- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Prince William County police charged four high school students yesterday with planting at least seven homemade bottle bombs found outside three elementary schools and in several neighborhoods in the Montclair area during the weekend.
Three 17-year-old boys and a 15-year-old girl, all of whom live in the Montclair area, were charged with manufacturing, possessing and using explosive devices. The teenagers are students at Forest Park Senior High School. Their names were not released because they are juveniles.
Investigators say the bombs were made of chemicals that react to each other. They explode after pressure builds inside the plastic soda bottles, causing chemical burns and injuries from flying debris.
Police said three bombs were planted outside Montclair, John F. Pattie and Alexander Henderson elementary schools in the Dumfries area. Four other bombs were found in parking lots and at an intersection in Montclair late Friday and early Saturday.
Some of the bombs exploded, but no one was hurt. The schools were on spring break last week, and no children found the bombs.
Directions for making the bombs are easy to find, and they are sometimes used as tools for pranksters, said Hadden Culp, Prince William County Fire Department battalion chief.
"We're certainly not treating this" as a prank, he said. "These are malicious, and they've been placed in our community and in our schools."
Before school yesterday morning, county police, fire marshals and school security searched school grounds and other areas to make sure there were no other explosives. County police officers were at the schools in the morning when parents and students arrived.
Students at the three schools also took home letters from their principals warning against picking up questionable objects and telling parents to be aware of the matter.
Chief Culp said officials don't know what chemicals were in the bottles. The contents were sent to a laboratory in Virginia for testing. "They're not real sophisticated devices," Chief Culp said. "Unfortunately, they're not too difficult to make, but they're very unstable."
Police found six of the bombs after residents reported hearing explosions about 9:30 p.m. Friday. A family reported a seventh bomb yesterday after seeing news reports and realizing that they had thrown out a similar device, Mr. Culp said.



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