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'Army of God' apparent focus of bombing probe


Crime tape removed near nightclub

February 25, 1997
Web posted at: 9:36 p.m. EST

From Reporter Russ Jamieson

In this story:

ATLANTA (CNN) -- In the wake of Friday's bombing of an Atlanta nightclub, federal investigators reportedly are focusing on the Army of God, a right-wing group that condemns homosexuality, abortion and adultery.

It is one of two groups that has claimed responsibility for the attack that injured five people at The Otherside Lounge, which caters to a largely gay and lesbian clientele.

On Tuesday, federal agents began removing yellow crime tape and reopening streets surrounding the club.

The Army of God also has taken credit for two blasts in January at an Atlanta-area clinic that performs abortions. It outlined its alleged role in a letter sent to the Reuters news agency and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A message left Saturday on voice mail at the Phoenix-based Gay Community Yellow Pages described the other group claiming responsibility for the nightclub bombing as the "Sons of Confederate Klan, S.O.C.K., a new neo-Nazi KKK (Ku Klux Klan) organization from Los Angeles."

Agents are examining the letter and the telephone message. FBI spokesman Jay Spadafore would not comment on the letter's authenticity.


Don Benny Anderson is likely the leader of the Army of God. The group first gained national attention when three members kidnapped an Illinois abortion provider and his wife in 1982.

Anderson was found guilty of setting fire to two Florida clinics in 1983. In February 1984, while Anderson was in jail, a Norfolk, Virginia, clinic was firebombed, and the letters A-O-G scrawled on the wall.

About a week later, the Prince George's Reproductive Health Services clinic was firebombed, and the Army of God claimed responsibility.


A 'modern kind of hate group'

The Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal, which tracks hate-crime groups, says the Army of God is angry, active and changing.

"It has metamorphosized into a more modern kind of hate group that includes anti-government rhetoric, anti gays and lesbians -- and we don't know who might be next," said Mary Ann Mauny, the center's research director.

The manifesto of the Army of God includes step-by-step directions for bomb-making and eluding alarm systems.

"That is why the feds will never stop this army, never," Mauny read from their manifesto. "And we have not yet begun to fight."

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said she was not surprised there was an attack on a gay and lesbian bar, because "the anti-gay rhetoric is constant."

She also said the Army of God's claim of responsibility for the Atlanta clinic bombing confirms some of her suspicions.

"For some time, we have thought a group of people have been acting in concert to terrorize abortion clinics. These extremists are not single-issue, and they believe in justifiable homicide."

ATF agents

On-site probe winding down

Meanwhile, the on-site investigation into the nightclub bombing has begun winding down.

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms response team removed crime tape Tuesday that blocked off streets near the club, and laboratory experts were examining bomb debris.

Law enforcement sources told CNN that investigators were "making progress" in trying to determine where the bomb materials were obtained, and were optimistic about efforts to track the materials.

Investigators also began releasing cars that were parked at the club at the time of the blasts. One woman who was picking up her car Tuesday was at the club when the first bomb exploded.

"In a way, I feel lucky, and in another way I feel very scared and vulnerable and violated," she said.


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