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Fighting terror

Security tightens to head off possible threat

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

NEW YORK -- Police stepped up security at airports, subways and hotels Saturday, one day after the nation was put on heightened terrorist alert and law enforcement officials indicated New York was a possible target.

City officials told residents to be vigilant, but go about their business.

"You've got to live your life," said Jonathan Marlow, 23, walking to his job at a midtown Manhattan investment banking firm.

But city streets, and particularly traffic aboard subways, was sparse.

"This is amazing to me how empty it is," said Elizabeth Bohlen of Mystic, Conn., waiting at Times Square to board a train.

Four uniformed police officers and a bomb-sniffing dog patrolled the station Saturday. Officers also were seen guarding popular tourist spots like the Plaza Hotel and Tiffany & Co. jewelry store, while three large police vans were parked at the southwest entrance to Central Park.

The Bush administration raised the national terror alert from yellow to orange Friday. Attorney General John Ashcroft cited an "increased likelihood" the al-Qaida terror network would attack Americans, noting hotels and apartment buildings were possible targets.

Stepped-up protections stretched across the country, from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta on Sunday. Nuclear facilities in California and Washington state and some utilities put security plans into action.

According to the Associated Press, a high-ranking law enforcement official said the measures came in response to intercepted communications between terror suspects that suggested New York as a target.

Investigators were especially concerned about the possibility of chemical, biological or radiological attacks and information they received raised specific concerns about attacks on hotels and subways, the Associated Press reported.

Also, the restricted airspace for private planes over Washington, D.C., will expand Monday in conjunction with the terror threat change, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Saturday.

Gov. George Pataki called up a special Air National Guard unit trained to handle bioterrorism and placed the state on orange alert. The city has remained on orange alert, the second-highest, since Sept. 11.

U.S. forces worry they might have missed militants in caves

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Militants are probably hiding in a mountainous area where U.S. forces searched dozens of caves for enemy holdouts, troops who took part in the operation said.

"I think they're hiding in little nooks," said Capt. Rob Shaw of the 82nd Airborne Division. American soldiers "would clear a cave, announce it good and blow it, and then the next day see a guy coming out of the same cave."

About 500 U.S. soldiers were sent to the area around the mountain, called Adi Ghar, on Jan. 27 after a devastating airstrike by U.S. and coalition aircraft killed at least 18 militants.

Nine days later, all 75 caves in the area had been checked by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division. Col. Roger King, a U.S. military spokesman at the Bagram Air Base, said he knew some soldiers feared the caves could still harbor enemy forces, but said ensuring that didn't happen was beyond the U.S. mission.

Germany suggests NATO take over command in Afghanistan

MUNICH, Germany -- Germany proposed Saturday that NATO take over command -- currently shared by individual countries -- of the international peacekeeping force around the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Defense Minister Peter Struck said he would make the suggestion to Afghan President Hamid Karzai when he visits Kabul on Monday. Germany and the Netherlands are due to take over command from Turkey on Monday until October.

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