VanPac News History

Copyright 1990 Times Newspapers Limited  
The Sunday Times

January 7, 1990, Sunday

SECTION: Overseas news

LENGTH: 447 words

HEADLINE: Bombs fuel race hate

BYLINE: by Mark Hosenball, Atlanta


IT WAS an ordinary Christmas parcel, tied up with string and delivered in the Saturday afternoon post to the home of Robert Vance, an appeals court judge.

Vance, a political moderate who judged dog shows in his spare time, had every reason to believe it was an innocent holiday gift; it appeared to come from Judge Lewis Morgan, an elderly member of the same court, who once sent him a package of magazines about horse breeding.

But the parcel contained a metal pipe packed with explosives and wrapped in nails. It blew up as Vance began unwrapping it in the kitchen of his home in Birmingham, Alabama.

The murder was the opening round in a bombing campaign that is stirring the ghost of racial hatred in what is supposed to be the ''new'' American South.

Two days after Vance died, a package was delivered by post at the office of Robert Robinson, a black city councillor in Savannah, Georgia. Robinson died in hospital a few hours later. The authorities then discovered two identical bombs, unexploded, which had been delivered to a Florida office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and to the Atlanta courthouse where Vance worked.

The bombings are causing uproar across the heart of the old Confederacy. Maynard Jackson, mayor of Atlanta, pleaded for new laws to combat racial violence.

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the previously unheard-of ''Americans for a Competent Federal Judicial System''. In a letter to an Atlanta television station last week, the group issued a warning that two more black civil rights workers would be killed. The letter also said that one judge, one lawyer and one civil rights worker would be killed ''any time a black man rapes a white woman'' in the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

The letter, which the FBI is convinced was sent by the bombers, accused the Eleventh Circuit, a regional appeals court, of coddling black rapists.

Sources close to the Treasury Department, which specialises in investigating crimes involving explosives, say it suspects the bombings were the work of a splinter group of a neo-Nazi movement based in Idaho, in the northwest.

The FBI is doubtful about this connection, however. It has established that the typewriter used to address the bombs was also used to write an anonymous ''Declaration of War'' sent to newspapers last summer. It criticised the Eleventh Circuit court and threatened poison gas attacks on cities. But William Hinshaw, of the FBI's Atlanta office, said: ''We are looking at the possibility that this is a case of one person who's not affiliated with any group. We don't really understand how this person thinks.''