Third Anthrax case confirmed

War against terrorism: Anthrax health scare
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The Independent US

A third case of Anthrax was confirmed late on Wednesday night, increasing fear of an extended outbreak ­ and of further biological terrors ­ that spread like wildfire across the United States and beyond as investigators said the strain that killed a journalist last week might have been made 50 years ago.

A third case of Anthrax was confirmed late on Wednesday night, increasing fear of an extended outbreak ­ and of further biological terrors ­ that spread like wildfire across the United States and beyond as investigators said the strain that killed a journalist last week might have been made 50 years ago.

The strain was believed to have been made in an Iowa research laboratory, investigative sources told the Miami Herald. However, they said they had no idea how it was obtained or disseminated. The specific batch of the bacteria made in Iowa may have been widely distributed to researchers.

As panic spread, police and public health officials were called in to examine scores of mysterious packages and envelopes containing white dust or powder. One scare erupted at the Palm Beach County public health clinic in Florida where hundreds of colleagues of the one anthrax victim to have died so far, Bob Stevens, were queuing to have their noses swabbed and receive their 15-day emergency packs of antibiotics. The white substance that raised the alarm turned out to be plaster dust.

At the University of Florida, the panic was triggered by a sighting of talcum powder. In the city of Davie, it was fire extinguisher residue.In St Petersburg, the area around the desk of a newspaper columnist was sealed off after he received a white granular substance in the mail and spilt some.

Beyond Florida, the scares were rarer but treated with equal seriousness. A bank in Charlotte, North Carolina, called in the police after receiving a package from Pakistan addressed to nobody in particular. The package was not opened, and a security guard at the building donned rubber gloves before touching it.

In Covington, Kentucky, a tax processing centre was briefly sealed off after an employee reported an envelope containing white powder. It was later deemed to be harmless.

In the suburbs of Washington DC, an armed man who sprayed liquid from a bottle in a subway station on Tuesday triggered panic as many passengers complained of nausea. The liquid turned out to be carpet cleaner.

There were alerts around the world. In Montreal, an office building was closed after a local company received a letter from American Media, the tabloid newspaper publisher which owns the anthrax-contaminated building in Boca Raton. And in Berlin, police officers closed a furniture store after an envelope containing white powder was found in the garage. The envelope bore the message: "If you open this, your life will change."

Officials from President Bush down sought to minimise the panic, saying the anthrax outbreak in Boca Raton appeared to be limited to the American Media office building. Mr Stevens' home and next-of-kin were given the all-clear yesterday, as was a colleague suffering from pneumonia who had been called in for a second round of testing.

Sources close to the investigation confirmed that two of the 11 September suicide hijackers, who spent part of last summer a few miles from Boca Raton in Delray Beach, had subscriptions to tabloids published by American Media.

As panic gripped the country in the wake of a new warning from the al-Qa'ida network of more hijackings in America, three Saudis were removed from a United Airlines flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport after they tried to open an exit window over a wing. They were arrested and taken in for questioning by the FBI.

An FBI spokeswoman said they had mistakenly tried to open the window of the Boeing 727 while passengers were still boarding the plane.

"They didn't understand English, didn't read English. They were trying to get some air circulating in the airplane," the spokeswoman said.

In an unrelated incident, an Australian man was arrested in Chicago on Tuesday after he allegedly became drunk on a flight from Los Angeles and had to be restrained by several passengers after assaulting a flight attendant, the FBI said.

That incident occurred on the same Los Angeles to Chicago flight on which a day earlier an apparently deranged man tried to rush the cockpit.

¿ Two fighter jets involved in the military operation in Afghanistan intercepted a Lufthansa passenger plane over the Indian Ocean on the first night of the attacks on Sunday, setting off its collision alarm, an airline spokesman said yesterday.

Lufthansa Flight 773 from Bangkok to Frankfurt, a Boeing 747-400, was south of Pakistan on Sunday night, and had notified US forces it was entering the area, a spokesman, Thomas Jachnow, said.

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