Eco-arsonists suspected of campaign against Hummer dealers

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The Independent US

A reward of $100,000 (£63,000) is being offered for information leading to the capture of the eco-extremists who set fire to $3m worth of petrol-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs)in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles, destroying 20 Hummer H2s in the process.

A reward of $100,000 (£63,000) is being offered for information leading to the capture of the eco-extremists who set fire to $3m worth of petrol-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs)in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles, destroying 20 Hummer H2s in the process.

In the controversy over ever larger, ever more wasteful SUVs, General Motors' Hummer H2 is the exhibit of choice - a three-ton monster which does barely 10 miles to the gallon, derived from the US military's Humvees. To their fans, they are super-safe and a patriotic symbol; to their critics, they are pollution machines that make a mockery of energy conservation. And to a tiny fringe, they must be destroyed.

On 22 August, arsonists struck at a string of SUV dealerships in the San Gabriel Valley, destroying 20 H2s worth $50,000 each, at one dealership in West Corvina alone.

Several vehicles were spray-painted with graffiti slogans, including "Fat, Lazy Americans", and daubed with the letters ELF, which stands for Earth Liberation Front, a radical fringe ecological group founded in Britain a decade ago, which claimed responsibility for the attacks. Even for the most vocal SUV critics, such as Arianna Huffington, a columnist and candidate in the forthcoming California recall election, arson is a step too far. "What these people are doing isn't activism, it's vandalism," she said.

If anything, the attacks have created a backlash of sympathy for the vehicles. The $100,000 reward, offered by local interest groups, has boosted hopes within the FBI of catching those responsible. Ziad Alhassen, the owner of the West Corvina dealership, sold two Hummers within hours of the attacks, and Hummer owners staged a support rally at his showroom. "It's one thing to pass out leaflets saying the cars pollute, but another to start setting fire to them," said Steve Reisman, who founded a Hummer owners' group in the town last year.

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