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AOL reports alleged chat room terrorist threat

Federal agents arrest a New Jersey man after he allegedly posts a message in an America Online chat room threatening to leave a van filled with explosives in a tunnel to New York City.

A New Jersey man was arrested by federal agents after he allegedly posted a message in an America Online chat room threatening to leave a van filled with explosives in a tunnel leading to New York City.

Renato DeSousa Flor was arrested yesterday by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force after AOL alerted the force about the posting of the threat in a chat room. The message was sent using an AOL email account.

"A blue van with explosives will be riding followed up by 2 cars...entering the tunnel...the van will be placed sideways...once its reaches the middle of the tunnel...then the driver will get inside of one of the cars and exit the tunnel," the posting warned, according to a statement by the FBI's Newark, N.J., field office. "F.B.I. and C.I.A. BEWARE!"

No bombs were found after police and bomb-sniffing dogs combed several tunnels leading into New York. No explosives were found at Flor's home.

The threat comes at a time of widespread heightened tensions about terrorist attacks as the year 2000 approaches. Last week, a man caught smuggling bomb-making chemicals into the United States from Canada was arrested. Earlier this week, Washington, D.C., police said they would be on high alert for terrorism on New Year's Eve.

Flor was charged in a federal criminal complaint with "knowingly and intentionally transmitting in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat to injure," the FBI said.

He is being held at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and will appear before a Newark judge today.

"Terrorist threats will not be tolerated," said acting special agent Garey Chin, adding that such messages "heighten public panic."