Federal authorities Wednesday charged Eric Robert Rudolph, one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives, with the 1996 bombing at the Olympics and two other attacks in Atlanta.
Attorney General Janet Reno, accompanied at a news conference by FBI Director Louis Freeh, said the criminal complaint charging Rudolph with the Olympic blast and the 1997 bombings of a gay bar and an abortion clinic was being filed with a federal court.
"Eric Rudolph is on the run," Reno said. "We are going to keep searching until we find him and we're are not going to rest until we bring him to justice."
Freeh said Rudolph "now is charged with six bombings," including the three attacks in Atlanta and the Jan. 29 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic for which he was charged earlier. Freeh mentioned six bombs, because secondary bombs were placed at both the Atlanta clinic and at the bar.
Freeh said these two secondary bombs were designed to harm law enforcement agents and rescue workers. Some federal agents were injured in the second blast at the Atlanta clinic.
"The gravity of these offensives is reflected, first of all, in the indiscriminate nature of the attacks," he said. "The investigation has been one of the largest conducted by the federal government. We will pursue this case obviously as a matter of top law enforcement priority. These cases require a lot of work, a lot of dedication, a lot of patience."
Freeh said he had no evidence that any group or individual had helped Rudolph elude authorities for nine months, "with one possible exception" that he did not elaborate on. Federal officials said that was an elderly North Carolina man who said Rudolph took food and a truck from him last summer. These officials said this man is now a government witness and would not be charged with aiding Rudolph.
In connection with the news conference, federal authorities released a new picture of Rudolph -- one they said they believe represents how he looked at the time of the bombings in Centennial Park during the Olympic Games. It shows Rudolph wearing khaki shorts, a green T-shirt and dark socks and shoes.
| Eric Robert Rudolph is believed to be hiding out in the mountains of North Carolina. (AP) |
Both Reno and Freeh appealed to the public for assistance in apprehending Rudolph, who has been believed hiding out in North Carolina.
"We hope anyone who sees this man will contact us immediately," the attorney general told reporters, saying authorities had worked for more than two years to solve "these heinous crimes."
Rudolph was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List last May, and a $1 million reward was offered based on earlier charges that he bombed a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic Jan. 29. Rudolph was last seen Jan. 30 near his home in North Carolina, where his truck was abandoned.
The authorities also released a toll-free telephone number -- 1-888-AFT-BOMB -- for people to call in connection with the case.
Reno recalled the bombing that shattered the Olympic Games in the summer of 1996 "as thousands milled nearby." She said authorities were determined to press ahead against senseless violence.
For months, hundreds of FBI and state and local agents have futilely searched the rugged, mountainous wilderness of western North Carolina, where the 31-year-old carpenter and experienced woodsman grew up and is at home. Buried garbage from canned food he might have consumed has been found and he is thought to have taken food from one elderly resident this summer, but he has eluded capture.
In May, the FBI said he was wanted for questioning in the three Atlanta bombings. "Some similarities in the bombings ... indicate the possibility that the crimes are related," Freeh said at the time.
Since then, investigators have assembled "all kinds of pieces" linking Rudolph to the Atlanta blasts, one investigator said Tuesday. But the bare-bones complaint will not disclose the new evidence, this official said.
The most recent public link between Rudolph and the Atlanta attacks came last month, when it was learned a Tennessee gun dealer identified Rudolph as the man who bought a "special order" of 50 pounds of smokeless powder four years ago. The senior law enforcement official said that powder has been connected to the July 27, 1996, bombing at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, but added that this was just a small part of the case against Rudolph.
The Olympic bombing killed one person and wounded more than 100 others. An off-duty policeman working as a guard was killed and a nurse was injured in the Birmingham bombing.
In May, Freeh outlined "a significant linkage" between the Birmingham and Atlanta cases.
He noted that letters claiming responsibility and signed "Army of God" were sent after the Birmingham incidet and after a February 1997 bombing at a gay bar in Atlanta. The block-lettered Army of God letters fulminate against abortion and homosexuals.
Freeh also noted that abortion clinics were targeted in Atlanta in January 1997 and in Birmingham this year.
Freeh added that all the bombs "were powerful antipersonnel devices, containing nails, that were designed to kill and maim."
Secondary bombs at the Atlanta bar and clinic might have been designed to harm law enforcement and rescue workers, as might a last-minute telephone warning before the Olympic blast, some investigators say.
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