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Suspicious packages force closure of Amtrak trains, BART station

(The following article by Karl Fischer was posted on the Contra Costa Times website on June 8.)

RICHMOND, Calif. -- Authorities have shut down the Richmond BART/Amtrak station and all Northern California north-south Amtrak rail traffic because of a chanting man aboard a train and some suspicious packages in the car.

One of three packages appears to have electronic equipment consistent with bomb-making materials, according Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan. A robot was being sent to the platform for further investigation, Gagan said.

Meanwhile, police had taken the man off the train and appeared to be questioning him from inside a vehicle at the station.

BART has shut down the Richmond station but is continuing service from El Cerrito to San Francisco line. It is busing passengers to and from El Cerrito to Richmond.

A law enforcement source said the man was of Pakastani origin and had been the United States for about a month.

The man apparently boarded the train in Sacramento with a ticket to Martinez. When train employees went to get him off because he had passed his station, he was chanting in a foreign language.

Three suspicious packages were found in the two-deck train car, the fourth in a six-car line. One was in the upper unit and two in the lower.

A pair of packages on the upper deck were bundled together. The package downstairs was a brief-case size and next to the man's seat.

That led to the alert. Authorities evacuated the platform and evacuated the station.

The bearded man wore a blue cardigan sweater, white-button-down shirt, dark pants and white tennis shoes as two Richmond police officers took him off the train.

"He was very cryptic," Gagan said. "He made several threatening comments. He said 'The train is going to fall into the sea, the train is going to go away.'

He also made comments about Islam, Gagan said. "He identified himself as a Muslim."

Gagen said the man seemed disoriented and distracted when officers went to get him off the train. "He would not say what he was doing or where he was going."

The man did not say the packages contained bombs, Gagen said.

Federal authorities and the Walnut Creek bomb disposal unit were called to the scene.

Amtrak called Richmond police about the man at 8:08 a.m. about a man who had missed his stop and was chanting in a foreign language.

He was aboard train 525 from Sacramento and had tickets to continue on to Bakersfield and another destination, police said.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

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