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U.S. government skeptical of threat against stadiums

U.S. government skeptical of threat against stadiums

An Internet message said dirty bombs would hit seven professional football stadiums this weekend, a claim met with "strong skepticism" by the U.S. government, which advised fans not to change their plans.
While there was no intelligence to indicate such an attack was imminent, the government alerted authorities and stadium owners "out of an abundance of caution," a Homeland Security Department spokesman said Wednesday.
The online posting, dated October 12, was part of an ongoing conversation titled "New Attack on America Be Afraid." It appeared on a Web site, "The Friend Society," that links to various online forums and off-color cartoons. The site's Internet provider declined comment.
The message said trucks would deliver radiological bombs to stadiums in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland - and that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden later would claim responsibility.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the threat was viewed "with strong skepticism," but the agency did contact the National Football League, local authorities and stadium owners. Also notified was the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Knocke said the department "strongly encourages the public to continue to go about their plans, including attending events that involve large public gatherings such as football games."
Officials were made aware of the Web posting on Monday. The threat was timed to be carried out Sunday, marking the final day in Mecca of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.
A copy of the posting said: "The death toll will approach 100,000 from the initial blasts and countless other fatalities will later occur as result from radioactive fallout."
The posting noted that all of the stadiums cited, with the exception of Atlanta's, are open-air arenas. "Due to the open air, the radiological fallout will destroy those not killed in the initial explosion." The retractable roof in Houston has been closed for all games this season.
A dirty bomb would use conventional explosives to scatter radioactive material. Such a blast probably would not cause many deaths, experts say, but the fear of contamination could spark panic. Land and buildings hit with radioactive particles might be unusable for years.
Several NFL teams and stadium owners said they were in touch with federal officials. That included the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Giants Stadium, the home of the Jets and Giants.
In Indianapolis, where the Colts were preparing for a home game this weekend, head coach Tony Dungy said, "I've been waiting for this to happen for a couple of years now and you try and handle the security and put it out of your mind."
"We'll let the security people do their job, and we'll do our job," Dungy said.