NORTHERN MARIANAS PLACED ON HIGHEST ALERT

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By John Ravelo Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 9, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)---The CNMI was placed on the highest level of alert as the United States and its allies yesterday attacked Afghanistan's Taliban, which reportedly coddles terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Charles Ingram Jr. said that his command will implement the unofficial recommendation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be at top-level alert, although he said that police operations will be modified.

"We'll not put everything in operation," Ingram said, but he refused to divulge what aspect of the operations will not be utilized by the DPS.

Ingram said he met with Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio and some officials, including Emergency Management Office Director Gregorio Deleon Guerrero and Labor Secretary Mark Zachares. "We discussed the situation here."

Asked if there were intelligence reports that Osama bin Laden has allies in the CNMI, Ingram replied, "No comment."

On the other hand, EMO Deputy Director Mark S. Pangelinan said his office has not received any intelligence information on whether bin Laden has allies in the Commonwealth.

The camp of bin Laden has threatened to resort to the use of biological weapons if the United States and the NATO alliance made good of their threat to attack Afghanistan's Taliban.

Based on reports, bin Laden's army of terrorists has reached thousands in number and is deployed in different parts of the world.

Pangelinan belittled the possibility that the CNMI may be a target for retaliation by the terrorist group of bin Laden now that America has began its attack.

However, Ingram disclosed that based on what was discussed during the meeting with Tenorio, immigration authorities will be on "increased vigilance" in screening those entering the CNMI.

Ingram said the DPS will also beef up security at all ports of entry. "We're going to assist the Commonwealth Ports Authority. We'll send security men at the seaport."

Ingram said there is sufficient manpower in charge of security at the airports.

Pangelinan said that the EMO has remained on alert since the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. He said that, although the CNMI is part of the American family, there is no imminent threat of possible terrorist retaliation on the islands.

"Right now, the U.S. is attacking, but we're not that very concerned," Pangelinan said. "We don't have any military installations here."

The US military, though, has been using Farallon de Mendinilla for target practice and bombing exercises. The U.S. Naval Forces-Marianas also maintains 7,628 acres on Tinian, which is 30 percent of the entire landmass of the island. The Navy is leasing 178 acres of public land on Saipan.

Lt. Monica M. Richardson, public affairs officer of the command, earlier said that the leased lands on Tinian and on Saipan are not in active use by the military.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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