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Police seek van with suspicious cargo
Driver, halted at mall in Cambridge, flees
By Jenny Jiang and Fran Riley, Globe Correspondents, 11/3/2001
After days of preparing for vague threats, police departments across the state last night had a tangible menace to chase: A rented van with a cargo of possible bomb-making materials was stopped at a Cambridge mall and sped away before police arrived.
A security guard stopped a Ryder rental truck with darkened windows as it tried to enter a parking garage at the busy CambridgeSide Galleria at about 6:35 p.m., according to Cambridge police.
Guards opened the rear doors of the van and saw six 55-gallon drums and gasoline cans duct-taped to the walls and floor of the van, officials said. But when the guards started to take a closer look while summoning local police, the driver sped away.
When police arrived, they summoned the FBI, which broadcast an alert to police departments across the state. The FBI asked police to contact its terrorism command post with any confirmed sightings of the van.
''Certainly it's a concern, based on the information provided to us,'' said FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkewicz.
The FBI's concerns notwithstanding, one law enforcement official said the van sighting did not fit into any specific threat recently made against Massachusetts targets. The Bay State, the official said, was not mentioned as a target in the renewed alerts that officials in Washington and California had announced in recent days.
But the reports of the van's potentially dangerous cargo had police scanners crackling last night with sightings of rental trucks and cruisers swooping down on any vehicle that fit the description.
The van first aroused suspicion when it pulled into the entrance to the upstairs garage next to the Sears store. The driver and passenger became belligerent and were told to back up out of the entrance to the garage, said Issie Shait, general manager of the mall.
The Galleria was already on heightened alert in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Mall security since the attacks has had a policy of checking every vehicle with tinted windows, said Frank Pasquarello, Cambridge police spokesman.
The men backed the van into the street and waited a few minutes as instructed by the security guard, but took off before the other security officers arrived at the garage entrance, Shait said.
''The security guard did a great job,'' Shait said. ''He did exactly what he was trained to do.''
The van had a Florida license plate attached, but a law enforcement official and a Ryder employee said that it appeared to be a false plate.
The FBI also received an anonymous phoned bomb threat targeting a New Hampshire mall yesterday, but authorities did not deem the threat credible.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), November 03, 2001
(Phony license plate, eh? Here's the number anyway: 4789H7)
From 7-News, Boston, Oct 3, 2001
Authorities Look Out for Rental Van
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The FBI is seeking help locating a Ryder rental van that was turned away from a Cambridge mall Friday night.
Security guards at the CambridgeSide Galleria refused the van entry to its parking garage because it had tinted windows and was loaded with several large container drums and gasoline cans.
It occurred at 7 p.m. The van, which had one passenger, then sped off in an unknown direction.
The FBI issued an alert to Massachusetts law enforcement to look out for the van. The public is also asked to report any sightings of the van, which officials said had a license plate number 4789H7.
Mall security, like elsewhere, has been heightened since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The security guards said they asked the driver permission to search the vehicle and he complied.
The public is asked to call 617-742-5533 with any information. (AP)
-- Lee Maloney (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 03, 2001.