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Madrid bomb suspect had NYC train sketch

(The Associated Press circulated the following article by Verena Dobnik and Daniel Woolls on March 3.)

NEW YORK -- A drawing of Grand Central Terminal found in the home of a suspect in the Madrid train bombings was ``not something that would indicate an immediate threat,'' Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

The crude sketch was ``a very basic schematic,'' and was never deemed cause for alarm, Kelly said on Wednesday in response to a report in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

The drawing and other data were on a computer disk seized about two weeks after the train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people on March 11, 2004, El Mundo reported. Spanish police turned the disk over to U.S. agents from the FBI and CIA in December.

Kelly said the data also was shared with the New York Police Department's counterterrorism division and city transit officials, who concluded the sketch depicted Grand Central.

The material also included photographs, and a drawing of a private building in the city, which Kelly refused to identify. But an analysis found no indication of a terrorism plot, and authorities quickly decided there was no need to alert the public, he said.

``We didn't see it as a threatening piece of information,'' he said.

On Wednesday at Grand Central, security appeared to be at its usual high level, with National Guardsmen, law enforcement officers carrying machine guns, and bomb-sniffing dogs.

``I'm used to this,'' said Elaine Weaver, a tourist from England who was passing through the station. ``We're used to bomb scares everywhere. So you're careful but it doesn't deter me.''

The NYPD's intelligence division studied the bombings in Madrid as a possible template for a New York attack. The department responded by tightening security in the subways and at train stations. Those measures were in place long before the city received word of the sketch.

``This is not something I think people should be panicked about or worried about,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. ``We took the appropriate steps and we do not think that in that particular case there was a real plan to attack Grand Central.''

There were conflicting descriptions of what the drawing showed. A Spanish police official said it depicted a facade similar to that of Grand Central; New York police said it showed a large interior room off the terminal's main concourse.

The same Spanish police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the sketch was found in the home of Mouhannad Almallah, a Syrian arrested in Madrid on March 24. He was later released but is still considered a suspect.

Twenty-four people are in jail over the attack, and at least 40 others who were arrested and released are still considered suspects.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

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