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Police calm German anthrax fears

A policeman guards a sealed-off gas station in Wiesbaden  

WIESBADEN, Germany -- German police say initial tests on nine suspicious envelopes that created a panic in the town of Wiesbaden suggested none was carrying anthrax spores.

The envelopes, bearing the message "The jihad is starting" spread fear in the Schierstein district where they were delivered on Wednesday morning.

"There are no indications of anthrax," a police spokesman told a news conference on Thursday.

He said the authorities had not yet ruled out the presence of some sort of biological or chemical agent. The envelopes had been taken to a Stuttgart laboratory for further testing.

All 16 people who had come into contact with the envelopes were being kept under observation in hospital and given antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

About 100 police and fire brigade officers were involved in the operation to seal the street and investigate.

The September 11 attacks on the United States have sparked fears that the West may become the target of biological attacks.

Investigators in the United States say they have found no evidence linking the presence of anthrax at the offices of a supermarket tabloid publisher in Florida with the attacks against the United States.

A tabloid photo editor who died of inhalation anthrax and two co-workers who tested positive for the bacteria but show no symptoms of the disease apparently were infected with the same strain.

Earlier, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told CNN that investigators were treating the anthrax incident in Florida as a criminal matter but were not prepared to label it a bioterrorism attack.


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