No threats made toward state, but federal security tight

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Military bases in Alaska were placed on high alert today and the FBI was coordinating with other federal agencies following a series of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

"Right now we have no information of any direct threats to any sites in Alaska," said Robert Burnham, an assistant special agent in charge for the FBI in Anchorage.

One rumor circulating just before 10 a.m. today had downtown Anchorage being evacuated because a "hijacked Korean airliner" was on its way. However, "There is no truth to that," said Mellen Budd, admistrative assistant to Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch.

Burnham said the FBI was offering oil companies any additional security measures they felt were needed. BP (Alaska) and Phillips Petroleum are the two largest oil companies operating in Alaska.

Planes nationwide and in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks were grounded. Planes headed for the United States were being detoured to Canada.

Alaska Airlines said its flight from Washington, D.C., was diverted to Madison, Wis. Two Alaska Airlines flights that arrived overnight in Juneau were not being allowed to take off.

"No aircraft are being allowed to take off. There are still occasional landings from flights that have been diverted, particularly in Anchorage," said Dennis Poshard, assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation.

A freighter carrying mail from Anchorage to Juneau arrived early today but was not allowed to leave the port.

Federal buildings in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks were open but security was heightened. Six Anchorage police officers armed with shotguns stood guard at the entrances to the federal building in downtown Anchorage, checking employee identification.

Gov. Tony Knowles' spokesman Bob King said the Alaska Emergency Coordination Center at Fort Richardson was activated at 6:30 a.m.

"They're on a heightened level of preparedness. They were activated and will remain activated," King said.

The Alaska National Guard leadership was meeting in response to national orders.

"Right now they're following national authority," King said.

Elmendorf and Eielson air force bases and forts Richardson and Greely were placed on full military alert.

Maj. Johnn Kennedy, chief of public affairs for the Air Force's 3rd Wing fighter group at Elmendorf said access to the base is being restricted. Those trying to get on the base will have a long wait.

"Obviously, as a result (of the attack) we're on an increased measure of protection," Kennedy said. "But we're going to let anyone on base who needs to be here."

Maj. Bryan Hilferty at Fort Richardson said there were long waits to get on the base as well. He said those who did not need to get onto the base were being asked to stay away.

In Juneau, Knowles was watching the situation closely and keeping contact with state emergency officials, King said.

"The governor is certainly following the terrible events back East and wants to express his condolences sympathy to victims and concerns for firefighters and others," he said. "He will also commit any assets that may be needed to assist the National Guard."

Alaska's congressional delegation also was watching the tragedy.

"Words cannot express the anguish and horror we all feel at today's tragic news," Sen. Frank Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said. "I can assure you that the perpetrators of these murders will be rooted out and brought to justice."

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