Oklahoma fails to halt rise of paramilitaries

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EDWARD HELMORE Los Angeles White extremist groups are operating in California for the first time and membership of paramilitary groups throughout the US has increased since the Oklahoma bombing, according to a new study. The report, published by The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, (ADL) found that paramilitary groups operated in at least 40 states and estimates that the groups have as many as 15,000 members.

"We were distressed to find that the movement continued to grow even after the devastation in Oklahoma," said the national director of the ADL, Abraham A Foxman. "Our impression is contrary to what would be the normal response to an act so terrible and horrific:that people would shy away."

D R Clark, director of the Militia of California, said that his group had grown "by leaps and bounds" in recent weeks. The ADL concluded that there were now 35 groups in the state.

The true size of the movement is still unclear: the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has unable to quantify it. At Senate hearings last week, Mark Koernke, who calls himself a militia strategist, asserted that there were as many as 4 million members in 2,070 groups.

The ADL study, Beyond the Bombing: The Militia Menace Grows, was compiled from anecdotal information and local police reports. Eight months ago the organisation concluded that groups operated in only 13 states and offered no figures for membership. The new report cited an apparent trend that "militia strategists" are counselling groups "to organise into small units designed to be less susceptible to detection,monitoring and infiltration by law enforcement." This apparently mirrors a policy known as "leaderless resistance".It is a tactic promoted by Louis Ray Beam, former Grand Dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan, and by the Ohio-based neo-Nazi group, Aryan Nation.

The ADL also found that because the extremist groups fear the federal government and believe in a shadowy UN conspiracy to take over the US, they have been stockpiling weapons.

The findings match a report by Klanwatch, an arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia, that identified 224 militias in 39 states. About 29 per cent of the groups have ties to white supremacist organisations,according to Klanwatch.

In California, some of the groups identify themselves as the equivilant of Neighbourhood Watch committees. The only states where the report found no paramilitary organisations were Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland,Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont.