Details of the affair were still sketchy last night, but the arrest is understood to have been made during raids on homes near Macon, Georgia, 100 miles south of Atlanta, at which bomb equipment was seized.
According to first reports, the men were manufacturing about a dozen pipe bombs that they intended to plant at sites around Atlanta during the games, to be held between 19 July and 4 August. Warrants have been issued for other individuals.
It was not clear how sophisticated were the devices, and the name of the militia organisation has not been revealed. At a news conference President Clinton, who will open the Games, refused to comment. An official denied the episode was connected to the Olympics.
But the raid is another sign of how seriously the authorities here are treating security at the summer Games. Georgia and the Deep South are strongholds of the US extreme right, viscerally anti-government, heavily armed, and deeply imbued with white supremacism.
Terrorism has not seriously reared its head at the Olympics since 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were killed in Munich after being taken hostage by Arab guerrillas. But in the US its menace has advanced by leaps and bounds, culminating in last year's Oklahoma City bombing in which 169 people died.
Officials on the organising committee say these Games will be most tightly protected in history. They will also be the largest, with more than 10,000 athletes from a record 197 countries. It is the 100th anniversary of the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, and 1.4 million visitors are expected to pour into a city which portrays itself as the showpiece of a resurgent American South.Reuse content