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May 04, 2002
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5 Pipe Bombs Found in Neb. Mailboxes

By Tom Vint, Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Five pipe bombs were found in rural Nebraska mailboxes Saturday, officials said, heightening worries among Midwesterners already on edge after similar bombs injured six people a day earlier in Iowa and Illinois.

Federal officials had described the earlier bombings as an act of domestic terrorism and said anti-government propaganda and notes warning of more "attention getters" were found nearby.

It wasn't immediately clear whether similar notes were found with the pipe bombs discovered Saturday.

Postal Service Vice President Azeezaly Jaffer confirmed Saturday afternoon that five pipe bombs similar to those discovered Friday had been found in mailboxes near the central Nebraska towns of Scotia, Cairo, Columbus, Davenport and Ohiowa. He said none of those bombs had exploded.

Earlier Saturday, federal authorities announced they had some leads on who may have planted the pipe bombs in rural mailboxes in eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois on Friday, but they didn't know if one person or several people were responsible.

The note left with the bombs had said more "could be delivered to various locations around the country," and postal officials in Washington had advised mail carriers across the country to be cautious.

The Nebraska State Patrol also issued an alert Saturday for rural residents to use caution when opening their mailboxes.

In all, eight pipe bombs were found in Iowa and Illinois on Friday, said Thomas Ahearn, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms office in Chicago. Four postal workers and two residents were injured, but none had life-threatening injuries. One woman remained hospitalized in fair condition Saturday.

A map of the bombs found Friday forms a jagged circle straddling the Mississippi River and covering part of eastern Iowa and the northwest corner of Illinois.

Saturday's pipe bombs were found about 350 miles west of there. Interstate 80 runs through both areas.

"You might find a beer can in a mailbox every once in a while around here, but not a bomb. Somebody obviously is screwed up in the head," said Cathy Meyer, an Ohiowa resident and former postmaster in the area.

"This obviously is very, very troubling that someone would do this," Meyer said.

One pipe bomb was found in a roadside mailbox at a farm about a mile and a half southeast of Ohiowa, about 50 miles southwest of Lincoln. A Nebraska State Patrol bomb technician inspected the device at the mailbox, then detonated it, officials said.

Another pipe bomb was found 20 miles farther west at a farm near Davenport, Village Board Chairman Don Ahrens said. Roads were closed around the area, and officers were directing motorists away.

In Iowa and Illinois, postal officials and local authorities said they would inspect 10,800 mailboxes in counties were bombs had been found to make sure there weren't any more.

FBI (news - web sites) special agent Jim Bogner said Saturday that authorities had some promising leads, and he invited whoever was responsible to contact the FBI.

"We want to assure him he has our attention and we want to understand what the situation is, because apparently he has some grievances," Bogner said. "He has our attention and we want to listen now.

"It's a much better option to exercise than planting bombs and injuring people who have nothing to do with these grievances."

Postal officials said the bombs were accompanied by typewritten notes in clear plastic bags that began: "Mailboxes are exploding! Why, you ask?"

Then it said, 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 note was signed, "Someone Who Cares."

Authorities still were collecting evidence at the scenes on Saturday, said Jon Petersen, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"Not all the letters have been examined or analyzed," he said.

Officials described the bombs as three-quarter-inch steel pipes attached to a 9-volt battery, which appeared to be triggered by being touched or moved.

Jon Petersen, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said some of the bombs went off when the mailbox was opened and others went off when they were moved.

Postal officials were working with the Iowa state crime lab to devise a gadget similar to a fishing pole that would allow inspectors to open a mailbox without having to get close to it, said Ron Jensen, a postal inspector from Des Moines, Iowa.

In Illinois' Carroll County, Sheriff Rod Herrick spent Saturday morning opening mailboxes for worried residents. He fastened a clamp to the mailbox handle, tied fishing line to the clamp, then stepped behind his car and pulled on the line.

"It's no high-tech thing. I'm not a bomb expert," Herrick said. "But I need to do something to keep the calm here."

Even though mail delivery was suspended, hundreds of postal workers were scheduled to report to work Saturday at the mail processing facility in Milan, Iowa, to sort letters and packages.

Instead of loading delivery trucks and shouldering mail bags, they were to attend safety lectures, including training on how to recognize explosives.






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