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Cops And Transit Workers Warned To Be Extra Cautious

March 21, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ The city’s 3.5 million subway riders, warned to be alert after a terrorist gas attack in the Tokyo subway system, appeared to be treating Monday like any other day on the train.

And their blase attitude may have been well-founded, since security experts say there is little police can do to prevent someone bent on carrying out an attack like the one that left nearly 4,700 Japanese commuters sickened by nerve gas.

``You’re anxious to get to work or get home. You don’t even think about it,″ said Paul Raave of New Jersey, who has been riding New York subways for 18 years.

City officials told transit police to be extra vigilant Monday, although they did not assign extra officers or add any special security measures.

``The remains of a cheeseburger deluxe left on a turnstile will be treated as a suspicious package today,″ said transit police spokesman Al O’Leary.

A handful of briefcases and packages are recovered on any given day, and Monday was no exception, said Lt. Robert Valentino, another transit police spokesman.

No added precautions were taken in Boston or Washington, officials there said.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, an Olympic Airways jet that arrived from Athens was held in a remote area of the airport for hours amid a report there was nerve gas on the plane.

Costas H. Mavrikis, an official of Olympic Airways, said the FBI told the airline ``they had information that poison gas was being carried on board.″

``It appears to be a hoax,″ said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Joan Brown.

The 211 passengers were kept on the plane for about 3 1/2 hours before being taken into the terminal.

In December, 39 people were burned when a firebomb went off in a Manhattan subway train as it was pulling into a station. One of the injured, Edward Leary, has been charged with setting off the device in what police say was a terror-extortion plot.

Victoria Rudenko, who was riding the subways as usual Monday, said she was working in the city’s World Trade Center when a terrorist bomb that killed six people exploded in February 1993.

``So I feel that anything can happen anywhere,″ she said. ``It’s awful scary, but people have no other way of getting to work; they have to take the subway.″

There is little police can do to stop a determined terrorist, said Henry Degeneste, co-author of a book on protecting airports and other transit hubs.

``The best you can do is the police response has to be rapid and save those people who are caught up in something like that,″ Degeneste said.

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