- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Area postmasters are urging mail carriers to be alert for anything suspicious around roadside mailboxes to avoid exploding pipe bombs like those that injured four rural carriers and two Iowa and Illinois residents Friday.
Seven more battery-activated pipe bombs were found in Nebraska mailboxes on Saturday. They were removed by authorities and exploded safely.
Based on similar notes found with the bombs and materials used to build them, the FBI speculates that the bombs were planted by one person traveling through the Midwest.
Authorities do not see a connection between the Midwest bombs and a bomb set off in a mailbox in Charlottesville on Sunday. Jamison Harwood Hodges of Baltimore a University of Virginia engineering student was arrested and charged with manufacturing the bomb.
Nevertheless, rural carriers and residents served by the Poolesville office in Montgomery County have been asked to leave their mailbox lids open so carriers can see what is inside them.
"We're not suspending delivery," said Maureen Dolan, postmaster at Barnesville, but carriers are being told to carry out their duties with caution.
Both Virginia and Maryland have had trouble with mailbox bombers in recent years.
In April 1999, two mailboxes in Waldorf and three elsewhere in Charles County, Md., were bombed. In September 2000, six teen-agers were charged with blasting seven mailboxes in North Stafford, Va. Unlike the pipe bombs, those bombs were made of tightly sealed, plastic soda bottles filled with volatile liquids that built up enough gaseous fumes to explode.
"The whole thing is pretty scary," said Michelle Evans, a letter carrier who delivers mail to door-side boxes and mail slots in Gaithersburg.
She said she wasn't too worried because she has no deliveries to roadside boxes. But, she noted, she's still wearing the gloves she started wearing in the fall, after anthrax-laced mail turned up in the Washington region, New York, Connecticut and other states.
The FBI said all the Midwest bombs were made of the same materials in three-quarter-inch steel pipes attached to 9-volt batteries that ignited the explosives when touched or moved.
Typewritten notes in plastic bags were found with most of the Midwest bombs. The notes, in part, state: "If the government controls what you want to do, they control what you can do I'm obtaining your attention in the only way I can. More info is on its way. More 'attention getters' are on the way."
Letter carriers nervously resumed their rounds in the Midwest yesterday.
Jim Pelzer wore safety goggles and earplugs as he delivered mail in Tipton, Iowa, where one of the bombs exploded Friday. The protective gear was a gift from his wife.
"My feeling was when we had 9-11 and the anthrax scare, I was a little concerned about my job safety," Mr. Pelzer said. "But now I'm intimidated and scared."
The FBI said yesterday that the bombs and the accompanying notes were nearly identical and came from the same source. "There is no question that these were planted by the same person or persons," FBI Agent Larry Holmquist said.
Mail delivery was suspended Saturday in parts of Iowa and Illinois. It resumed yesterday with added precautions across the region.
At the request of the Postal Service, many homeowners with roadside delivery in Nebraska, Iowa, northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin left their mailbox doors open or removed them. Mail carriers were told that if a customer's mailbox was not open, they should bring the mail to the door.
Dan Mihalko of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Washington said there is no indication the Postal Service or its employees are the targets.
"This guy is talking about the government, but it [the note] never gets into specifics about the government," he said. He said the Postal Service could be "just a convenient place of dropping things off."
Staff writer Margie Hyslop contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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