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Man Questioned in Fertilizer Theft

September 12, 2002

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GEORGETOWN, Texas (AP) _ A man was held for questioning in the theft of 330 pounds of potentially explosive fertilizer taken just before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The chemicals, reported missing Monday, have not been recovered, but the man was helping officials find them, Sgt. Mike Lummus of the Williamson County Sheriff’s office said Thursday.

Investigators stressed that the theft was not believed to be linked to terrorism.

The eleven tubes of ammonium nitrate _ the substance used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing _ were taken from a storage trailer owned by Austin Powder Co., along with paperwork to let the material be transported across state lines.

Each tube weighed about 30 pounds and would make a hole about 1 foot deep and 7 feet wide if exploded on the ground, authorities said.

Authorities said there was no sign of forced entry, and Sheriff John Maspero said he believed the theft was a ``local job.″

The man placed in custody Wednesday night had not been charged, and his name was not released. No other information about him was available.

``We feel extremely confident that this has nothing to do with terrorism,″ said Williamson County Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Wendy Denson.

The investigation had been suspended Tuesday after an Austin Powder manager told the sheriff’s office that its employees could not release any information without a lawyer present. The questioning resumed Wednesday morning.

The sheriff said the company has not been accused of wrongdoing and he did not know why the manager wanted legal counsel.

A message left at the explosives supply company’s offices in Cleveland, Ohio, was not immediately returned.

Georgetown is in central Texas, about 30 miles north of Austin.


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