The U.S. government announced Friday that 11 people have been indicted for carrying out acts of environmental terrorism over a five-year period beginning in 1996 in the northwestern United States.
The criminal indictments were announced at a Justice Department news conference in Washington based on a grand jury investigation in the western state of Oregon.
In all, 11 people associated with extremist environmental groups face a total of 65 criminal counts that include arson, conspiracy and possession of a destructive device.
"The indictment tells a story of four-and-one-half years of arson, vandalism, violence and destruction claimed to have been executed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front, extremist movements known to support acts of domestic terrorism," said U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales.
The government says the 11 accused are responsible for 17 incidents in five states over a period of time between 1996 and 2001. The incidents took place in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
The criminal acts range from a sabotage attack on a high-tension power line in Oregon in 1996 to arson attacks on animal holding facilities, ranger stations and lumber companies.
The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, says those accused in the case crossed the line from activists to terrorists.
"It is one thing to write concerned letters or hold peaceful demonstrations," said Mr. Mueller. "It is another thing entirely to construct and use improvised explosives or incendiary devices to harass and intimidate victims by destroying property and to cause millions of dollars in losses by acts or threats of violence."
Eight of the 11 people indicted have been arrested. The eight in custody are expected to enter pleas at a later court appearance. The other three remain at large and are believed to be out of the country.