Pipe Bombs at Mailboxes Injure Five in the Midwest
CHICAGO - Pipe bombs accompanied by threatening anti-government notes exploded in or near rural mailboxes in a stretch of northwestern Illinois and northeastern Iowa today, injuring three letter carriers and two residents, the authorities said.
At least eight devices, made with three-quarter-inch steel pipes and attached to nine-volt batteries, were found; five of them detonated, according to local and federal law enforcement officials. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which are being investigated as domestic terrorism.
Postal officials said all the bombs came with notes that had the same typewritten message. Signed "someone who cares," the notes promised more "attention-getters" and more information "delivered to various locations around the country."
They may have been written by an immigrant, because of a reference to the author's having "lived here for many years."
"I'm obtaining your attention in the only way I can," the notes said, according to a copy provided by the United States Postal Service. "If I could, I would change only one person, unfortunately the resources are not accessible. It seems killing a single famous person would get the same media attention as killing numerous un-famous humans."
The authorities did not release details, but said some of the injuries were serious. The bombs were not sent through the mail, officials said, but placed in the rural residential boxes overnight and set to explode when the boxes were opened or the devices were moved.
Rural mail delivery was suspended in a wide area on both sides of the Mississippi River, and letter carriers in the region were told not to work their routes on Saturday. Officials urged residents not to touch anything odd found in their boxes.
"If I have to personally go around the county and check every mailbox, I'll do it," said Sheriff Rod Herrick of Carroll County, Ill., where the first bomb exploded at 11:15 a.m., in Mount Carroll, a town of 1,832 about 60 miles from Dubuque, Iowa. "We have tried to prepare ourselves and the rest of the community since Sept. 11. On that day, I sent out a memo saying that what happened on Sept. 11 is not the end of it."
The Mount Carroll bomb caused facial lacerations to the postal worker who opened the box, Sheriff Herrick said. Other bombs exploded in Morrison, Ill. (population 4,447), and the Iowa towns of Asbury (pop. 2,450), Anamosa (pop. 5,494) and Tipton (pop. 3,155), according to the authorities.
Two residents and a letter carrier were hospitalized for their injuries, which were not considered life-threatening.
Unexploded devices were found in Elizabeth, Ill. (pop. 682); Farley, Iowa (1,334); and at a farm in Scott County, Iowa. All the communities were within a day's drive from each other, in a 150-mile radius of Davenport, Iowa.
Sheriff Dennis Conard of Scott County said a resident in a rural area just outside Davenport discovered a pipe bomb while taking the newspaper from his mailbox about 6:30 a.m.
According to the authorities, a delivery woman for The Quad-City Times earlier that morning pushed the device aside, thinking it was a tractor lens, while putting the paper into the mailbox.
"Obviously, this morning we thought that we had an isolated incident, but then we found out it covers a lot bigger area and affects a lot more people than we first thought," Sheriff Conard said. "Why did someone do this? I don't know. But I have every confidence in the world that we will find out who did this."
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported on its Web site that a woman named Myo Boyer saw one of the bombs in her neighbor's mailbox near Asbury. "I saw a string, one of those 9-volt batteries, and a coil inside there," Mrs. Boyer told the newspaper. "So I shut it up real quick. I didn't know what a bomb looks like."
The bomb later detonated when a mail carrier opened the box, severely injuring his arm and drilling a shotgun-sized hole in the door of his sport utility vehicle, the newspaper reported.
Stuart Clark, who runs the movie theater in Tipton, said he and his neighbors were on alert after an afternoon news conference about the bombs.
"We just went out and opened our mailbox using a broomstick," Mr. Clark said. "We felt kind of silly doing it, but you just never know."
With the tagline "knowledge is power" at the bottom, the typewritten note was nearly a page long and filled with rantings about death and oppression by the government.
"If the government controls what you want to do, they control what you can do," it says. "Conforming to the boundaries and restrictions imposed by the government only reduces the substance in your lives. When 1 percent of the nation controls 99 percent of the nation's wealth is it a wonder why there are control problems?
"Do we really have personal freedom?" the author asks. "I've lived here for many years and I see much limitation."
The note adds: "As long as you are uninformed about death, you will continue to say `how high?' when the government tells you to jump."
Scores of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms convened in the rural counties tonight to assist local and state police in a broad investigation being coordinated by Chicago's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, said the bombs could have been made by someone with a grievance against the Postal Service.
"Pipe bombs are much more easily constructed by a lone individual," he said.
"They tend to reflect the handiwork of one person."
Professor Levin said that "the kind of obtuse, amorphous philosophy" expressed in the letters as well as the method and the choice of targets made it seem it likely the bombings were the work of "someone who is psychologically dangerous and operating out of revenge."