The first blast, at a five-storey block, came at around 9.30am local time. An hour later another device exploded in a dustbin outside the building, lightly wounding an agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), who had been sent to investigate the first explosion. It was "a miracle" no one was badly injured or killed, one eye-witness said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility and no threats had been received by the clinic, the Northside Family Planning Services, although it was reportedly the target of a similar bombing in 1984.
As the Atlanta Mayor, Bill Campbell, immediately ordered extra police protection for all such clinics, workers were evacuated from the nearby Piedmont Clinic after a telephoned bomb warning. "The second explosion was clearly designed to maim and hurt those who were coming to assist," Mr Campbell said. "So we're dealing with a warped mind here." President Clinton condemned the explosions as a "vile and malevolent act."
The Atlanta incident is the latest in 15 years of anti-abortion violence in the US, during which dozens of abortion clinics have been blockaded, bombed, or set on fire in 28 states. Five medical workers have been murdered in three separate attacks.
In July 1994, the former church minister Paul Hill shot dead a doctor and his assistant at a Pensacola clinic and is at present on death row in Florida. Five months later, John Salvi, a part-time hairdresser, shot and killed two clinic receptionists in Massachusetts. He later committed suicide in prison.
Thereafter, the violence seemed to subside. But the issue of abortion continues to make political waves, most recently with the controversy over President Bill Clinton's veto of a bill that would have outlawed late-term or "partial birth" abortions, even though the procedure is normally used only in extreme medical emergencies.
The attack comes less than a week before a scheduled big anti-abortion rally in Washington, to mark the 24th anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling, enshrining a woman's right to have an termination. That right has been upheld in subsequent High Court judgments, despite every effort of the anti-abortion lobby to overturn it.Reuse content