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If the receptionist at the Califor nia Forestry Association office in Sacramento hadn't had so much trouble opening the shoebox-size package that arrived in the mail last Monday, she would now be dead. She survives only because she carried the box in to her boss, the organization's president, Gilbert Murray, and left it with him. He started to unwrap it-and the package blew up in his hands. The blast, which killed Murray,47, instantly, was powerful enough to knock two doors off their hinges and blow gashes into the ceiling panels. And it was loud enough to be heard for blocks around, sending hundreds of workers into the streets in fear and bewilderment. Their panic was easy to understand: the Oklahoma City bombing had taken place just five days earlier.

But this was a different, more insidious brand of terror. While the bomb that destroyed the Murrah federal building was massive and crude, the device sent through the Sacramento mail was small and carefully put together-and designed to blow away a specific human target. It bore the telltale signs of a mysterious terrorist who has been eluding law-enforcement agencies for nearly two decades, in the longest-running unsolved serial-bombing case in fbi history. Soon a letter sent by the culprit to the New York Times confirmed what investigators feared: Murray was the latest victim of the shadowy figure the fbi calls Unabom, or the Unabomber.

Until last week, nobody had more than a vague idea of the motives behind the Unabomber's other 15 attacks, which have killed two and injured 22 over a span of 17 years. The targets have generally been scientists or others -- a computer-store owner, a United Airlines president -- who were somehow involved with technology; the first few bombings were directed at universities and airlines (thus the "un" and the "a" in the fbi's code name). That led investigators to suspect that their quarry, presumably a man, had some sort of antitechnology grudge.

The letter to the Times makes it clear that they were right-that the Unabomber, like the right-wing extremists believed to be responsible for the Oklahoma City blast, views terror as a way to fight what he sees as a pernicious trend in modern society. Just as the right-wingers fear intrusive government, the Unabomber evidently has a big problem with the Industrial Revolution and all that came out of it. "Through our bombings," says the letter, "we hope to promote social instability in industrial society, propagate anti-industrial ideas and give encouragement to those who hate the industrial system."

The "we" refers to "the terrorist group FC." While refusing to specify the size of the group "for security reasons," the writer describes its members as "anarchist" and "radical environmentalist." Investigators, however, believe FC is merely the invention of a lone fanatic.

Whether a loner or not, the Unabomber clearly craves attention and publicity. Complaining in his letter that "it's no fun having to spend all your evenings and weekends preparing dangerous mixtures" and "filing trigger mechanisms out of scraps of metal," the Unabomber offers "a bargain." The campaign of terror will end, he says, if the Times or another nationally prominent publication, such as Time or Newsweek, publishes a long tract explaining the group's ideas.

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