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Pond Drained Near Washington in Anthrax Probe - 2003-06-10

Federal investigators are draining a remote pond outside Washington as part of their probe into the 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks that killed five people and sickened several others. FBI agents hope that the pond, about 70 kilometers north of Washington, will yield new clues in the anthrax investigation.

The pond is in a forest outside the city of Frederick, Maryland. In December, divers recovered a plastic box from the pond with a hole cut in the side that investigators believe might have used to prepare the anthrax-laden envelopes that were mailed in October 2001.

The pond is not far from a U.S. Army research laboratory in Frederick, one of several American labs that has stored anthrax.

The pond is also near the former home of an ex-researcher at Fort Dietrick, Steven Hatfill. Last year, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft described Mr. Hatfill as "a person of interest" in the anthrax investigation.

Steven Hatfill has repeatedly denied any involvement in the anthrax case. But he remains under round-the-clock surveillance by the FBI.

"He can't find work," said Patrick Clawson, a spokesman for Steven Hatfill. "Every time he leaves the house he is followed by an entourage of FBI agents. Sometimes they swear at him. It's a tough life."

It is not clear what investigators hope to find in the Frederick pond. It will take a few weeks to drain the pond and search through its mud bottom.

There has been little apparent progress in the anthrax investigation since the attacks in 2001. Anthrax-laden envelopes were sent to news organizations in Washington, New York and Florida and to the offices of two U.S. senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats.

Five people died as a result of exposure to anthrax spores and several others became ill.