Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Colorado has latest mailbox bomb

Rural residents asked to leave mailboxes open or remove doors as delivery resumes

By Coleen Slevin
The Associated Press

        SALIDA, Colo. — An FBI official said a pipe bomb found in a Colorado mailbox Monday appeared linked to 16 others found in three Midwestern states, raising concerns that the domestic terrorism spree is spreading West.

        “We have a rather disturbing pattern where the subjects are moving West rather quickly,” FBI Special Agent Mark Mershon said. “We're looking for someone who is mobile. We're moving mountains to determine who that is.”

        A resident found the device in a sandwich bag with a piece of folded paper in the small mountain community of Salida, about 100 miles southwest of Denver. It did not explode.

        “The device is consistent in description and appearance with 16 other devices recovered since Friday in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska,” Agent Mershon said.

        He said the fact that the other devices were found in clusters makes authorities fear that more bombs may be delivered in the area.

        Postal carriers near Salida have been told not to deliver materials to any closed mailbox but that they could deliver to the residence's front door.

        Agent Mershon said he hadn't seen the paper inside with the device, so he didn't know whether it was similar to the anti-government letter found with the other devices.

        A bomb squad from the Colorado Springs Police Department took the bomb. It wasn't clear on whether police planned to detonate it.

        Also Monday, another mailbox bomb was found in rural Nebraska. It was the eighth discovered in the state and the 16th in the Midwest since last week.

        The latest Nebraska pipe bomb was found near Hastings in the mailbox of someone who had been away for the weekend, authorities said. It did not explode. There was no immediate word on it was accompanied by the same anti-government note found with the other devices.

        There have been no arrests in the case.

        The FBI said Monday that the first 15 bombs clearly come from the same source, but officials have not said whether they are searching for an individual or a group.

        The latest bombs were found as hundreds of nervous letter carriers went back to work across the Midwest. Mail delivery had been suspended Saturday, and rural residents in at least four Midwest states and Colorado were asked to leave their mailboxes open or remove their mailbox doors as a safety measure.

        Jim Pelzer wore safety goggles and earplugs as he delivered mail in Tipton, Iowa, where one of the bombs exploded Friday. The protective gear was a gift from his wife.

        “My feeling was when we had 9-11 and the anthrax scare, I was a little concerned about my job safety,” Mr. Pelzer said. “But now I'm intimidated and scared.”

        Mail carrier Doris Fehlhafer, who was working outside Seward, added: “With the boxes open, you feel a lot safer.”

        Authorities were not surprised by the discovery of the latest bomb in Nebraska because of an apparent pattern by the person or persons planting the devices, said Mike Matuzek, a Postal Service district manager.

        The bombs in Iowa and Illinois were found in locations that form a large, uneven ring about 70 miles in diameter. The Nebraska bomb sites form a large ring of about 90 miles across.

        The areas are separated by about 350 miles. Salida is more than 400 miles from the Nebraska sites.

        The FBI said the bombs and the notes were nearly identical.

        Officials described the Midwest bombs as 3/4-inch steel pipes attached to 9-volt batteries, and said they appeared to be triggered by being touched or moved.

        The typewritten note found with the bombs read, in part: “If the government controls what you want to do they control what you can do. ... I'm obtaining your attention in the only way I can. More info is on its way. More "attention getters' are on the way.”

        The FBI considers the attacks a case of domestic terrorism, and profiling experts have said whoever wrote the note is probably an older American man.

        Dan Mihalko of the Postal Inspection Service in Washington said there is no indication that the Postal Service or its employees are the intended targets.

        “When this guy is talking about the government, but (the note) never gets into specifics about the government,” he said. He said the Postal Service could be “just a convenient place of dropping things off.”

        Bob Temple of Morrison, Ill., said he cautiously opened his mailbox Sunday night to ease his carrier's fears. Mr. Temple's carrier was wounded when a pipe bomb blew up in her face while she was delivering mail to his next-door neighbor.

        “I was pretty confident that the people that done it probably wouldn't be back this way, but it did kind of scare me,” Mr. Temple said.


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