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Macao Suspects May Be Linked to Terror - 2001-09-17

The U.S. investigation into last week's devastating terrorist attacks has spread to southern China, where authorities have arrested at least five people. While police in Macao say they took the Pakistanis into custody on suspicion of theft and visa violations, sources in the enclave say the suspects may be linked to terrorism against the United States.

Macao authorities say the suspects - all Pakistani nationals - were arrested late Sunday night.

Police say the men are suspected of possible theft or visa violations, but that the investigation was continuing. The Macao Government was downplaying suggestions the arrests were linked to terrorism directed at the United States.

But sources close to the investigation in Macao are reported to have said the suspects had documents which appeared to contain instructions on attacking U.S. facilities here in southern China, specifically in the largely autonomous regions of Macao and Hong Kong.

It appears Macao authorities made the arrests after a tip-off, possibly from the American Consulate in Hong Kong. But the consulate refuses comment on the matter.

The arrests came just before the U.S. Consulate made its decision to close Monday, for a review of security procedures.

Those calling the consulate hear a message announcing the diplomatic mission is closed, and that "a decision to reopen the consulate will be made at a later date."

The consulate closed for a day immediately after last week's bombings of World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington.

All Americans here are being warned to be alert to any security threats.

President Bush has named Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be in Afghanistan, as the prime suspect in the terror strikes. The president and his cabinet have sworn to avenge the attacks and are telling Americans to prepare for a long and difficult fight in what Washington is calling a new kind of war.