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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Reward Doubled in Anthrax Probe

Attacks: The offer of $2.5 million is part of stepped-up efforts to catch the attacker who mailed the bacteria.

January 24, 2002|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Federal officials Wednesday urged the public--particularly residents of the Trenton, N.J., area--to take another hard look to see whether anyone they know fits the FBI's profile of the anthrax killer.

Nearly four months since the death of the first victim of the bioterrorist attack that was launched by mail, federal authorities also doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the anthrax sender. The amount now stands at $2.5 million.

And in an effort to jog memories, officials announced the mass mailing of fliers to postal customers in the Trenton area, where at least four anthrax-laden letters were mailed.

The initial mailing of 500,000 fliers will contain photographs of the block-lettered envelopes addressed to the New York Post, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). An FBI "profile" of the attacker will be included.

FBI officials believe the sender is an adult male--they have described him as a "lone wolf"--who has a "scientific background/work history" and a familiarity with Trenton. The authorities also have said they believe the source of the anthrax was domestic, not foreign, although they have not ruled out other possibilities.

"Look at your neighbor and see if he fits this profile," said Kevin Burke, postal inspector in charge of northern New Jersey, at a Trenton news conference.

The FBI, which says it has "vigorously followed to their logical conclusion" thousands of leads from the public so far, also asked people to step forward even if they think someone else may have already called authorities.

"We're reaching out to you to ensure there are no more victims," FBI agent Kevin Donovan said. "I don't believe this person is as elusive as the Unabomber," he added, referring to the case of convicted bomber Theodore J. Kaczynski, who evaded capture for years and eventually was turned in by his brother.

FBI officials said it may take "one piece of information" to help them solve the case.

The redoubling of traditional investigative efforts came the same week that scientists working for the federal government said they have been able to identify genetic differences in the strain of anthrax sent in the attacks and the Ames reference strain. The hope is that such differences may lead investigators to the source of the lethal bacteria, or least allow them to rule out some possibilities.

In addition to five deaths--including one woman in New York and another in Connecticut with no known connection to an anthrax source--at least 13 other people have been sickened by the rare disease. The mail attack began in September shortly after terrorists crashed hijacked planes in New York, near Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania.

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