NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS UNDER "DOMESTIC TERROR" ATTACKS

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By John Ravelo

Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 11, 2001 – Saipan Tribune)---The CNMI is experiencing domestic terrorism, according to Police Commissioner Charles Ingram Jr., citing the rising incidence of bomb threats on Saipan.

The Department of Public Safety has submitted to the Legislature a proposed measure that seeks to criminalize such prank calls.

The proposed measure, which the DPS submitted to Sen. Jose M. Dela Cruz for introduction at the Senate, seeks to impose a maximum five-year imprisonment on individuals found guilty of "terroristic threats."

"My biggest concern right now is domestic terrorism. Every time there is a bomb threat call, that's domestic terrorism," Ingram said. "Whoever is doing it is a domestic terrorist."

At least nine bomb threats have been recorded on Saipan since the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. The first two were received by Northern Marianas College and Garapan HeadStart, while the third call was made to Guma Hustisia in Susupe.

Last week, Marianas High School and the Attorney General's Office received similar threats. The Emergency Management Office was also barraged with three bomb threat calls, causing the evacuation of their men before clearing their own building in Capitol Hill of any explosives.

Ingram's declaration came following the bomb threat at the Commonwealth Health Center Tuesday, where patients -- some of them lying on their hospital beds -- had to be evacuated outside the hospital building as emergency response units conducted search and clearing operations in the vicinity.

"When I see people with IV's [intravenous], I mean, what kind of person would do that to have to pull all these people out of the building?" he asked.

Although he did not cite figures, Ingram said responding to bomb threats costs the government a lot of money. Teams from different units of the DPS and the EMO respond in the event an establishment receives such a telephone call.

"I'm asking my legal counsel to draft [a proposal to the] Legislature to request that the Legislature make it a felony," the commissioner revealed. He was referring to any prank call that would result in hurting anyone or put them in fear of being hurt.

Yesterday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General James Benedetto, in his capacity as the DPS' legal counsel, disclosed that he already submitted a draft measure to Dela Cruz.

If introduced and adopted to become a law, the crime of terroristic threatening shall have two elements. The first element, Benedetto explained, is falsely reporting a situation that is hazardous to human life. The second element is that such false reporting may have placed a person in fear, or may have caused public inconvenience, or may have resulted in an evacuation from a building.

Ingram earlier said police are tracing the telephone lines used by the culprits to possibly identify them. As of yesterday, no charges have been pressed against them.

Ingram vowed to identify those responsible for the bomb threats, saying that the government will pin them down through applicable federal laws if local laws are not sufficient.

The CNMI remains on the highest level of alert, where vital installations that have something to do with water, power and telecommunications are on tight guard.

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

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