Bombs in Atlanta are found to have distinct similarities Officials analyze letter claiming responsibility for 2 sets of attacks

February 25, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA -- Investigators have found distinct similarities as well as some differences between the bombs planted at a gay nightclub in the city Friday night and those planted last month near an abortion clinic in north Atlanta, authorities said yesterday.

Agents investigating the bombings said they could not conclude whether the same person or group was responsible for both attacks.

As they waited for the results of forensic tests, which could take weeks, investigators began analyzing a letter claiming responsibility for both sets of bombings for a group purporting to a militant cell called the Army of God.

For more than 15 years, people taking credit for violence against doctors and clinics performing abortions -- and sometimes convicted in such attacks -- have claimed membership in the Army of God, experts on extremist groups said.

The letter, postmarked Saturday from a post office in Atlanta, was received yesterday by the Atlanta bureau of Reuters news service. Reuters and federal investigators said the letter had given details, as yet unconfirmed, about the makeup of the bombs used in the clinic and nightclub attacks.

The letter threatens "total war" against the U.S. government, refers to abortion as "murder" and promises more attacks on homosexuals, Reuters said. In the late 1980s, a group calling itself the Army of God disseminated a bomb-making guide that the group described as "a how-to manual of means to disrupt and ultimately destroy Satan's power to kill our children, God's children."

Agents were also examining a message left on the voice mail of the Gay Community Yellow Pages, a business based in Phoenix, claiming that Friday's bombing had been carried out by the "Sons of Confederate Klan, SOCK, a new neo-Nazi KKK organization from Los Angeles."

Marci Alt, the owner of the business, said the call had been placed at 7: 20 a.m. Saturday to the company's Atlanta office and had been instantly rolled over to a phone in Phoenix.

A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Bobby Browning, said, "We've had claims from a couple of different individuals who have called and written, and we've got agents following up on those."

Browning said it was "too soon to tell" whether the bomb details in the Army of God letter were authentic.

At 9: 45 p.m. Friday, a bomb detonated on the outdoor patio of the Otherside Lounge, a northeast Atlanta nightclub that caters primarily to homosexuals. Five people were injured by the bomb, which was apparently loaded with nails. When the police arrived at the club, they found a knapsack containing a second bomb in the parking lot and used a robot to detonate it.

The second bomb may have been intended to injure law !B enforcement officials drawn to the site by the first blast, and it has led to obvious comparisons with the pair of bombings outside a professional building containing the Atlanta Northside Family Planning Services clinic.

On Jan. 16, a bomb exploded outside the building, in Sandy Springs, a north Atlanta suburb. A second bomb detonated an hour later, injuring seven people drawn to the scene.

Among the similarities cited by investigators is the presence of nails in at least one of the bombs in both incidents. The deadly bomb that exploded in Centennial Olympic Park on July 27 also included nails. Beyond that, state and federal agents were saying little yesterday about any similarities in the construction of the devices.

"There's an obvious similarity in the use of two devices, which, while not unheard of, is somewhat rare," said John C. Killorin, the special agent in charge of the Atlanta office of the federal firearms agency.

Asked about other links, Killorin said, "There are some similarities and there are some dissimilarities."

Pub Date: 2/25/97

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