight is not endemic — that this time we have teams going out is just one of those things.

“The Premier League is a great league and we have great players but that doesn’t give you the right to win matches against teams from other countries.”

(Editing by Mitch Phillips)

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Witness ‘haunted’ by Russian plane crash

Andrei Gorshkov was coming home from school when he saw a plane and then heard a loud bang.

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The crash that followed and killed at least 43 people was so horrific that it will haunt him at night.

“It was so scary,” the 16-year-old said. “It will all be coming back to me in my sleep.”

The Yak-42 carrying a Russian ice hockey team crashed on Wednesday into the small river of Tunoshonka running through Gorshkov’s village of Tunoshna, just outside the central Russian city of Yaroslavl.

He and his friends saw a huge blaze which immediately turned into smoke and rushed to the scene of the tragedy.

Half the plane was in the water, the other half broke into pieces and was scattered around the shore and the wheels were on fire.

“Everything that was in the plane was floating on the water,” Gorshkov told AFP at the sleepy village whose world has been turned upside down by the disaster.

“Two bodies were floating on the water,” he said. “The third one was being carried out of the water on stretchers, he had burns all over.”

The plane was flying members of three-time Russian champions Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to a season-opening match in the Belarussian capital Minsk when it went down a few moments into the flight some 300 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

Natalia Panova, a doctor at Tunoshna’s small hospital, was the first medic at the scene. By the time her ambulance arrived, most were beyond help.

“The plane caught fire and blew up. Someone was without a leg, someone was without a head,” she told AFP. “There was blood everywhere, mangled bodies.

I am still shaking.”

Panova treated one of two survivors, attending to crew member Alexander Sizov’s multiple wounds and fractures and giving him promedol to alleviate severe pain before he was taken to hospital in Yaroslavl.

He was in a state of shock and did not fully realise what had happened, she said, adding: “I don’t know how he remained alive.”

Another survivor, team member Alexander Galimov, who received extensive burns, was taken away by a boat, she said.

Panova said she herself had seen 16 bodies which were pulled out of the water and placed in rows on the ground.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Panova, a local. “So many people died young. This is a tragedy for the entire country.”

By Wednesday evening, the small village was teeming was emergency officials and police who cordoned off the scene of the tragedy.

Many residents came out of their homes, quietly talking to one another or smoking in silence as night fell over the village.

They were joined by hockey fans who trickled in from Yaroslavl, some carrying flowers and crying.

Back in the city, thousands of fans converged on Lokomotiv’s ice arena bringing heaps of roses, candles and fan scarves.

President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to visit the venue on Thursday. Ahead of key parliamentary and presidential elections he had been set to address a political conference at the ice arena which has now become a sombre vigil site.

Many fans said the horrific coincidence brought home a simple question: why does not Russia protect its best and brightest?

“Why is this happening?” said Dmitry Luchnikov, who was mourning his close friend, 23-year-old former New Jersey Devils player Alexander Vasyunov.

“Why haven’t we got reliable aircraft?”

SOME OF THE VICTIMS OF THE RUSSIAN PLANE CRASH:

-Brad McCrimmon, 52, from Canada. A former Detroit Red Wings assistant who became Lokomotiv’s coach in May. Played in 1,222 NHL games between 1979-97, compiling 81 goals and 322 assists.

-Pavol Demitra, 36, from Slovakia. A three-time NHL All-Star who helped Slovakia win a world championship bronze medal in 2003. Scored 304 goals in 847 NHL games. Three-time Olympian.

-Ruslan Salei, 36, from Belarus. A defenceman who played in 917 NHL games, totaling 45 goals and 149 assists for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, and Detroit Red Wings.

-Alexander Karpovtsev, 41, from Russia. Assistant coach who played 12 seasons in the NHL as a defenceman with the New York Rangers, Toronto, Chicago, the New York Islanders, and Florida. Joined three Rangers teammates in 1994 as the first Russian players to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

-Karlis Skrastins, 37, from Latvia. A defenceman who played in 832 NHL games, mainly for the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.

-Josef Vasicek, 30, from Czech Republic. A Czech forward who spent most of his NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes. He was a member of the club’s Stanley Cup championship team in 2006.

-Karel Rachunek, 32, from Czech Republic. Played 371 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, and won a world championship title with the Czech Republic in 2010.

-Igor Korolev, 41, from Russia. Assistant coach following a playing career in the NHL and KHL. In 12 NHL seasons with St. Louis, the Winnipeg-Phoenix franchise, Toronto and Chicago, he scored 119 goals in 795 games. His last NHL season was 2003-04.

-Stefan Liv, 30, from Sweden. A veteran goaltender who won Olympic gold with Sweden as a backup in 2006.

-Alexander Vasyunov, 23, from Russia. Had one goal and five points in 18 games last season with the New Jersey Devils, his only NHL experience.

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Gaddafi escape routes ‘cut off’

Libya’s new leaders were urgently seeking Niger’s help in preventing Muammar Gaddafi, his family or his troops from crossing the border, as the hunt for the fugitive strongman intensified.

