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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
US buys town for terror training
The United States Department of Homeland Security is buying an entire town in the south-west US for use in its anti-terror training.

Playas, in the state of New Mexico, will be bought for $5m from the Phelps Dodge mining company, which built it from scratch in the 1970s.

The town, once home to 1,000 people, currently has a population of 50.

Emergency workers will use the site to simulate suicide bombings, anthrax attacks and water-supply poisonings.

'Ghost town'

A local engineering school, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, is in charge of the project.

Vice-president Van Romero told BBC News Online that he hoped the purchase would be completed this week.

"Students will use the town to enact scenarios to learn to stop or prevent terrorist attacks before they happen," he said.

"It's an urban environment in which we can control everything - the electricity, the water and the people," he added.

Although Playas has been in decline since a copper smelter shut, the isolated town just north of the Mexican border is not a typical ghost town.

In addition to 259 ranch-style homes, it features a six-lane bowling alley, a rodeo ring, a helicopter pad, an airstrip, a bar, a shooting range and a swimming pool.

The town's remaining residents could be offered work on the project, the New York Times reports.

New Mexico Tech, as the engineering school is known, has trained more than 90,000 emergency workers since the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.

It is also currently receiving $20m in grants from the Department of Homeland Security for its antiterrorism programmes.

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