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Police urge calm after anthrax 'attacks'.

Byline: Helen Williams

FEARS over anthrax gripped Britain yesterday as police urged the public not to panic.

Scotland Yard said there was no intelligence of a "specific threat" of a biological or chemical attack but urged the public to remain "vigilant" in the face of a general terrorist threat.

A spokeswoman said: "If people are suspicious of anything they have received in the mail or by hand, they should contact police."

A series of police investigations into suspect packages was triggered after the alert was raised by worried members of the public up and down the country.

Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford was caught up in a scare when the emergency services were alerted to a suspect package sent to a building where he was meeting local government leaders.

The package, received in the post, was opened by a member of staff at the building in Smith Square, Westminster.

Twelve London Stock Exchange staff were decontaminated with water and taken to the Royal London Hospital as a "precautionary measure" after a different suspect package was received at their offices in central London. They were later discharged.

Police in Fife said a number of packages "purporting to contain anthrax" were delivered to various addresses yesterday, including St Andrews University where Prince William is a student.

But Assistant Chief Constable David Mellor said: "There is every likelihood that these fall more into the hoax category."

A package also arrived at the Fife Constabulary headquarters in Glenrothes.

In Liverpool, a sorting office was evacuated after a suspect package was found.

In Wales, family doctors have been placed on alert for signs of anthrax.

Wales' Chief Medical Officer Dr Ruth Hall said that a review of plans to deal with any public health emergency had been reviewed - including how to deal with a deliberate release of anthrax.

Dr Hall stressed that there remained no specific or credible risk in Wales or the rest of the UK.

The Assembly's primary role in any emergency would be to co-ordinate action by authorities and keep the public fully informed.

An emergency operations room would also be set up, similar to that during the recent fuel and foot and mouth crises.

The last major anthrax outbreak on a British farm was in Llay, near Wrexham, in 1989, when almost 5,000 pigs were slaughtered and burnt after disease developed in 28 animals.

Meanwhile, panic was mounting in the US over the increasing number of anthrax attacks, which have left one man dead and a baby fighting the infection.

As the country struggled to cope with hundreds of suspected anthrax finds, speculation mounted that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida organisation was behind the attacks.

In Washington, CNN reported that the strain of anthrax found in the office of Tom Daschle, leader of the majority Democrats in the Senate, and one of the country's most powerful politicians, was described as "professional grade".

CNN reported that a letter to NBC newsreader Tom Brokaw used threatening language towards the US and Israel, warned the recipient to immediately start taking medicine, and ended by praising Allah.

A section of Canada's Parliament in Ottawa was closed when a worker developed a rash after opening mail in one of several anthrax scares nationwide.

There was mounting speculation that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein may be behind the current spate of anthrax attacks in the United States.

Jim Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, said he believed at least some of the attacks could not have been carried out without some form of state backing.

Mr Woolsey said he believed Iraq was behind a number of terrorist attacks on the US since 1993, including an attempt that year to assassinate former President George Bush - father of the current president - in Kuwait.

If evidence was found, then the current war against Afghanistan would have to be widened to deal with the state involved, he said.

"If we find indications that Saddam's regime has been involved, then I very much think we should not stop with Afghanistan, " he said.

The bottom end of Bangor High Street was cordoned off last night after a mysterious package was found. Police were unable to provide any further details late last night.

CAPTION(S):

SCARE: Decontamination workers at Liverpool's main sorting office yesterday
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 17, 2001
Words:713
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