Fax sets off hunt for suspect

Terror in Oklahoma: Militia Warning
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The Independent Online

in Oklahoma City

US federal agents are investigating a well known right-wing militia leader, Mark Koernke, in connection with a mystery fax sent to a US congressman after last Wednesday's bombing of the federal government building in Oklahoma City.

Mr Koernke is a member of the armed anti-government Michigan Militia and a critic of the siege of the Branch Davidian sect at Waco, Texas, two years ago. The bombing investigation appears to be focusing increasingly on revenge for Waco, with an infant day-care centre in the federal building possibly deliberately targeted in retaliation for the deaths of children at the sect's base.

The Oklahoma bombing happened on the second anniversary of the fire that ended the siege and the only bombing suspect arrested so far, Timothy McVeigh, was reported yesterday to have vowed revenge for Waco.

The cryptic fax, which reads as a report from the bomb scene, arrived in the office of Republican senator Steve Stockman of Texas and was thought to have come from Mr Koernke in Michigan. It is believed to have been sent 55 minutes before the blast.

The fax read: "First update. Bldg 7 to 10 floors only. Military people on scene - BATF/FBI. Bomb threat received last week. Perpetrators unknown at this time. Oklahoma." The last word was alone and underlined.

The bombed federal administration building had nine floors. BATF is the abbreviation for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a federal body which, with the FBI, was blamed by many for Waco's bloody outcome.

FBI sources also said yesterday that Mr Koernke is believed to have known Mr McVeigh and at least one of two brothers, James and Terry Nichols, held in federal custody. Mr Koernke was said to have disappeared from his Michigan home, but was traced by newsmen. He denied any involvement in the Oklahoma bombing.

t Sacramento - One person was killed when a bomb exploded in the offices of the California Forestry Association, AP reports. An employee retrieved a package outside the association's Sacramento office, police said. Another employee tried to open the package and it exploded.