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Star Tribune gets package labeled 'anthrax'

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Star-Tribune building
The Star-Tribune building, in downtown Minneapolis.
MPR photo/Tom Weber

(AP) - The Star Tribune of Minneapolis on Thursday received a package containing a sugar-like substance labeled "anthrax," making it the latest news organization to receive such mail.

      The package included a compact disc with a picture of Colin Powell on it. Minneapolis police said they didn't believe the substance was actually toxic, but they weren't taking any chances.

      "At this point the package is in an isolated area of the building. We are going to treat it as if it is a hazardous substance until we know that it's not," said Minneapolis police spokesman Bill Palmer.

      FBI agents, the Minneapolis Bomb Squad and the Minneapolis Fire Department's hazardous materials unit responded after the packaged was received Thursday, FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson said.

      He said investigators think it's possible the package is one of more than 100 hoax letters labeled "anthrax" that were sent to newspapers and TV stations around the country. A California man has been arrested on suspicion of sending the packages.

      The FBI said none of the packets sent to other news organizations has so far tested positive for hazardous material, but it warned media outlets to be vigilant about opening their mail. Authorities also warned that more mailings would probably be received in the next few days.

      Wilson said officials won't know if the substance is harmful until it goes through a normal testing process. "Even the situations that might turn out to be hoaxes we take very seriously," he said.

      A message left for a Star Tribune spokesman was not immediately returned Thursday. The newspaper reported on its Web site that its managers followed procedures for handling such incidents that have been in place since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

      "We don't think our employees have anything to worry about," said Star Tribune Executive Editor Nancy Barnes.

      The building was not evacuated.

             (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)