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Fighting terror notebook

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2002

1,500 radioactive parts are missing

WASHINGTON -- U.S. businesses and medical facilities have lost track of nearly 1,500 pieces of equipment with radioactive parts since 1996, according to a federal accounting of radiological material that terrorism experts warn could be used in a "dirty bomb" attack.

The loss of radiological material, ranging from medical diagnostic equipment to industrial X-ray machines, has prompted several measures to prevent theft, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Friday.

The vast majority of the items have tiny amounts of radioactive material and pose little threat, NRC officials said.

But there have been several instances in recent years of lost or stolen hospital equipment that contains potentially lethal amounts of radioactive cobalt or cesium. Such material could be packed around a conventional explosive, a combination known as a "dirty bomb," to scatter radiation over large areas.

Passenger disappears into airport with suspect bag

CLEVELAND -- Two airport concourses were evacuated Friday after a passenger's bag set off an explosives detector, and the passenger and bag disappeared into the crowd before security personnel noticed.

Airport Commissioner Fred Szabo said screeners were unable to find the bag and could not rule out that the passenger got on a departing flight with it before the concourses were closed.

Explosives detectors frequently return false readings, Szabo said. But without the bag, he said, there was no way of knowing if Friday's incident was a false alarm.

"We don't have any indication that there was actually an explosive device, but we don't know for sure," he said.

The concourses at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and 14 planes at their gates were emptied about 10:30 a.m., Szabo said. Passengers were allowed back into the concourses to be rescreened shortly after 1 p.m.

32 more prisoners arrive at Guantanamo Bay base

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Thirty-two more terrorism suspects arrived at the U.S. naval base Friday, but U.S. officials would not say whether the suspects were detained during the war in Afghanistan.

The new arrivals boosted the prison population to 363. A group of 32 prisoners also arrived on Wednesday.

Officials refused to say where the C-140 military plane had flown from. Previously, they said planes were coming from the U.S. military base at Kandahar airport.

British Marines find caves, but no al-Qaida fighters

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- British Royal Marines scoured the rugged mountains of southeast Afghanistan on Friday to search out and destroy a network of hideouts and supplies used by Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

The first patrols in the biggest coalition deployment in two months have yet to encounter suspected accomplices of Osama bin Laden, said Lt. Col. Paul Harradine, Royal Marines spokesman. But they have found caves and fortified positions suggesting the region is or was used by enemy forces.

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