Saturday, May 31, 2003

America's Most Wanted is caught at last

The anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-semitic bomber holed in the North Carolina mountains is finally caught.

Rudolph's capture marks the conclusion of the story of domestic US terrorism that dominated the headlines long before Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda supplanted him and his kindred spirits in America's far right movement as public enemy Number One.

Rudolph is the only person to be charged in the 1996 bombing of the Atlanta Olympics in which two people died and dozens were wounded. The bombing, a severe embarrassment to the Games itself, came soon after the blast that levelled federal offices in Oklahoma City and triggered national fear of the rise of a well-organised neo-Nazi militia bent on overthrowing the government in Washington and answering to the fierce credo of armed self-sufficiency.

But police did not link Rudolph to that crime for two years - initially pointing the finger at the hapless security guard Richard Jewell - until the attacks were connected by forensic evidence to double bombings of an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub in Atlanta in 1997 and with an attack on an abortion clinic in Florida a year later that killed a security guard and severely wounded a nurse.

Rudolph's life as a fugitive at the head of the FBI's Most Wanted list began in July 1998 after his pick-up truck was spotted driving away from the Florida abortion clinic.

Sympathy for Rudolph in the area ran deep. The region, first settled by Scots-Irish immigrants, has never lost its anti-authoritarian character. At the tail end of the Smokey Mountains, it is still the home to moonshiners and inbred back woodsmen, and retains the character of a place out of time.

Local townspeople sold T-shirts saying 'Run Rudolph Run' and car-bumper stickers proclaiming 'World Hide and Seek Champion' while more committed sympathisers slipped pictures of dead foetuses on the cars of FBI and media joining the chase.

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