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New York steps up security after subway terror threat

(Reuters circulated the following article on October 7.)

NEW YORK -- New York authorities stepped up security across the city on Thursday after what officials described as a specific and credible threat of a terrorist attack on the subway system in the coming days.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the FBI had alerted him to ``a specific threat to our subway system,'' which had come from overseas but had already been partially thwarted, while some officials cast doubt on the credibility of the threat.

``We have never had before a specific threat to our subway system. This is the first time we have had a threat with this level of specificity,'' Bloomberg told a news conference. ``We have done and will continue to do everything we can to protect this city.''

In Washington, one U.S. government official said the New York threat information was of ``undetermined credibility.''

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat said: ``The threat to the New York subway system was specific but not corroborated and not of the highest credibility.''

However, New York police chief Ray Kelly said the information was credible about an attack ``in the coming days.''

For the first time, officials raised the possibility of bombers hiding explosives in baby strollers to attack the subways and the city stepped up the number of uniformed and undercover police on America's largest transit system.

New York has been on high alert since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and bolstered security after the July 7 attack on London's transit system that killed 56 people. Those bombers carried explosives in backpacks.

Kelly said police would be on alert for people with strollers, briefcases and backpacks and those with such items should expect to be searched.

During Thursday's evening rush hour, police were highly visible in the more than century-old subway system, which carries 4.5 million riders daily.

At Union Square in Manhattan, uniformed officers conducted random searches of people entering the subway, standing at tables with signs reading, ``Backpacks and other containers subject to inspection.''

New Yorker Ashley Onstott, 19, took the subway home as usual, despite the threat.
``I hate to say it but it just seems like an easy target. At the same time it is comforting that these threats always seem to get screwed up,'' she said.

At Times Square, police stood at entrances but allowed most commuters to enter the system without being searched.

Teacher Lloyd Lohmeyer, who was catching a train at Grand Central Station, said security concerns have become part of New York's post 9/11 reality. ``You always feel like you're in the bull's eye. Maybe it's right here,'' he said.

New York Gov. George Pataki ordered hundreds of National Guard and police to step up security on mass transit systems and gave authority to Connecticut and New Jersey law enforcement officers to operate on commuter trains in and out of New York.

FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon said the threat had been already been partially disrupted, but there have been no arrests yet.

``Classified operations have in fact partially disrupted this threat,'' Mershon said. ``We continue to work around the clock to fully resolve this threat.''

Friday, October 7, 2005

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