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New regime forces, meanwhile, were poised to battle loyalist troops still holding out in their remaining strongholds of Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli, Sabha in the deep south and the coastal city of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown.

Gaddafi’s sole remaining media mouthpiece, Mishan al-Juburi, owner of the Syria-based Arrai Oruba television, said the defeated leader was still in Libya, along with his son Saif al-Islam.

“I can tell you that I spoke with Gaddafi very recently,” Juburi told AFP.

“He is in Libya, in very good spirits, feels strong, is not afraid, and would be happy to die fighting against the occupiers,” Juburi, a former Iraqi MP, said by telephone.

“His son Saif al-Islam is in the same state of mind,” added Juburi, whose channel has broadcast a number of audio messages from Gaddafi and his son since they went into hiding after Tripoli was overrun by rebel fighters last month.

Asked how he makes contact with Gaddafi, Juburi said: “When I need to talk to him, I send him a message, or he contacts me when he wants to pass a message.”

Libya’s new rulers are anxious to arrest Gaddafi and put him on trial, thus sealing their hold on the country.

They are fearful he may slip into a neighbouring country, particularly Niger, to which a convoy carrying other senior officials of his ousted regime fled on Monday.

Bidding to cut off Gaddafi’s potential escape routes, the now-ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) said it had dispatched a team to Niamey.

“We have sent a delegation today that is going to Niger to talk … about securing our borders to stop any kind of infiltration of Gaddafi troops to Niger, to stop any attempt by Gaddafi or his family to escape to Niger,” Fathi Baja, head of the NTC’s political affairs committee, said.

“We ask any neighbouring countries to stop Gaddafi people from going to their land,” Fathi told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi.

When asked about the convoy that entered Niger reportedly carrying money and gold, he replied: “We don’t know how much money this convoy was transporting but, according to what we know, security reports provided by groups in this region, from phone contacts and certain people’s dispatches, we can say that they have seen money and gold in these cars.”

He added: “If that happened, we want that money back.”

The large convoy of civilian and military vehicles entered Niger late on Monday and drove through the city of Agadez.

Niger was adamant Gaddafi was not with the convoy, while Washington said that while some senior officials of the ousted regime were in the convoy, he was not believed to be among them.

Gaddafi’s remaining forces have been a given a Saturday deadline to surrender, in a bid to spare further bloodshed.

At Bani Walid, 170km southeast of Tripoli, negotiators were still seeking to broker the oasis town’s peaceful surrender.

“The negotiations were successful yesterday and we are waiting for the NTC to give us the green light to go in,” said the NTC’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Kenshil.

NTC leaders say they are committed to avoiding bloodshed in Bani Walid, even after a delegation sent there on Tuesday retreated after being fired on.

“The elders have joined the revolution,” Kenshil said, adding that some of them were in Tripoli and others were back in Bani Walid after armed men loyal to Gaddafi initially prevented them from returning.

In the hamlet of Wishtata, some 40 kilometres from the front, Colonel Abdullah Abu Asara said his volunteer fighters were ready for anything.

“We are fully ready to attack, we are just waiting for the command from the National Transitional Council, we are under their command now,” he told AFP.

NTC forces on Wednesday were trying to advance along the road from Um Khunfis to the Red Valley, the pro-Gaddafi forces’ front line, some 60 kilometres east of Sirte, an AFP journalist said, reporting artillery fire.

Loyalist forces putting up strong resistance fired several shells at NTC vehicles at an electricity power station, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

On Tuesday, NTC forces advanced at least eight kilometres towards Sirte in heavy fighting, commanders said.

NATO, in its latest operational update on Wednesday, said its warplanes had bombed six tanks, six armoured fighting vehicles, four armed vehicles, a munitions store and an artillery piece in Sirte the previous day.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Libya on September 15 for talks with NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil in Benghazi, the Turkish premier’s office said on Wednesday.

In July, Ankara recognised the NTC as Libya’s legitimate government.

Portugal’s Foreign Minister Paulo Portas, visiting Benghazi on Wednesday, urged his country’s businessmen to return to Libya, calling it “a land of opportunities.”

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Trans Tasman tension high in basketball

BOOMERS PHYSICAL

In a fiery Oceania championship game one which erupted into two second half fights and led to New Zealand veteran Mark Dickel being ejected, the Boomers accounted for the Tall Blacks 91-78 in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

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The win gives the Boomers a priceless lead in the best-of-three series which will decide a place at the London Games.

A physical men’s match which simmered from tip-off erupted into a melee with the game evenly poised midway through the third quarter.

Feisty Kiwi guard Dickel was at the centre of it as players from both sides got involved in some push-and-shove.

Another stoush between Australian forward Mark Worthington and New Zealand’s Casey Frank erupted soon afterwards, before more fireworks in the final quarter which led to Dickel being marched.

Dickel launched at Boomers rookie Matthew Dellavedova before Australian skipper Matt Nielsen then stepped in, pinning Dickel to the court before all players got involved and a flurry of technical fouls resulted.

But when the heat rose, the Boomers cooked – channelling anger into energy for a six-minute late third-quarter rampage which ultimately decided the match.

