- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

The FBI and authorities in a dozen foreign countries have thwarted four bombing plots overseas since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, while rounding up more than 900 people in a continuing global investigation.

The averted attacks, according to federal law-enforcement officials, included planned strikes against the U.S. Embassy in Paris, embassy buildings in Yemen, a NATO facility in Belgium and a U.S. building complex in Turkey.

Meanwhile yesterday, two more persons were reported to have contracted anthrax, the nationwide spread of which is already the object of an FBI bioterrorism probe.

In the first case, the 7-month-old son of an ABC News producer has developed anthrax after having spent time in the newsroom.

The boy is being treated with antibiotics, "has responded well, and the prognosis is excellent," ABC News President David Westin said at a news conference last night. The anthrax diagnosed in the child is the type that is absorbed through cuts or scratches in the skin, not the more dangerous inhaled variety.

The child visited the ABC newsroom in the last few weeks, probably on Sept. 28, Mr. Westin said. He was hospitalized with an unknown disease soon after the visit.

Officials learned of the diagnosis last evening after blood tests and a biopsy. "There are no other instances that we are aware of," Mr. Westin said.

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said last night an environmental review at ABC headquarters will attempt to find the source of the disease.

Other media buildings in New York also will be checked for possible contamination, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said.

Also last night, a 73-year-old mailroom employee at a Florida supermarket tabloid the second person to have been diagnosed with exposure to the anthrax bacteria was found to be infected with the disease.

Florida health officials confirmed that Ernesto Blanco had contracted the inhaled form of anthrax. His co-worker, Bob Stevens, 63, a photographer, died from the disease.

The health officials said Mr. Blanco has been receiving treatment for anthrax since he was hospitalized Oct. 5 for what was then believed to be pneumonia. He contracted the disease from spores found either on Mr. Stevens' computer or the mailroom at American Media Inc., where the two worked.

The massive international search for terrorists comes in the wake of concerns by authorities who said Islamic extremists, many aligned with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, are poised to strike again at targets in this country and at U.S. interests overseas.

That concern, the officials said, is based on a growing number of credible intelligence reports suggesting that new terrorist attacks could be imminent. More than 570 specific terrorist threats have been examined, the officials said, concluding that bin Laden and al Qaeda have the "will and resources" to carry out further attacks.

Law-enforcement officials in 12 countries have rounded up 225 people suspected of being part of an ongoing scheme to try new attacks.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said another 700 people have been detained in the United States, some of whom are believed to have been "specifically associated with the hijackers," although he did not elaborate. They are being held as material witnesses or on other criminal violations, including immigration charges.

Mr. Ashcroft said the FBI also has established a "watch list" of 190 people it is trying to find for questioning about the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We're going to do everything we can to disrupt the networks, the individuals who are associated, and we obviously, given the complexity and the seriousness of the incidents on Sept. 11, believe there could well be other individuals that we're pursuing," he said.

Mr. Ashcroft also said the Justice Department had no information directly linking bin Laden or al Qaeda to several confirmed cases of anthrax exposure in a dozen states as well as the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, but that investigators "cannot rule that out."

In the anthrax scare, an NBC employee developed a skin infection after she was exposed but is expected to recover. Other cases of exposure have been reported from Florida to New York to Nevada. The FBI has begun a criminal investigation into the incidents.

In Boca Raton, Fla., authorities confirmed what they said was a possible link between the hijackers and American Media Inc., the supermarket tabloid publisher first hit by the bacteria. The FBI said Gloria Irish, a real-estate agent and wife of Michael Irish, an editor for the Sun, rented a Delray Beach, Fla., apartment this summer to two hijackers killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

They said she rented an apartment at the Delray Racquet Club to Marwan Alshehhi and Saeed Alghamdi. Alshehhi was aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower. Alghamdi was on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

Also in Boca Raton, a small number of anthrax spores was found in a postal service building that sorts and handles mail for American Media, authorities said yesterday. About 30 workers have been tested for exposure to anthrax and none, so far, have tested positive.

In New York, Mayor Giuliani said a police detective and two lab technicians who helped investigate an anthrax case at the NBC offices were being treated for exposure to the bacteria. The three unidentified patients did not develop symptoms and are expected to be fine.

In Nevada, officials said they do not expect anyone there to develop the disease. The FBI traced the bacteria to a letter sent to a Microsoft Inc. office in Reno from Malaysia. Six persons who may have come into contact with the letter tested negative.

In New Jersey, Postal Service officials said yesterday that a mail carrier and a maintenance employee in Trenton, from where the anthrax-tainted Daschle and NBC letters were sent, have shown symptoms of the disease. Test results for anthrax exposure were not immediately available for either person.

Federal authorities yesterday said they were concerned that false alarms involving anthrax deliveries would divert attention from real cases. Mr. Ashcroft warned that the government would prosecute anyone who attempted to exploit anthrax fears.

Meanwhile, Canadian authorities are investigating the discovery of box-cutter knives found aboard an Air Canada flight scheduled to fly from Toronto to New York on Sept. 11 but grounded at the last minute. Three days later, when flights resumed, passengers who boarded the plane at Toronto found several of the box-cutter knives in an overhead compartment.

The knives were similar to those used by the 19 hijackers of the Sept. 11 attacks.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide