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FBI finds U-Haul truck contained baking soda, not bomb materials

February 26, 1997

DALLAS (AP) _ The FBI dropped a nationwide terrorist-threat advisory after a U-Haul truck suspected of carrying the makings of a huge bomb turned out to be loaded with baking soda.

The advisory was posted after witnesses said two men had loaded the truck with 30 gallons of diesel fuel and blue containers of what appeared to be thousands of pounds of fertilizer. Together, they could make a bomb similar to the one that killed 168 people at the Oklahoma City federal building.

However, the blue containers turned out to be carrying ``baking soda in powder form for use as an antiseptic in scrubbing floors and tiles,″ a federal law enforcement official in Washington said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

The FBI advisory had noted that Friday is the fourth anniversary of the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco in which six cult members and four agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were killed.

The advisory was canceled Monday night after the truck and its two occupants were located in Atlanta.

``The FBI and ATF now believe ... that there is no substance to the fears that two men driving a U-Haul truck were accumulating materials to build a bomb,″ the FBI said Tuesday.

The two men live in the area of Haltom City, outside Fort Worth, said Les Martz, ATF agent in charge of the Dallas division.

The witness had told police the men loaded the diesel into containers in the back of the truck at a Texaco station in Haltom City on Saturday.

Agents found the two men by canvassing U-Haul rental outlets and places throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area where fertilizer is sold. The men ``were surprised and they were cooperative,″ FBI spokeswoman Marjorie Poche said.

The FBI said, ``Recent tragedies resulting from criminal terrorist acts have required a heightened awareness and vigilance.″


Editors: Associated Press Writer Michael Sniffen contributed to this story from Washington.

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