Group Claims Responsibility for Fire

Associated Press/January 30, 2002

Minneapolis -- A radical environmental group claimed responsibility Wednesday for a fire that damaged the construction site of a University of Minnesota research lab.

The Earth Liberation Front said in a statement that it burned a trailer and two pieces of heavy machinery at the construction site of the Microbial and Plant Genomics Research Center on the school's St. Paul campus to protest genetic engineering.

FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said the agency is investigating the Saturday fire. No one was hurt.

``This amounts to domestic terrorism,'' said Robert Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences.

Investigators previously said the fire appeared to be arson and that it began in a construction trailer a few feet from the Crops Research building, which was damaged.

University spokeswoman Amy Phenix said construction on the new $20-million building was not very far along and that the project will continue.

The new center will house 185 scientists who will research microbes and plants to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture.

The ELF also claimed responsibility for the vandalism of a greenhouse at the university in February 2000 that destroyed experiments on genetically engineered oat crops.

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