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News Briefs

D.C. Health Officials Hopeful That Anthrax Threat is Receding


Increasingly optimistic health officials in Washington Thursday shrank the universe of private-sector workers who should take steps to thwart anthrax and prepared to curtail the hours of the city’s screening and antibiotic operations at D.C. General Hospital.

With no new local case of inhalation or skin anthrax in more than a week, and no report of a tainted letter in more than two, the city’s health director, Ivan C.A. Walks, suggested that the Washington area was “on the downside” of a crisis that began with the opening of an envelope Oct. 15 on Capitol Hill.

Test results for some facilities are still unknown, however. And just Thursday, the federal Food and Drug Administration announced that anthrax spores had been found in four of its five Montgomery County, Md., mailrooms, forcing as many as 120 workers to begin taking antibiotics and prompting all five of the mailrooms to close.

Tests for anthrax in the Patent and Trademark Office in Crystal City, Va., have turned up three possibly contaminated sites in mailing areas, according to an advisory sent to employees Thursday. Additional testing will be necessary to determine whether anthrax spores were present, the e-mail said. In the meantime, the agency said its bulk mail handlers should begin taking antibiotics.

Afghan Tribal Leader Launches Uprising Against Taliban in South


A prominent Afghan tribal leader has begun the first known armed uprising against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan since the U.S.-led air strike campaign began, fighting off a Taliban attack Thursday and claiming to control part of a southern province, according to his family and media reports.

Hamid Karzai, an influential figure from the leading ethnic Pashtun tribe, said he survived a Taliban attack on a meeting of tribal elders he convened in Uruzgan province, and that his forces captured 12 Taliban soldiers in the skirmish.

Karzai, who’s close to Afghanistan’s exiled former king Mohammed Zahir Shah, returned to Afghanistan last month to promote a national gathering aimed at forming a broad coalition government to replace the ruling Taliban, according to his brother, Qayum Karzai.

Although any rebellion led by Karzai would seem to be in its infancy, its onset would be welcomed by U.S. officials, who have been anxious for the Taliban to come under attack in the Pashtun heartland where the hardline Islamic militia is strongest.

Jordanian Indicted for Perjury After Denying He Knew Hijackers


A Jordanian man suspected of having ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers was indicted on perjury charges Thursday for denying to a New York grand jury that he knew Khalid al-Midhar, one of the five men alleged to have crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.

Osama Awadallah, 21, a student at Grossmont College in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, knew three of the suspected hijackers who spent much of last year living in that area -- Nawaf al-Hazmi, Hani Hanjour and al-Midhar, according to authorities.

In testimony before a grand jury Oct. 10 and Oct. 15, he denied knowing al-Midhar even after prosecutors confronted him with a copy of his own journal in which he mentioned al-Midhar. Awadallah acknowledged writing the passages in his journal but said the reference to al-Midhar was not in his handwriting.