Anti-terrorism teams will start random inspections of passengers' bags and packages to try to protect the Washington, D. C., region's Metro rail and...

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WASHINGTON — Anti-terrorism teams will start random inspections of passengers’ bags and packages to try to protect the Washington, D.C., region’s Metro rail and bus system from attack, officials said Thursday.

Police using explosives-screening equipment and bomb-sniffing dogs will pull aside for inspection about every third person carrying a bag, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said. The searches might be conducted at one location at a time or at several places simultaneously. If people refuse, they will be barred from entering the rail station or boarding a bus with the item, Taborn said. The inspections will be conducted “indefinitely,” he said.

Taborn told Metro’s board of directors about the plan Thursday. Metro had planned to implement random searches in 2008 during times of elevated threat levels but never conducted any.

Thursday’s announcement came six weeks after federal law-enforcement authorities arrested Farooque Ahmed, 34, in connection with a suspected plot to bomb Northern Virginia Metrorail stations.

Last week, authorities arrested Awais Younis, 25, of Arlington County, Va., on accusations that he made threats on his Facebook page to place pipe bombs aboard Metro rail cars, according to court documents.

However, Metro Interim General Manager Richard Sarles said the inspections are not a response to any specific or heightened threat. “It’s good to vary your security posture,” he said.

The inspections of the transit network, which has 86 rail stations and 12,000 bus stops, will be conducted by several dozen officers at most. Metro’s trains and buses carry more than 1.2 million passengers every weekday, and officials acknowledge the limitations of the plan.

“This is just another method to sort of throw the bad guy off,” Taborn said.

“We’re not going to clog up the Metro system.”