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Thwarted mercenary missions may have been linked

Dominica, a tiny, underdeveloped Caribbean island-nation, appeals to some adventuresome world tourists. It also appeals to some mercenaries.

Eight American and two Canadian mercenaries were arrested this week as they were about to leave by boat from New Orleans for the 29- by 16-mile island.

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With no army (currently) or coast guard, the island would have been vulnerable to even a small group of armed invaders, says Gardel Feurtado, Dominica desk officer for the US State Department.

In Miami earlier this month, another American mercenary, Robert Lisenby of Troy, N.C., was arrested for illegal possession of a bomb and other weapons.

A federal official who asked not to be identified confirmed information the Monitor has obtained that Mr. Lisenby had in his possession a map with the consulate of the Dominican Republic marked on it.

Another mercenary, who says he was asked to assess the possibility of bombing the Dominican Republic consulate but refused to attempt the mission, told the Monitor the Dominica mission and the Dominican Republic consulate targeting are related.

Both operations, he said, were financed by -- or through --message to the two countries, according to this source. The message: Clamp down more on use of your island by Castro agents as places for funneling money or agents involved in subversive activities in Central America.

The State Department desk officers for Dominica and the Dominican Republic both said they had no information that either country was being used in this way by Castro agents.

There are pro-Castro political elements in the Dominican Republican, the desk officer for that nation said. And the island of Dominica, although small, is underdeveloped, and some activities could go on undetected, said the other officer.

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Federal Treasury and FBI agents say they do not know the motive of the Dominica-bound mercenaries or who was paying them. But the men were heavily armed and their mission was "not a lark," says Michael Hall, an agent with the Treasury's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) in New Orleans.

A spokesman for the Miami police says they have a pretty good idea of what the mercenary there was up to but will not release the information.

In late March, a dozen would-be mercenaries were arrested for trespassing in rural, central Florida during a training exercise.

A few weeks later, the co-leaders of that training group, Lisenby and Franklin Joseph Camper of suburban Birmingham, Ala., were apprehended by police in Miami. Lisenby was arrested on the bomb and weapons charges; Camper was released as being uninvolved in Lisenby's mission.

BATF agents who snagged the mercenaries in New Orleans by an undercover operation see no connection between the Miami and Dominica missions.

One of the mercenaries arrested in New Orleans is Stephen Don Black, head of a faction of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. The Alabama KKK last year conducted paramilitary training that some journalists observed.

Lisenby, arrested in Miami after helping direct mercenary training in Florida , has participated as a leader i n paramilitary training conducted by the Christian Patriots Defense League in Louisville, Ill.

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