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FBI Probes Abortion Clinic Bomb

Authorities are not ruling out a connection between Saturday's bombing at an abortion clinic in Asheville, N.C., and bombing suspect Eric Rudolph, but they also say there is no evidence at this time that Rudolph is responsible, reports CBS News affiliate WGNX-TV in Atlanta.

At a news conference Monday morning, U.S. Attorney Mark Calloway along with officials from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), FBI, and Asheville police, refused to comment specifically on the type of bomb or any similarities to past bombings linked to Rudolph.

Still on the run, Rudolph is charged in the Jan. 29, 1988, bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic that killed an off-duty police officer and severely wounded a nurse. He has also been charged in three Atlanta attacks, including the Olympic Park bombing in 1996 that killed one person.

"We have no evidence, at this time, that this bomb is the work of Eric Rudolph," Calloway said. "It is too early, of course, to draw any conclusions. We are committed to following every lead to its logical end and go to wherever the evidence takes us."

The bomb, which partially detonated outside the Femcare clinic, caused very little damage and no injuries. Richard Fox of the ATF did say that the bomb was clearly intended to go off and was intended to kill, maim or hurt people.

"It would have devastated the entire end of the building and gone into the building approximately 40 to 60 feet," Fox said. "...It was a considerably powerful bomb."

Former FBI Assistant Director and current CBS News Consultant James Kallstrom says officials are fortunate to have a remnant of the bomb as a clue.

"They can look at the device, what it was made of, how it was put together," Kallstrom says. "Is it similar to other devices they've seen in the past? There could be evidence on the bomb, fingerprints, DNA. So that's a good bit of luck."

Although investigators say the bomb does not yet resemble devices Rudolph is charged with using, Kallstrom suggests that a terrorist could create different kinds of devices.

"Someone that is in this business of death and terrorism could certainly build another kind of device to put law enforcement off the trail," Kallstrom says.

Calloway and Fox urged people with any information about the clinic to contact authorities. They wouldn't say if they have witnesses to the explosion or anyone who saw a suspicious vehicle outside the clinic. The FBI said there no threat or notification that the bomb would go off prior to its detonation, as there is in some terrorist cases.

The clinic is about a two-hour drive east of the mountainous area where Rudolph is believed to be hiding in the rugged Southern Appalachians.

Calloway said authorities would follow "every lead to a logical end and go wherever the evidence takes us."

"Federal law provides stiff prison sentences for acts of violence such athis. The person or persons responsible for this despicable act faces at least thirty years in prison," he added.

The Femcare clinic has been the site of several protests in the past, and according to the FBI, the clinic received a package last month said to contain anthrax. It later turned out to be a hoax.

Two anti-abortion protesters holding signs picturing fetuses stood outside the federal building after the morning news conference. They passed out literature publicizing an April 3 protest at the clinic. Femcare has been a regular locale for protests, but they have been regarded as peaceful.

"It's amazing how somebody could be trying to point their finger at us for this incident," said Meredith Eugene Hunt, one of the protesters and a local anti-abortion movement leader.

In January, the Clinton administration said it planned to seek $4.5 million for alarm systems and closed-circuit camera systems to protect abortion clinics.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report