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US

Pentagon undergoes mock terrorist attack

firemen
Firemen from several departments participate in the drill  
May 30, 1998
Web posted at: 7:38 p.m. EDT (2338 GMT)

ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- The Pentagon was the site of a mock terrorist attack Saturday in preparation for what officials hope never happens.

The scenario was a sarin nerve gas attack that killed 26 and contaminated more than 100 people after terrorists seized the secretary of defense's office.

The exercise, dubbed "Exercise Cloudy Office," was the first ever held at the Pentagon.

"Following the situation in the Tokyo subways, everybody in this particular field has been looking at how would you react to that event," said John Jester, chief of the Defense Protective Service, the Pentagon's civilian police force.

subway
Tokyo subway in March 1995  

In March 1995, 12 people were killed and thousands sickened by a sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway system by a doomsday cult.

More than 500 people were involved in Saturday's exercise, including the Pentagon's SWAT team and a metropolitan medical strike team in charge of decontamination.

The Pentagon attracts 150,000 visitors a year and is considered to be a prime target for terrorist attacks.

The Pentagon test is one of a series of measures the Clinton administration is taking to combat high-tech terrorism.

CNN's Kyoko Altman reports on a mock terrorist attack at the Pentagon
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The Department of Health and Human Services is working with state and local governments to have 27 medical strike teams available across the country by the end of 1998.

The Defense Department is training special National Guard teams in 10 states to respond to weapons of mass destruction. President Clinton also has announced plans to stockpile vaccines.

Nearly 20 communities across the United States have held mock exercises as well, but the Clinton administration acknowledges that the country is far from prepared for a chemical or biological attack.

victim
A volunteer acts as a victim  

"Most of your police chiefs, mayors, fire chiefs will tell you they do not have (the proper) equipment and that is the greatest vulnerability that we have right now," FBI Directory Louis Freeh said in testimony to Congress last month.

More exercises are planned in 60 cities next year.

In Saturday's scenario, the terrorists break away from a tourist group and take hostages. They later accidentally knock over a jug of sarin gas and are captured.

In real life, the Pentagon's 25,000 employees would have to be evacuated, nearby highways diverted and flights to nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport would be rerouted.

Correspondent Kyoko Altman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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