January 9, 2007 in Nation/World

Wildfire burns seaside mansions

The Spokesman-Review
 

A wildfire fanned by Santa Ana winds destroyed four seaside mansions and significantly damaged four others as it spread over more than 20 acres in this celebrity enclave Monday, authorities said.

Flames burned in the skeletons of multimillion-dollar beach homes for about two hours. No injuries were reported, fire officials said.

Los Angeles County firefighters initially said eight homes were lost, but after full containment was achieved, officials cut that number in half.

More than 300 firefighters aided by helicopters battled the blaze, which began about 5 p.m. in the heart of 21-mile-long Malibu, said Los Angeles County fire Inspector Ron Haralson.

MIAMI

Package destroyed by bomb squad

The Port of Miami was hit by its second terrorism scare in two days Monday when a package that was to be loaded onto a cruise ship tested positive for plastic explosives. Authorities later determined it was just a box of sprinkler parts.

The package was initially tested six times, and each time it came back positive for the military-grade explosive known as C4, the Coast Guard said.

The package was destroyed, and a Miami-Dade County police bomb squad determined the sprinkler parts contained a substance that “closely resembles” plastic explosives, said police spokesman Bobby Williams.

The developments came a day after three Middle Eastern men in a cargo truck sparked a brief terrorism scare at the port. After a bomb squad search, authorities concluded that the men were carrying automotive parts and that the scare stemmed from miscommunication. A judge dropped all charges against the three men Monday.

NEW YORK

Man gets 30 years in subway plot

A Pakistani immigrant was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for hatching an unsuccessful plot to blow up a busy Manhattan subway station as revenge for wartime abuses of Iraqis.

Shahawar Matin Siraj, 24, was arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention. Though there was no proof he ever obtained explosives or was linked to any terror organizations, prosecutors said his intentions were ominous: He wanted to blow up the Herald Square subway station, a bustling transportation hub located beneath Macy’s flagship department store.

Defense attorneys had sought to convince U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon that Siraj’s sentence should not exceed 10 years, arguing in recent court filings that their client was “not a dangerous psychopath but more of a confused and misguided youngster.”

Prosecutors countered that the defendant deserved at least 30 years behind bars as the “driving force” behind a “workable terrorist plot.”


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