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Coping With the New Extremism

Oklahoma bombing exposes rise of anti-government groups

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IF nothing else, the Oklahoma City bomb tragedy has revealed to Americans that the terrorist threat from within is just as dangerous as the threat from without.

Extremist groups motivated by virulent opposition to abortion, gun control, or the federal government have been spreading throughout the United States in recent years, experts say. The most radical adherents of this far-right fringe have increasingly turned to violence as an outlet for their rage.

Most of the members of these self-described militia groups may not want to do more with a weekend than plunk a few cans with a rifle. But their message of blame and paranoia drives some over the edge. Violence occurs when a ''true believer, driven by the ideology, takes it to its logical conclusion,'' says Rafe Ezekiel, a University of Michigan professor.

The idea of home-grown terrorism may come as a surprise to many in the US. For years the face of terrorism has been a foreign one, the result of years of news from the Middle East and Europe about car bombs, kidnappings, and hijacked airliners.

The news that the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building is allegedly the work of a person or persons from the heartland of the country could well raise mixed emotions in the US.

On one hand, it points out that no nation is free of the twisted reasoning that causes some to resort to bombs or bullets for their political causes.

On the other, US citizens may judge a threat from a domestic source less frightening, due to the fact that it is something US law enforcement officials can more easily track and control.

And the FBI and local police will surely now redouble their efforts to investigate and infiltrate these groups, many of whom were not seen as national threats in the past.

''The heat will be on,'' says Robert Wood, a North Dakota State University professor who teaches a class on terrorism.


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