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WAR ON TERROR: AMERICAN ALERT: ANTHRAX ATTACK IN NEW YORK; Bush warns: Our nation is still in danger.

Byline: ANDY LINES and LUCY ROCK in New York

NEW YORK was gripped by fear last night after a woman TV worker tested positive for anthrax.

Erin O'Connor, an assistant to veteran NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, has anthrax caught through the skin after opening a letter to her boss in the 69-floor Rockefeller Centre in Manhattan.

In two other bio-terror scares a suspect package was removed from the New York Times newspaper offices.

And the emergency services went to the State Department in Washington, where a suspicious white powder was found in a mail office. The alerts fuelled fears of a global poison plot against the West by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror group.

They came as American forces suspended the bombing of Afghanistan because Friday is the Islamic holy day.

The US is on red alert following warnings of further "multiple" terrorist attacks. President Bush said: "Our nation is still in danger.

"But we are doing all in our power to protect our citizenry."

In Prague two Afghans with British passports were arrested when suspect liquid was found in their baggage as they waited for a London flight.

One person died from anthrax last week and two workers tested positive at a tabloid newspaper group in Florida. They had pulmonary anthrax - the type that is breathed in.

Erin O'Connor was exposed to a powder when opening the letter addressed to her boss Brokaw, one of the most respected TV journalists in the US, on September 25.

She had treatment after developing a skin rash. But the FBI launched a criminal investigation when her test came back positive for traces of cutaneous anthrax.

She is not in danger. Tom Brokaw is also being tested for anthrax.

Air conditioning in the Rockefeller Centre was turned off and the building evacuated. Armed police were on guard.

Associated Press and all New York TV stations closed their mail rooms. CNN said: "It would be silly to think this was not deliberate targeting of media groups."

It also emerged that the New York Times reporter who was sent a suspicious package is a Middle East expert.

Judith Miller, author of several books on biological warfare, received a letter containing a white powdery substance.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said the government had no evidence linking the New York case with those in Florida.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said: "The chances that this has been contained are very good." But the alerts left the city reeling just over a month after the September 11 attacks which killed 5,400.

Chef Robert Moussally, 34, said: "There's paranoia. I can't help being scared. That's what terrorism wants." The Dow Jones shares index plunged nearly three per cent on the news, but later recovered.

The State Department powder scare was the second in three days. The first was a false alarm.

President Bush admitted the latest case "has got to cause concern for our nation. I want everyone to know we are responding rapidly." He insisted: "We cannot let these terrorists lock our country down. We cannot let terrorists hold us hostage.

"Our government will fight terrorists across the sea and fight them here as well."

And he said Ms O'CDonnor "is responding well - she didn't ingest enough to cause death, thank God".

In Florida, scene of the first outbreak, FBI officials said tests on employees at publishers American Media had shown up no new cases. FBI special agent Hector Pesquera said test results on 965 people who were in the building recently have found no new infections. A few test results were still pending.

Pentagon officials later said they believed al-Qaeda had crude chemical and biological weapons.

A spokesman said: "I am not going to say they do not have a nuclear weapon. We believe they have crude chemical and possibly biological capability, anthrax is possible."

He added that there "could be a bucketful or there could be a tonne".

CAPTION(S):

ALERT: Bush yesterday; SCARE: TV man wears mask in New York
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2001
Words:666
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