Terror's Venue


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Yet none of this manpower or technology prevented a man with a .45-cal. handgun from strolling into the opening ceremonies. And it proved useless in the face of what investigators describe as a relatively crude device--three 2-in.-by-10-in. bombs made of screws and nails packed into a pipe and taped together. The FBI immediately labeled the explosion a terrorist act. And the agency believes the perpetrators are homegrown--that it is, in FBI parlance, a "bubba job." Though the State Department immediately launched foreign inquiries, a senior official there declared that "there's no evidence of any foreign involvement."

By the end of Saturday, authorities were already expressing confidence that the criminals would be swiftly captured. In addition to amateur videotape of the area, surveillance cameras ringed the park, and officials are scrutinizing the images for clues. One federal bomb expert told TIME the device left good forensics: the atf and the FBI have picked up enough pieces of important bomb debris from the site to be able to reconstruct the bomb quickly and figure out its origin. The fragments have already been flown to Washington for analysis. Not only that, the expert says, witnesses have described seeing three or four white men carrying a knapsack similar to the one that held the bomb. All Olympic venues were swept Saturday morning in case a second bomb had been planted. None was found, although there was a scare at the Atlanta Underground shopping mall and the adjacent MARTA station.

Joe Roy, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Militia Task Force, says that pipe bombs are consistent with militia involvement and that the Olympics are despised in right-wing hate circles. "The movement perceives the Olympics as a showcase for the new world order," he explains. "It's all the nations of the world coming together in a spirit of peace and harmony." But the Center for Democratic Renewal, a group that monitors hate groups in Atlanta, says extremists had not seemed especially interested in the Olympic hoopla. Says research associate Noah Chandler: "I've seen very little on the Internet or on the hate lines linked to the Olympics." Authorities have logged a number of calls since the explosion and have ruled nothing out. As William Waugh Jr., a terrorism expert at Georgia State University, says, "Sometimes it's just a lone nut or even a kid."

Whoever it was, Day Eight of the Olympic Games proceeded, with a light rain falling on dampened but unintimidated spirits. "Being scared only lets them win," says volunteer Ellis, who planned to go back to work at the park. "It's regrettable," says Lee Tucker, who was at the Georgia World Congress Center to see table-tennis matches. "But that's the world we live in." John Stokes, an Atlanta sales representative, had debated whether to stay away from the Games but decided to attend, along with his wife and daughter. "I really wanted to come because I was mad, and I wasn't going to let somebody stop me," he says. "But my mood has changed. Even though I'm trying hard not to let it affect me, it's in my mind."

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