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Ashcroft: Terrorists 'poisoning our communities'

Ashcroft: "We cannot explicitly link the recent terrorist attacks to the September 11 hijackers."  

(CNN) -- Terrorists live within U.S. borders "plotting, planning, waiting to kill Americans again," Attorney General John Ashcroft warned Thursday as the nation grappled with an anthrax crisis that may be linked to last month's deadly hijackings.

Speaking before a gathering of the nation's mayors in Washington, Ashcroft again warned of the possibility of further attacks.

"Today's terrorists enjoy the benefits of our free society even as they commit themselves to our destruction," Ashcroft said.

"They live in our communities, plotting, planning, waiting to kill Americans again. They have crossed the Rubicon of terror with the use of biological agents.

"We cannot explicitly link the recent terrorist attacks to the September 11 hijackers," Ashcroft said.

"Yet, terrorists -- people who were either involved with, associated with, or are seeking to take advantage of the September 11 attacks -- are now poisoning our communities with anthrax."

Anthrax spread through the U.S. mail has infected 13 individuals, three of whom have died.

Is it a good idea for the U.S. to stock up on the anthrax treatment drug Cipro?

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CNN's Kate Snow provides a timeline of events surrounding anthrax cases involving the U.S. Postal Service in the Washington D.C. area (October 24)

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Anthrax by the numbers
13 total anthrax infections

  • 3 deaths from inhalation infections

  • 4 cases inhalation infections

  • 6 cases cutaneous anthrax

32 total anthrax exposures

Source: CDC/CNN

Anthrax attacks
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  •  Message board

Attack on America
 The latest news

Latest developments

• The U.S. Postal Service Thursday began trucking some mail addressed to federal government offices in Washington to an Ohio company to be irradiated to prevent more anthrax-laden letters from reaching government targets.

The mail will be irradiated using machines ordinarily used to kill bacteria in food, and will then be returned to Washington for delivery, said Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan. (Full story)

• Crews in congressional office buildings are using a special solution to kill anthrax spores on walls, furniture and office equipment. (Full story) (More information)

• Investigators Thursday found traces of anthrax in two more places in the Hart Senate Office Building, Capitol Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols said Thursday. The bacteria was found on a ventilation filter and a stairwell. (Full story)

• The State Department said Thursday the diagnosis that one of its mail handlers has inhalation anthrax has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A second mailroom employee with "flu-like" symptoms is being tested for anthrax. (Full story)

• New Jersey's top health official said Thursday a second employee at the Hamilton Township mail distribution center near Trenton may have inhalation anthrax. Two other postal workers in New Jersey have been diagnosed with cutaneous, or skin, anthrax. (Full story)

• Shadowy terrorists using "anthrax as a weapon" are to blame for tainted letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other targets, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said Thursday. He said the samples taken from Daschle's letter were "more dangerous" than those received at the other sites.

• Newspapers quoted a scientist Thursday as saying the spores in Daschle's office were chemically, not genetically, altered to make them more dangerous. The New York Times and The Washington Post said only the United States, the former Soviet Union and Iraq were known to have the necessary technology to make the high-grade, advanced form of anthrax powder. (Full story)

• The government announced a deal Wednesday to buy more of the antibiotic that kills the insidious bacterium. The Bush administration said it had agreed with German pharmaceutical maker Bayer to purchase the anthrax antibiotic Cipro for 95 cents a pill. (Full story)

• A spokesman for Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, told CNN Wednesday evening that a journalist who had been in the Hart Senate Office Building where an anthrax laced letter to Daschle was opened was being treated for suspicious symptoms of inhalation anthrax. Should it turn into a confirmed anthrax infection, it would be the first case contracted on Capitol Hill.

• Flags at post offices nationwide are being lowered Thursday to half-staff in memory of two postal workers killed by anthrax, The Associated Press reported. The two died after being infected with inhalation anthrax, believed to have resulted from spores mailed to the Senate.

• New Jersey officials have announced the creation of a state task force to "identify, arrest and prosecute the person or persons sending letters laced with anthrax through the United States mail." (Full story)

• Hospital officials said Wednesday six more employees of the Brentwood mail center -- the Washington facility that employed two mail handlers who died of inhalation anthrax -- are suspected of having anthrax and are hospitalized and are being given Cipro. (Full story)

• U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Willhite said Wednesday that environmental testing will be performed at mail facilities in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and the New York City area. (Full story)


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