FBI puzzles over 'Gestapo' train wreckers

Beyond doubt, it was sabotage. But one question yesterday preoccupied the US authorities, from the FBI up to President Bill Clinton: just who are the "Sons of Gestapo", apparently responsible for Monday's fatal train derailment in the Arizona desert.

Speaking to business leaders at the White House, Mr Clinton declared his "profound outrage" at an "act of cowardice" which left one crew member of Amtrak's transcontinental Sunset Limited train dead and 80 people injured. But, his aides insisted, the President had not decided the attack was an act of terrorism. "That is a conclusion for law enforcement agencies to reach," said the White House spokesman, Mike McCurry.

As the FBI took over, two theories predominated. The most popular was that, as suggested by the references to Waco and Ruby Ridge in the two notes left near the wreck by the "Sons of Gestapo", the derailment followed the pattern of April's bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City - an act of revenge for the two attacks by government agents on isolationist movements.

The second theory owed less to the notes than to the nature of the sabotage, which showed at least a rudimentary knowledge of railways. Hence, this view goes, the culprit could have been a disgruntled former employee of Amtrak, the government-subsidised company operating the Sunset Limited and other long-distance passenger services.

Yesterday Klanwatch, an organisation that tracks hate groups, said it had no record of the "Sons of Gestapo". But, Klanwatch's director, Joe Roy, noted: "It's not unusual for a cell of a larger group to take an alias when it branches out. Or it could have been a solo individual with a grudge, trying to blame it on the militias."

The FBI is pursuing both possibilities, delving anew into the shady world of the citizens' militias - the bulk of them harmless, but a few composed of hard-core extremists bent on the destruction of the federal state.

On one point, however, he and specialists are agreed: Arizona, with its anarchic Wild West past, its proven connections with the militias and frequent appearances in the tale of Timothy McVeigh, who is the chief suspect in the Oklahoma City blast, is a natural breeding ground for such incidents.

Inevitably, new questions are being raised about Amtrak's safety - just as the railway is fighting to stave off further cuts in its funding by the Republican Congress.

Amtrak has suffered a number of accidents in the last few years, most lethally in 1993 when the Sunset Limited, this time heading east, plunged off a bridge into an Alabama lake, drowning 47 people.

Amtrak says that without resources for investment, its network will perforce grow more obsolete and less competitive. But Amtrak's chairman, Thomas Downs, insisted yesterday that the system was "100 per cent safe", and denied that the perpetrator was an embittered ex-employee.

"About 300,000 people" in the US knew enough about railways to have removed spikes fastening the rails to the sleepers, unbolted a plate between two sections of rail and then rewired the signal which would have warned of a gap in the track.

America's very size means that rail tracks can never be fully protected. The Sunset Limited's route covers 3,066 miles, the western third of them mostly empty desert. And one person could have sabotaged the track in 10 minutes, a railroad official said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas