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Bomb scare at NYC Penn Station false alarm

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on July 25.)

NEW YORK -- A man was arraigned Monday on charges stemming from a bomb scare that emptied busy Pennsylvania Station and disrupted service on Amtrak, commuter trains and city subways for about an hour.

Another bomb scare emptied several buildings in Brooklyn and shut down a subway station, and armed officers halted a sightseeing bus and searched its tourist passengers.

The incidents Sunday and Monday came days after a second bombing attack on London's commuter system prompted New York police to start random inspections of subway riders' bags. Authorities in New Jersey began similar searches Monday.

Travelers seemed to take the inspections in stride.

''I think it's the way the world is today. I think it's pretty standard going forward, unfortunately,'' Maria Parisi of Brielle, N.J., said Monday as she waited for a train out of Newark's Penn Station into New York City.

Raul Claudio, described by prosecutors as having a prior conviction for drug dealing, was arraigned Monday on charges of making terrorist threats and falsely reporting an incident for the bomb scare at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. Each count carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. Bail was set at $15,000.

Claudio, 43, was arrested in the station Sunday after he allegedly threw a backpack at an Amtrak agent and said it was a bomb, said Marissa Baldeo, a spokeswoman for NYC Transit.

Camouflage-clad soldiers briefly were shouting ''Penn Station is closed indefinitely,'' before they got the all-clear and started letting people back into the station. The service disruption at the vast complex affected Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and the Seventh and Eighth Avenue subway lines.

Also Sunday, a double-decker Gray Line tourist bus was evacuated in midtown Manhattan after a bus company supervisor told police that five male passengers with backpacks and ''stuffed'' pockets had raised her suspicions.

Police handcuffed five men and searched about 60 passengers before determining there was no threat. The five men were freed.

The jitters continued Monday, when several buildings in downtown Brooklyn were emptied for about two hours after witnesses reported seeing a black canvas attache case next to a fire hydrant. Subway service was halted at one nearby station.

Police removed the attache case and said it contained personal belongings.

Since the deadly bombings in London on July 7 through Monday afternoon, New York police had received 1,476 reports of suspicious packages or people, compared to 804 over the same period last year.

Meanwhile, authorities in New Jersey began searching the bags of bus and train riders. Travelers who refused the searches would not be allowed to ride.

About 800,000 passenger trips are recorded every weekday on NJ Transit, which runs buses, trains and light rail.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the inspections violate protections against unreasonable searches. Edward Barocas, legal director of the group's New Jersey chapter, said it was too early to determine what, if any, action the group would take. The Connecticut ACLU was beginning an investigation into random searches on Metro-North trains commuter trains, a spokesman said Monday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

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