Worthington thrived on the drama, tipping in 13 points for the match and providing much of the late third-quarter offensive spark, and guard Patty Mills a team-high 20 points.

Nielsen was excellent in the second quarter as the match swung in the balance, while Joe Ingles and Brad Newley also did their bit in a grafting all-round effort.

Tall Blacks star Kirk Penney was exceptional for his side, with a game-high 30 points – 16 in the first half as they trailed by just two points.

OPALS TOO GOOD

And it rounded off a good night for Australia after another 13-point win to the women’s team, the Opals, over New Zealand to also move a step closer to Olympic qualification.

Both the Boomers and Opals now need just one more win in the series – either in Brisbane on Friday night or Sydney on Sunday – to book their spot at next year’s Olympics.

But unlike the Opals – who clearly have room to improve on their 77-64 win over the Tall Ferns earlier in the night – the Boomers were shown they will have to scrap every minute if they want to book their ticket for London.

‘Cattle management’ scan plan hits snag

A plan to introduce biometric scanning for library workers at a Melbourne council is under a cloud after meeting resistance among councillors and workers.

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Monash City Council’s human resources department came up with the plan, which would require library staff to provide DNA samples and have their veins scanned using pattern-recognition technology to clock on and off for a shift.

The HR department also proposed to adopt the new rostering and payroll system in other council departments.

Monash councillor Geoff Lake said the council administration “ought to be the decision maker of such significant change” but not been consulted on the use of the biometric technology.

“I’m flabbergasted that council officers at Monash are so out of step with the views of the Monash community… that they would be looking at this type of cattle-management technology to manage our most important resource, our staff,” he told AAP.

A meeting of councillors has been called for next Tuesday to consider the plan.

“My recommendation to my colleagues will be that we adopt a policy that prohibits council from introducing this sort of an approach to rostering, unless there’s a special case which is made to council and decided in an open and public forum,” Cr Lake said.

Monash City Council chief executive David Conran said the use of vein readers for library staff would be voluntary and would only be implemented if there was wide acceptance by staff.

“We would not consider implementing any system where the security of confidential information could be compromised and we are confident that we can address any security concerns should the vein reader technology be introduced,” Mr Conran said in a statement.

Australian Services Union (ASU) assistant branch secretary Igor Grattan says members are concerned about the security of their personal information and its storage.

He said swipe cards or PIN codes were preferable methods for workplace timekeeping or security purposes.

“It’s got to be easier than storing people’s personal information, especially when we don’t know what it all means in the long term,” Mr Grattan said.

“You’ve just got to take a deep breath and think about people’s privacy.”

Mr Grattan said his members had been advised not to comply with the plan.

Victorian Privacy Commissioner Helen Versey said any organisation considering the introduction of biometric technology should conduct a thorough assessment of its privacy implications.

US faces ‘credible’ 9/11 anniversary threat’

New York deployed extra police, including heavily armed officers, after US officials warned of a “credible” but unconfirmed bomb threat on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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“There is specific, credible but unconfirmed threat information,” the Department of Homeland Security said, as the White House confirmed President Barack Obama had ordered boosted counterterrorism efforts.

“We have taken, and will continue to take, all steps necessary to mitigate any threats that arise,” the department added in a statement.

Federal officials in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was a potential terrorism threat involving bomb-laden vehicles against either the capital or New York.

Few details were given, but one US official told AFP a car bomb was “at the top of what we would be looking for”.

“There’s enough information that’s specific and credible that you have to run it to ground,” the official said, adding: “I would stress that this is unconfirmed.”

Although there was no immediate change to the official national threat level, New York’s authorities immediately announced sweeping extra measures.

The police department “is deploying additional resources … some of which you will notice and some of which you will not”, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters.

City police commissioner Raymond Kelly told the press conference that measures included police “trained in heavy weapons positioned outside of Manhattan to respond citywide”.

Extra shift hours would effectively increase by a third the size of patrols around New York, with checks on ferries, tunnels, bridges and landmarks, Kelly said.

There will be increased towing of illegally parked cars and more bomb detection sweeps in carparks, as well as “increasing the number of bag inspections on the subway”, Kelly said.

In addition, “the public is likely to see and may be somewhat inconvenienced by vehicle checkpoints at various locations.”

Bloomberg said the threat was credible, but “at this moment has not been corroborated. I want to stress that”.

Earlier, US military bases had raised their alert levels, but officials would not say whether this was related to the new threat report.

The scare came days ahead of Sunday’s anniversary ceremonies for the September 11, 2001, attacks, when President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W Bush are due in the city, along with large crowds.

On 9/11, two hijacked planes hit New York’s World Trade Center, collapsing the iconic twin towers, a third plane plowed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a Pennsylvania field when passengers overcame the hijackers.

Despite frequent threats and a string of failed plots, al-Qaeda did not succeed in mounting another major attack on US soil. However, officials have warned of a possible backlash following al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s killing by US forces in May.

US Navy commandos tracked down and killed bin Laden at his hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. According to US officials, documents and computer files were seized at the compound showing bin Laden was considering strikes to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary.