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News Briefs

U.S. Officials Lower Terrorist Alert Levels for Financial Sites

By Eric Lipton

The New York Times WASHINGTON

Federal officials lowered the terrorist alert level on Wednesday for the financial services sector in Washington, New York and northern New Jersey, saying that financial institutions in the three regions had taken significant steps to improve their defenses against possible attacks.

The action came nearly three and a half months after the Department of Homeland Security imposed a heightened state of alert based on computer records found in Pakistan. Authorities said the records showed that al-Qaida operatives, starting before the 2001 attacks, had meticulously monitored financial buildings in these areas, including the World Bank in Washington, the Citigroup building in Manhattan and the Prudential Financial building in Newark, N.J.

James Loy, the deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said the announcement on Wednesday should not be interpreted as a sign that the nation was any less likely to be a terrorist target.

Dutch Police Seize 2 In Raid On Terror Cell After A Siege

By Craig S. Smith

The New York Times THE HAGUE, Netherlands

The police arrested two North African men here Wednesday after a daylong siege that began when three officers were injured by a hand grenade during a predawn raid on an apartment suspected of harboring Islamic terrorists.

The arrests, coming after days of escalating tensions over the killing of an outspoken Dutch filmmaker by a Muslim militant, added to fears that a terrorist network with international ties is operating in the country. The Netherlands has been spared large-scale Islamic terrorist attacks, but intelligence officials have warned for years that international terror networks are operating on Dutch soil.

More evidence of an international dimension emerged Wednesday when intelligence officials confirmed reports that they were seeking a Syrian man who may be a common link among three ongoing investigations, the first into the slaying last week of the filmmaker, Theo van Gogh; the second about a foiled plot to attack government installations; and the third involving threats to behead a Dutch member of parliament.

Fed Raises Rates Again And Sees No Reason to Stop

By Edmund L. Andrews

The New York Times WASHINGTON

The Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates on Wednesday for the fourth time this year, and suggested that it would continue to raise them gradually through much of next year.

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee raised the federal funds rate on overnight loans between banks by a quarter-point, to 2 percent, a move that was widely expected.

Saying that monetary policy is still “accommodative,” the central bank repeated its assertion of the last several months that it would continue to raise short-term rates at a “measured pace” from their historic lows earlier this year. The stock market had little reaction, with the three main gauges trading slightly lower. Bond prices fell on the possibility of further rate increases.

“Output appears to be growing at a moderate pace despite the rise in energy prices,” the Fed said in a statement announcing its decision. “Inflation and longer-term inflation expectations remain well-contained.”