11 Indicted in Eco-terror Arsons

ByABC News
January 20, 2006, 11:43 AM

Jan. 20, 2006 — -- Eleven people have been indicted in recent weeks in connection with a series of arson attacks, including the 1998 fire at the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado that has been linked to the radical environmental groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front.

The announcement of the indictments and the arrests of eight of the people charged was made today at a news conference with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Director Carl Truscott.

"The indictment tells a story of four and a half years of arson, vandalism, violence and destruction claimed to have been executed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front, extremist movements known to support acts of domestic terrorism," Gonzales said.

The indictment alleges that a group of defendants, who refer to themselves as "The Family," hoped to use "coordinated force, violence, sabotage, intimidation and coercion" to influence government and private businesses, Gonzales said.

The group is blamed for more than 15 incidents across five states, including arsons or attempted arsons at U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, animal holding facilities, lumber companies and timber farms, the Vail Ski Resort and the Eugene, Ore., Police Department, the attorney general said.

Three of the defendants are also charged with the destruction of a high-tension tower at the Bonneville Power Administration in Bend, Ore.

The announcement and charges are the result of a series of arrests in recent weeks targeting the Earth Liberation Front and and the Animal Liberation Front. Of the 11 people who were charged, three are still at large, including one who is believed to be in the United States and two who are out of the country. One individual is in Canada, while the other is believed to be in the Middle East, a Justice Department official said.

Two defendants, Jonathan Christopher Mark Paul, 39, and Suzanne Nicole "India" Savoie, 28, were both ordered held without bail in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, pending further hearings. One of the other individuals whose indictment will be announced is accused of being involved in a plot to bring down power lines in a western state.

An FBI source told ABC News the investigation into the alleged eco-terror attacks was called Operation Backfire and focused on a series of arsons, including the 1998 Vail arson, which Earth Liberation has been suspected of carrying out.

The indictments will be unsealed later today at the U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore.

The FBI has called radical environmental groups the most serious domestic terrorism threat, and estimates the Earth Liberation Front's attacks alone are responsible for damages totaling more than $100 million since the mid-1990s. The fire at an expansion project at Vail caused $12 million in damages, and an August 2003 arson at a San Diego apartment construction project that Earth Liberation took responsibility for did $50 million worth of damage.

ABC News' Jason Ryan and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.