Friday, May 28, 2004

Incident in Vancouver

An ominous incident up in Vancouver, B.C., should have people on edge, since it could be the harbinger of another domestic-terrorist attack:
Vancouver bus quarantined after mystery substance found

VANCOUVER - As many as 19 people were quarantined Tuesday after a suspicious substance was discovered on a Vancouver bus.

A hazardous materials team cordoned off the transit bus and removed the substance. The express bus had arrived at Vancouver's Waterfront Centre from Richmond.

Eventually nine people were hospitalized, but all were released the next day. According to witnesses, a man spoke to the driver just before exiting the bus, and shortly afterward people fell sick:
At one point, a man getting off spoke to the driver.

"He said how's your day going," Horton recalled.

"And the bus driver said good. Then the man said 'it won't be for long.'

"I said to the lady beside me 'Well wasn't that rude.' "

Horton said she doesn't remember anything else about the man.

Const. Sarah Bloor said they are looking for a non-white man of average height and build, between 20 and 25 years of age, with short dark hair and a thin moustache.

The "brown pellets" that were initially suspected turned out to be harmless:
The mystery deepened at news brown pellets found on the bus were a harmless mixture of thyme, mud and mugo pine, a tiny pine cone found in Vancouver.

The hazardous materials team originally believed the pellets might be to blame for people's symptoms.

Now, Health Canada has been brought in to help investigate.

The incident underscores two important points:

-- Terrorists using chemical agents will have a difficult time making effective attacks, since these agents tend to disperse readily. This was something the Aum Shinriko cult discovered back in the mid-1990s, when it tried several different agents in attempting terror attacks in Tokyo that largely failed, at least until it settled on an enclosed space, namely, the Tokyo subways.

-- The public remains extremely vulnerable to terrorist actions of this kind because of the difficulty in detecting the presence of the chemical agents, as well as the people who might wield them, beforehand.

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