Police identify US Earth Liberation leaders

Reuters/July 22, 2001

Eugene, Ore., -- Police have identified three suspected members of the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which has been linked to sabotage and arson attacks across the United States, an Oregon newspaper reported on Sunday.

No arrests were made and police did not release the names of the suspects or where they lived but authorities believed the suspects were ELF leaders, the Eugene Register-Guard said, quoting Capt. Thad Buchanan of Eugene police. Buchanan is part of a law enforcement task force trying to stop the group's five-year campaign of arson and vandalism that ELF says is carried out "to inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment."

The group's targets have included logging companies, upscale housing developments and a ski resort. The FBI says the group has conducted more than 30 acts of violence since 1996 when it began its campaign by gluing the locks at a McDonald's outlet in Eugene, an Oregon university town. Since then the group has claimed credit for more than $40 million in damage in bombings and arson. No one has been injured in the attacks.

ELF is believed to be headquartered in the Eugene area and is wanted for fires and other property damage in several states including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, New York, Kentucky and Michigan. Most recently ELF claimed responsibility for sabotaging the University of Idaho biotechnology building in opposition to genetic engineering on June 10. It was the second strike by the ELF at the new biotech building.

The suspects identified Sunday were said to be linked to five bombings in the Northwest United States including a fire at a Eugene car dealership that caused $7.4 million in damage.

Other targets have included timber companies, commercial developers, federal forest and wildlife agencies, a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, and several housing developments on Long Island, New York.

The newspaper reported that the task force, which includes the FBI as well as other local and federal agencies, established that the same type of inexpensive, clock-like timers and similar fuels were used in each of the fires.

"We were able to link (the arsons) through similarities in the device and the method of operation," Buchanan was quoted as saying.

Law enforcement officials made the first arrests of alleged ELF saboteurs in Indiana and New York earlier this year, but authorities have yet to make arrests in the West.

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