NORTHWESTERN PA. Radical group says it set fire

The loosely organized group is suspected of other acts of arson.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A radical environmental group claimed responsibility for a fire that destroyed four vehicles at an auto dealership in northwestern Pennsylvania this week, continuing a string of fires in the region set in the name of the organization over the past year.
A posting on the Earth Liberation Front's Web site Friday morning said an "attack" was carried out on several vehicles at Bob Ferrando Ford Lincoln Mercury in Girard, Erie County, early Wednesday morning. Two pickup trucks, one sport utility vehicle and a car were destroyed.
Jugs of gasoline under three vehicles were set ablaze, FBI Special Agent Bob Rudge said. Three other vehicles that had jugs of gasoline under them failed to light, although a car parked nearby did burn, Rudge said.
"I have no reason to doubt that it's an individual who committed the acts on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front," said Rudge, who is based in Erie, about 10 miles from Girard.
SUVs targeted
The posting said that the attack targeted SUVs and that it was done as part of a fight "to remove the profit motive from the killing of the natural environment."
The ELF Web site told The Associated Press in an e-mail that the communiqu & eacute; came in anonymously, as do all reports of attacks. The site is operated by an organization calling itself the ELF Press Office, which says it does not represent the ELF and serves only as a media conduit for the group.
The ELF is loosely organized. Anyone who carries out an action under the group's guidelines and claims responsibility as part of the organization is considered a member.
Rudge said the posting appeared to be authentic because it included information that hadn't been made public.
The fire was the latest in a series of blazes set in the name of protecting the environment.
Last month, the ELF's Web site said anonymous cells from the group and from the Animal Liberation Front set a Nov. 26 fire at an Erie mink farm, claiming the facility was responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals. The fire destroyed a barn, but no animals or people were harmed.
The group also previously claimed responsibility for an Aug. 11 fire at an unoccupied forest research station near Warren and the torching in March of a construction crane at a bridge work site in Erie, Rudge said.
Reward offered
An investigation into the car dealership fire was continuing and a $10,000 reward is available for information leading to the arrest of the person or people who set the fire -- or was responsible for the other incidents, Rudge said.
The automobile dealership has 700 vehicles on the lot, and the fires were set about 50 yards from the main building, he said. The vehicles were insured, Ferrando said.

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