Animal rights activists sent bomb to charity

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The Independent Online

The government hardened its resolve to fight animal rights extremists yesterday after letter bomb attacks on a charity and an agricultural supply firm.

The government hardened its resolve to fight animal rights extremists yesterday after letter bomb attacks on a charity and an agricultural supply firm.

Army bomb disposal experts made the packages safe and no one was hurt, but police said the explosives sent to the agricultural supply shop on the outskirts of Sheffield and a charity organisation in Lytham St Anne's, Lancashire, could have been lethal. Detectives investigating the attacks believe they are the latest in a series of similar attacks since 15 December that have injured three people. Animal rights extremists are believed to be behind the bombs, although no group has claimed responsibility.

Mike O'Brien, a Home Office minister, condemned the "ugly" actions of animal rights extremists. The Government was determined to oppose the "aggressive terrorists" who harmed innocent people, he said. "We will not allow those who promote violence and intimidation to change our laws and procedures. Their actions have only hardened the resolve of this Government to resist the pressure from extremists."

But Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP who had requested the debate on protests outside the Huntingdon Life Sciences laboratory in Cambridgeshire, accused Labour of sending mixed signals. "What message is sent out when the Labour Party superannuation fund, at the fist sign of requests from extremists, sells its shares in Huntingdon Life Sciences - quoting ethical reasons for doing so?" he asked

In the latest attacks, a nail bomb was delivered to the agricultural company inside a padded envelope. The other incident also involved a letter bomb, though without nails, which was posted to an unnamed charity in the Lancashire resort.

Police believe the attacks are linked to seven previous incidents, which included an attack on a woman working at an estate agent that deals with livestock auctions in Patrington, East Yorkshire. She suffered serious eye injuries earlier this month when she opened a letter containing a nail bomb.

On the same day, a farmer in Ripon suffered facial injuries when he opened a small package containing a nail bomb. And, on 30 December, a letter bomb arrived at the home of the owner of a pest control business in Congleton, Cheshire. His daughter, six, opened the package and suffered leg wounds.

Deputy Chief Constable Peter Walker of North Yorkshire Police, who is overseeing the investigation, said yesterday: "Yet again we have indiscriminate attacks on law-abiding people going about their daily business. How volunteers working for a charity can be viewed as a legitimate target for a bombing campaign is beyond me."

Huntingdon's employees were systematically harassed by animal rights extremists, who abused, threatened and assaulted them over many months. Cars were set on fire and the homes of individual employees were picketed.

The crisis came to a head when the laboratory's financial backer, the Royal Bank of Scotland, was targeted. It withdraw its support from the institution, calling in a £22.6m loan. The Stephens Group, a US investment firm, saved the laboratory from bankruptcy. Animal rights groups have vowed to harass it and its employees.

Drug companies are legally obliged to tests medicines on animals before giving them to people. Huntingdon is where those tests are done.