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Published: Sunday, 3/28/2010

FBI makes arrests in Michigan, Ohio raids

BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

Authorities executed warrants over the weekend in Michigan’s Lenawee and Washtenaw counties for activity that could be connected to an extremist militia organization.

At least two people were arrested in Ohio and others are being pursued, officials said. It was not known what property, if any, was seized.

The FBI was withholding information pending court appearances, which could occur as early as Monday.

Sandra Berchtold, spokesman for the bureau’s Detroit office, said all of the warrants were sealed and she could not comment on them. She would confirm only that “there were law enforcement activities in the Lenawee/Washtenaw County area.”

A memo from Michigan State Police issued to law enforcement agencies in Michigan said numerous federal search and arrest warrants were being executed by the FBI, state police, and other agencies belonging to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The “major law enforcement action” was expected to continue through last night, the memo said.

Lee Miracle, coordinator of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said none of that group’s members was arrested.

“It had nothing to do with our group and nothing to do with the bulk of the militia groups here in the state,” he said.

On its Web site, lenaweemili tia.com, the organization posted a notice Sunday saying it had “not been raided by the FBI. We do nothing illegal.”

The posting included a link to a report in Ann Arbor’s online newspaper that said targets of the raids were members of Hutaree, a Christian-oriented militia group.

Mr. Miracle said the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia had no ties to Hutaree, although he still was eager to see what was behind the arrests.

“I hope when they unseal the records that this is a criminal case and not an attempt to squelch dis-sent,” he said. “My hope is they’re not just trying to shut people up.”

Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call from members of Hutaree who said their property was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide,” Mr. Lackomar said. “My team leader said, ‘No thanks.’”

According to Hutaree’s Web site, the organization believes that one day there will be an anti-Christ, and all Christians must train and prepare.

“Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment,” the group states on its Web site.

The group’s message boards contained messages expressing concern about the raids.

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he was told the Christian militia group may have been plotting against American Muslims.

“We salute the FBI for breaking up a militia that was seeking to harm American Muslims,” Mr. Walid said.

In Ohio, FBI agents from Cleveland arrested two individuals in Sandusky and Huron Saturday.

Scott Wilson, an FBI spokesman in Cleveland, said he could not comment on whether those two arrests were related to the ones in southeast Michigan, but said more information would be released when the warrants were unsealed in federal court.

“I won't be able to comment on the depth of this case until everything is unsealed, and it will be,” Mr. Wilson said.

One of the raids occurred at Bayshore Estates, a trailer park in Sandusky, park manager Terry Mills said. Authorities blocked off the street for about an hour Saturday night, he said.

“Needless to say, this has everyone talking,” said Mr. Mills, 62. “We have a lot of retirees here who don't want all this commotion.”


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