AR-News: Arsons believed to be work of ELF
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Thu Apr 22 19:32:41 EDT 2004
Arsons believed to be work of ELF
No proof, but signs point to eco-terror organization
By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
The words "Earth Liberation Front" -- called a top domestic terrorism threat
by the FBI -- were signed on a note found amid an array of unexploded
firebombs this week at a home-construction site in Snohomish County.
Just a few hours after the note was found in a driveway at Cedars Crossing
near Maltby three similar devices -- modified Molotov cocktails with
slow-acting fuses -- were discovered in three homes under construction at
Storm Lake Heights north of Monroe. The fuses burned out before they could
ignite a bomb, officials said yesterday.
But incendiary devices did work in Snohomish County on Tuesday, destroying
two homes and damaging a third at a subdivision east of Snohomish. A
firebomb that didn't ignite was found in a fourth home. All the houses were
The possible involvement of the Earth Liberation Front prompted the FBI's
local Joint Terrorism Task Force to join in the investigation with the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local investigators,
said a federal agent on the task force. The agent said it is likely that all
three incidents are related.
ATF Special Agent in Charge Kelvin Crenshaw said his agents focused on the
site of the fires east of Snohomish, retrieving forensic evidence including
the unexploded incendiary device, and are sending it to a government lab for
"Right now, there is no definite link between the three crime scenes,"
The task force agent acknowledged the possibility that a copycat criminal
without eco-terrorist motivations might be responsible for one or all of the
incidents. But the agent also said, "In my gut, I think it's ELF."
ELF has not claimed credit for the Snohomish County fires.
The agent said ELF was mentioned in the note and that it expressed
opposition to development encroaching upon forests. That view is consistent
with notes left at the sites of other ELF vandalism and arson in the United
States targeting urban sprawl.
The firebombing, if the work of ELF, represents an escalation in Washington
of its crusade of arson and vandalism against growth and development. ELF
has never claimed responsibility for destroying a house in Washington.
However, numerous other arsons against homes elsewhere in the United States
have been committed in the name of ELF.
The most notorious local act linked to ELF was the 2001 firebombing of the
Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington.
No one has ever been prosecuted for the CUH fire.
To date the FBI has cracked few cases involving ELF or the closely related
Animal Liberation Front.
ELF is not an organization or group in the usual sense of those words. There
is no leader, no hierarchy. Rather ELF is an amorphous collection of people
who communicate in anonymity over the Internet.
ELF's lack of structure and anonymity is why it has been so hard for federal
agents to make arrests in ecoterrorism cases.
"Individuals who choose to do actions under the banner of the ELF are driven
only by their personal conscience or decisions taken by their cell while
adhering to the stated guidelines," says the ELF Web site. "Any direct
action to halt the destruction of the environment and adhering to the strict
non-violence guidelines, listed below, can be considered an ELF action.
"Economic sabotage and property destruction fall within these guidelines:
"To inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and
exploitation of the natural environment.
"To reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the
Earth and all species that populate it.
"To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and
And this week, Peter Lance's subdivision may have met those conditions for
Lance, the developer of Storm Lake Heights, remained astonished yesterday by
the targeting of his upscale subdivision with Craftsman-style homes, ponds,
an equestrian tract and a 15-foot-high fountain at its front entrance.
Lance said he bought the forestland in about 1990, logged it and has been
selling off lots since then. Although he acknowledged that the property is
no longer forest, "there was no midnight rape of the land. People still need
a place to live."
Lance said he held up developing the property to take advantage of what he
called a new, environmentally sensitive Snohomish County ordinance that
allows clustering homes on smaller lots to preserve more wetlands and trees.
And he said he connected the 100-acre plot to municipal water lines to avoid
sinking wells that would draw down the aquifer and drain streams.
Virgil Welch, Lance's night watchman and landscaper, was making his rounds
about 10 p.m. Tuesday at about the time he believes the arsonists planted
their failed incendiary devices.
"One of the neighbors thought they heard something about 10," he said. "I'm
thinking that when I went to the upper cul-de-sac, they shot out the bottom.
They probably saw the lights of my trucks and just got out."
Joe Cadiz, a contractor working there, told KOMO/4 television that he
arrived yesterday morning and was summoned inside an unfinished house, where
he saw what looked like a gasoline bomb that hadn't gone off. They checked
and found similar bottles with slow-burning fuses inside two other
"There were a couple of them lit, but it looks like they just dudded out,"
he said. "They didn't do anything."
Jan Jorgensen, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, said
deputies did step up patrols at building sites after Tuesday morning's
arsons. But she noted the remote location of Storm Lake Heights, which is so
new the address doesn't yet appear on maps.
ELF'S CALLING CARD
The Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for hundreds of
illegal activities over the past few years. Here are some of the more recent
Feb. 7, 2004 -- Charlottesville, Va. Vandals set a bulldozer on fire and
damaged other equipment at a 30-acre site in Charlottesville. The site had
been cleared to make way for apartments. The vandals left behind a banner
that read: "Your Construction = Long-Term Destruction -- ELF
January 2004 -- Fayetteville, Ark. The Earth Liberation Front took credit
for vandalism that occurred over several weeks in Fayetteville. Vandals
damaged Hummers, slashing tires and writing "Glutton" and "ELF" on them with
Sept. 23, 2003 -- Mecosta County, Mich. The Earth Liberation Front claimed
to have left incendiary devices at a pumping station for a water-bottling
plant owned by Nestle Waters North America.
Sept. 19, 2003 -- San Diego. The Earth Liberation Front claimed
responsibility for torching four houses under construction and left a banner
reading "Development destruction. Stop raping nature."
Sept. 6, 2003 -- Santa Fe, N.M. The Earth Liberation Front claimed to have
spray-painted a third of the SUVs at a Land Rover dealership with such words
as "avarice" and "gluttony."
Aug. 22, 2003 -- Earth Liberation Front actions in Southern California
including in Arcadia at Mercedes-Benz dealer. Ten SUVs were spray-painted
with "terrorist," "killer" and "ELF." In Duarte, a Mitsubishi dealership had
its building and 20 of its vehicles painted with "ELF" and the phrases
"gross polluter" and "We (heart) pollution." In West Covina, there was a
fire at a GM dealership, destroying and damaging several SUVs, including
several Hummers. A fire also destroyed a warehouse at the dealership.
Messages left there included "I (heart) Pollution," "American Wastefulness"
Aug.1, 2003 -- San Diego. The Earth Liberation Front accepted responsibility
for what it called the "largest act of environmental sabotage in U.S.
history." Fire caused $50 million in damage to a five-story condominium
P-I reporter Paul Shukovsky can be reached at 206-448-8072 or
paulshukovsky at seattlepi.com P-I reporter Jennifer Langston contributed to
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to
embrace all living creatures. Albert Einstein
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