ONE of America's largest manhunts in years was under way in New England yesterday for a 22- year-old man accused of Friday's two murders at abortion clinics in a Boston suburb. President Clinton branded the murders acts of "domestic terrorism".
The suspect is named as John C Salvi III, a trainee hairdresser. "He should be considered armed and extremely dangerous," a police spokesman said. Salvi, depicted in television and newspaper photographs yesterday as smiling, with dark curly hair, is a well-known anti-abortion activist. His employer described him as a "very odd character", who had anti-abortion stickers, as well as a photograph of a foetus, plastered over his pick-up truck.
Mr Salvi was last seen on Friday afternoon at his home in Hampton, a small New Hampshire town near Brookline, where the killings took place. Apart from the two women shot dead by a man dressed in black and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, five others were wounded. "He just started shooting0 and shooting," said an eyewitness.
Some reports said Mr Salvi himself may have been hurt in an exchange of fire with a security guard during his alleged rampage, but 24 hours later he was still evading capture. In Washington, Mr Clinton has ordered Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate the incident, the latest in a string of attacks on abortion clinics in the past two years, in which five people have now been killed.
None, however, has generated the shock that has followed this latest outrage. One reason is where it took place - not in the conservative Bible-belt South, but in a suburb of affluent, liberal Boston where even the Catholic Church has been muted in its opposition to abortion.
On Friday night pro-choice activists held a silent vigil outside the two clinics. Abortion rights groups offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the murderer. Demanding greater protection for clinics across the country, Ms Anne Lewis of the Planned Parenthood Federation said the attack was part of a jihad - or holy war - against abortion.
Governor William Weld has ordered police to guard clinics in Massachusetts. But for the Planned Parenthood and Preterm Health Services clinics on Beacon Street, Brookline, such precautions are too late.
The crimes are eerie fulfilments of the prophesy of Paul Hill, the former church minister facing Florida's electric chair after being convicted of shooting dead an abortion doctor and his security escort in July 1994. "What I did was a relatively new concept," he said in a recent television interview. But someday "it will be commonplace and accepted as normal".
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