- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

Raids on four houses in two Alabama counties by federal, state and local law-enforcement authorities this week turned up truckloads of explosives and weapons — including caches of live hand grenades — in what authorities described as a militia operation.

Armed with search warrants, the federal agents and state and local police officers arrested six men in four separate early-morning raids in DeKalb and Jefferson counties on an organization known as “The Free Militia” — forcing the closure of at least one high school because of traffic and other concerns.

Federal authorities, including agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI, had to rent a U-Haul truck to haul away the explosives and weapons from a house in Trussville, Ala.

During the raids, federal, state and local authorities recovered 130 grenades, a grenade launcher, a machine gun, a short barreled shotgun, two silencers, numerous other firearms, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, explosives components, 70 improvised explosive devices (IED), and commercial fireworks.

More than 100 marijuana plants were also recovered. While executing the search warrants, officers encountered booby traps at one location, authorities said.

“Deadly explosives have been removed from these communities due to outstanding investigative efforts,” said U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin in Birmingham. “All evidence developed will be presented quickly to a federal grand jury, and we will also ask that those arrested be detained without bond.”

James Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the ATF field office in Birmingham, said the communities targeted in the raids “are a lot safer, considering the fact that large quantities of live grenades and other explosive materials have been safely removed.”

The six suspects were identified as Bonnell Hughes, 57, of Crossville, Ala.; James Ray McElroy, 20, of Collinsville, Ala.; Adam L. Cunningham, 41, of Collinsville, Ala.; Randall G. Cole, 22, of Gadsden, Ala.; Raymond Dillard, 46, of Collinsville, Ala.; and Michael Wayne Bobo, 30, of Trussville, Ala.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert R. Armstrong Jr. in Birmingham, Ala., ordered the men held without bond. The judge set a May 1 detention hearing.

DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said additional arrests are possible. He also said when federal, state and local law-enforcement officials approached the four locations, they thought militia members had high-powered rifles and other weapons.

“We shut down Collinsville School for the safety of the students and those who work there,” he said.

The investigation began seven weeks ago, according to authorities, and targeted a suspected militia that had not made any specific threats, but was said by investigators to have collected a significant arsenal — enough to equip a small army, one law-enforcement officer said.

About 150 law-enforcement officers from several states participated in the raids, including a dozen certified Alabama-based bomb squads.

Militias have been described as self-styled citizen groups formed to protect individual rights and prepare for what they think is a pending revolution against government tyranny. In the past, they have targeted federal law-enforcement agents, including the FBI and ATF.

Federal authorities said there has been little militia activity in recent years.

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