Terrorism rumor mill grinds away

Kaua’i County officials are concerned about the rumors swirling around the island in the aftermath of last month’s terrorism attacks and the recent anthrax incidents in Florida.

In response to press queries about alleged comments by public officials concerning the arrests of “suspicious Arabs,” and the presence of anthrax-contaminated letters on Kaua’i, county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka released a statement Friday afternoon.

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s office “has received numerous phone calls from people who have heard rumors of arrests and suspicious activities in our community. We’re unaware of such activities, and these rumors only serve to frighten people unnecessarily,” Tokioka stated.

Some of the rumors advanced lately included:

– Arabs trying to steal the Robinson family helicopter and fly to Ni’ihau.

– Sixteen Arab gentlemen arrested at an east side hotel.

– Arabs buying guns in the Lihu’e industrial district.

Authorities have not confirmed any of these supposed occurrences.

“If you have first-hand knowledge of something suspicious,” Tokioka continued, “please report it to the police. You can be assured that every call is thoroughly investigated. At the same time, we’re asking our residents to refrain from spreading rumors. We need to allow law enforcement to do its job without unnecessary panic getting in the way.”

County Fire Department officials said they checked a “suspicious” letter Friday morning after being called by its recipient, a local businessperson.

“No way there ever was an anthrax threat. But we did receive a call. We treated it like a training exercise,” said battalion chief Bob Kaden.

The department has been training for preparedness against “weapons of mass destruction” in recent years, Kaden said.

“Our hazardous material guys receive special training,” he noted.

In another incident, a piece of mail received by an island resident “looked suspicious,” according to Tokioka, and was sent to the state Department of Health on Oahu to determine its contents Friday.

The suspicious mail had no return address and was addressed “To the resident.” The resident placed it in a sealed bag and called the police to report it.

Officials consulted with state Civil Defense officials, the FBI and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. However, according to Tokioka, the incident was handled locally.

Kaua’i County Civil Defense administrator Mark Marshall said the resident acted in a responsible manner.

“The best thing to do if you receive something suspicious in the mail is to leave it in place or put in a sealed bag. Don’t shake it and don’t open it. Contact the police department immediately,” Marshall said.

“We’re investigating every complaint we receive. But so far, none have been substantiated,” said acting police chief Wilfred Ihu.

Still, “if you suspect anything at all, call 9-1-1,” Kaden advised.

The county Department of Water reported Friday that it is operating at a “heightened level’ of security.

“We encourage the community to assist us by reporting any unusual activities near well sites and storage tank facilities,” spokeswoman Kymm Solchaga stated.

Public safety and water department officials all met Friday afternoon to discuss security concerns.

Suspicious activities can be reported to the police dispatch at 241-6711.

Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and mailto:dwilken@pulitzer.net


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