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FBI picks up 2 men suspected of having deadly anthrax

graphic February 19, 1998
Web posted at: 2:35 p.m. EST (1935 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The FBI has taken two men into custody in Las Vegas after suspecting them of developing the deadly biological agent anthrax, top FBI sources told CNN on Thursday.

The men, who are believed to be U.S. citizens, were picked up Wednesday night, after "FBI agents were told the two men had biological agents," the source said. An FBI official said that the two were charged with plotting to use a toxic biological agent as a weapon.

FBI officials found an unknown substance at an undisclosed site, and dispatched the FBI Hazardous Materials Response Unit from Quantico, Virginia, to examine the material, the source said.

A spokesman for Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, said authorities impounded a vehicle at the request of the FBI. The spokesman gave no further details.

CNN was told that five U.S. Army specialists have gone to Las Vegas from the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Four of the soldiers are with the Army's Technical Escort Unit, and one is a lab technician specializing in chemical and biological threats.

A source close to the investigation told CNN there is no sure evidence pointing to a specific target for the biological agent, but said one of the men in custody apparently made references to New York in some writings.

That same man was arrested two years ago in a case involving possession of a biological agent and had a map of the New York City subway system with him, but no link was ever established between the biological substance and the map, sources told CNN.

In a hastily called news conference on Thursday, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said there was no connection between Wednesday's arrests and a purported plot to attack New York City.

"There was absolutely no plot or plan to attack the New York City subway," Giuliani told reporters at City Hall.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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