Group claims responsibility for housing development fires

Associated Press/July 4, 2003

Washington Township -- A radical environmental group opposed to sprawl is claiming credit for fires that burned two houses in a Macomb County development.

The June 4 fires caused about $700,000 damage to a pair of nearly completed houses in the Willow Ridge development in Macomb's Washington Township.

Authorities believe those fires -- and two March 21 blazes in Washtenaw County's Superior Township -- were set by the Earth Liberation Front.

The Earth Liberation Front terms itself "an international underground organization that uses direct action in the form of economic sabotage to oppose the destruction of the natural environment."

Graffiti left at the sites read "ELF -- Stop Sprawl," and the group on Thursday acknowledged its role in the blazes.

"The Earth Liberation Front is taking credit for the June 4, 2003 decimation of two under construction homes in the so-called Willow Ridge Development in Macomb County," according to an e-mailed press release from ELF.

"While all too many of us mourn the losses of the great forests of the Western United States, the destruction of tropical rainforests, and the plight of endangered birds in other ends of the world, tragedy is upon us here in our own backyards," the statement said.

State and federal authorities are investigating the fires. The FBI considers ELF one of the nation's most prolific domestic terrorist organizations. No one has been charged in the Michigan cases.

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