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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK
Washington unfazed by terror threat
By Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online in Washington

Bomb dogs patrol the area near the World Bank
Bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the area near the World Bank and IMF
Washington police were out in force in front of the offices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund after authorities revealed threats against the international financial institutions on Sunday.

US authorities said they had specific intelligence about attacks against financial targets not only in Washington, but also in New York City and Newark, New Jersey.

"This is not the usual chatter. This is multiple sources that involve extraordinary detail," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said.

In Washington, police towed unauthorised cars away from the World Bank headquarters and patrolled the area with bomb sniffing dogs.

Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey said that vehicles would be randomly searched in the area near the World Bank and IMF and security would be stepped across the city.

He said that increased security could last until the elections in November because of evidence that al-Qaeda wants to influence the vote in the US.

Washington residents, like those in New York and Newark, were told to be vigilant but go about their business.

After years of terror alerts, Washington residents said they were more aware of their surroundings but wondered what, if anything, they could do.

Residents resigned

Marion Scotchmer and Elisabeth Stecki were having lunch at a small park just blocks from the World Bank and IMF.

"There is not much you can do. You just have to keep on living," Ms Scotchmer said.

[The terror alert level] gets raised, it gets lowered. It gets raised. It gets lowered. What are you going to do?
Elisabeth Stecki, Washington resident
"I noticed today that my building had a fire alarm at around 10 am, first thing on a Monday morning. That raised my alarm a little bit. But I can't do anything about it," she added.

She said that she was more vigilant, but added "that is the way of life here [in Washington]."

Ms Stecki had seen a number of armed officers at a subway stop in the city centre but little else in the way of increased security.

Living in Washington, she has grown accustomed to heightened levels of security, but she remains baffled by how she is supposed to respond as a citizen to the colour-coded alert system.

"It gets raised, it gets lowered. It gets raised. It gets lowered. What are you going to do?" she said.

Bank employees unconcerned

After meeting with World Bank officials, Police Chief Ramsey said he did not detect any fear from bank employees.

Bank officials met with employees on Monday to outline enhanced security measures and answer questions and concerns.

Three World Bank employees spoke to BBC News Online outside of the bank's headquarters discussing the alert and watching the media.

Media outside the World Bank
Bank employees said there were more media than police
They asked their names not be used due to strict bank policies against making political statements.

"Since 9/11 there has been this constant shouting wolf and everyone gets alarmed, and then they downgrade the situation again," one of the employees said.

Another said that the security seemed tight, but routine. "There is more activity out here than in there," he said, pointing to a crowd of media asking Chief Ramsey questions.

There is more media than police, they said. "If something happens, we'll have it on camera," joked a female bank employee who had a John Kerry button pinned to her handbag.

They all said that being from Europe that they were accustomed to terrorist attacks.

Two of the bank employees lived in Paris during a 1995 bombing campaign.

They thought there were political motivations behind the threat warnings.

"In this political situation we are in, a lot of people say, what is the truth in this?" the female employee said.

One of the men said, "It's a little bit coincidental that it's the weekend of the ending of the Democratic convention. It doesn't help the bounce. Does it?"

Political motivations

James Morr and his wife came from Chicago to Washington for "business and pleasure" and were walking in front of the bank.

They had heard about the threats but did not feel in danger.

The couple had lived in Paris and London for 15 years. "We saw this 25 years ago," Mr Morr said.

He described himself as an independent but "more a Republican than anything".

However, he said he would not be surprised if there were political motivations behind the announcement of a terrorist threat.

"Bush has to have something to get him back into office," he added.


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