Militia Accused of Bombing Plot 12 Targeted U.S. Offices in Phoenix, Reno Says

Article excerpt

Twelve members of a right-wing militia group in Arizona were arrested Monday on charges of plotting for more than two years to bomb government offices in the Phoenix area, federal officials announced.

Attorney General Janet Reno said the 12 had trained to use explosives to destroy buildings housing the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Secret Service, the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona National Guard.

The paramilitary group, which called itself the Viper Militia, engaged in field training exercises in which members made and detonated ammonium nitrate bombs and rockets, according to a seven-count indictment unsealed in Phoenix. The grand jury said several members also trained with automatic weapons.

Ammonium nitrate was used in the bomb that destroyed a federal office building in Oklahoma City, but authorities gave no indication that the incidents were connected. The indictment said the Arizona conspiracy began at least as early as May 30, 1994, almost a full year before the Oklahoma City bombing.

The indictment described a videotape made on May 30, 1994, by the group in which a member discussed approaches, security measures, communications equipment, fences and adjacent structures at the various target locations. The tape also provides suggestions for placing explosives so that they cause the buildings to collapse.

For instance, the grand jurors said, the videotape described a Phoenix building that in May 1994 housed the ATF, FBI and other federal offices.

"The tape's narrator identifies supports for the building and advises that the building would collapse if the supports were destroyed," the indictment said.

"The tape advises that the placement of `anti-personnel' devices in mailboxes shown near the entrance of the building could harass U.S. Treasury employees. The tape advises that the destruction of a water main shown near the building could inhibit firefighting operations if the building were on fire."

The tape also shows multiple views of the exterior of the building housing the IRS while the narrator discussed the shift change schedule of building security guards and other security measures. Showing the headquarters of the Phoenix Police Department, the tape narrator says it would be difficult to take over but that "it would be a `major political statement' if it were taken over" and the records and equipment inside "would be invaluable."

Much of the information in the indictment came from an unidentified state police officer who infiltrated the militia as part of the investigation, according to ATF agent Jose T. …