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Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Washington DC remains in state of alert


Military vehicles patrol the streets. Fighter jets rip across the deserted sky. Bomb-sniffing dogs sniff around the shrubs by the Supreme Court.

Although most Washingtonians have returned to their daily routines, the capital remained on edge because of the terrorist strikes Tuesday at New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Police have received scores of reports about bomb threats or suspicious packages since the attacks, said police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile. He said it was common to see such an increase after acts of terrorism.

Those kind of threats caused evacuations Thursday at the Pentagon, where search-and-rescue workers were laboring to find victims, and at American University's campus in northwest Washington. Later, the Capitol was evacuated as well.

In another false alarm, about 30 law enforcement officers in more than a dozen vehicles converged in front of the Commerce Department a few blocks from the White House. They encircled a dark station wagon, pulled five men out at gunpoint and made them kneel in the street.

Police released them after questioning them and examining their car with a bomb-sniffing dog. Police had been on lookout for a similar vehicle and became suspicious when the license plate did not match the car, said Sgt. K.W. Roden.

The city remained under a state of emergency with Humvees and military police in camouflage stationed on almost every downtown corner. The emergency will remain in effect indefinitely, city officials said.

Many passers-by saw soldiers sitting in their vehicles and reading newspapers, chatting on cell phones or just looking bored.

``I wouldn't want to bring my nephew to visit if there are going to be military police everywhere,'' said Carlton Sullivan, a street cleaner. ``But you know that they are going to have to tighten things up.''

Streets surrounding the White House that were closed to traffic on Tuesday and later reopened were closed again because of ``ongoing security concerns,'' Secret Service spokesman Mark Connolly said.

Vice President Dick Cheney was working in the security of Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, as a precaution, administration officials said.

The main streets around the Capitol, Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue, were reopened. Security remained tight. A truck blocked a main entrance to the Capitol grounds and police searched beneath vehicles for bombs.

At the Labor Department, cars were backed up for blocks waiting to get into parking garages. Security guards and military police asked motorists to pop their car trunks and hoods for inspections.

The signs of security made some feel safe while unnerving others. Many office buildings turned away visitors and required identification from workers. Others locked all but a single entrance.

``I can't even get into my own building,'' said Ann Carter, a secretary for a downtown law firm who had left her identification at home. ``It's scary and I don't feel like this is America.''

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