PORTLAND, Ore. -- A shadowy group blamed for costly arson attacks across the country is stepping up efforts to punish companies and institutions it says are threatening the environment, federal authorities say.
This week, the Earth Liberation Front posted a manual on its Web site that tells would-be arsonists how to build simple incendiary devices. And on Friday, the group claimed responsibility for fires last month at the University of Washington and a tree farm in Oregon.
"I don't think there's any doubt the ELF is upping the ante," said Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Portland.
The ELF's declaration came the same day three logging trucks were torched in an Oregon forest. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Steele refrained from blaming the ELF and said usually their claims of responsibility for an arson attack are delayed.
The FBI considers the ELF to be one of the nation's most dangerous terrorist groups. No one has been hurt in the ELF's four-year spree of violence and the group has said its aim is to protect the environment, not harm anyone. But the FBI worries it's only a matter of time before a firefighter or someone else is harmed.
The ELF and a sister organization -- the Animal Liberation Front -- have claimed responsibility for more than two dozen acts of vandalism since 1997 -- arson at three luxury homes in Mount Sinai, N.Y., sabotaged logging equipment in Indiana and a 1998 fire that caused $12 million damage at the Vail, Colo., ski resort.
On Friday, the ELF claimed responsibility for two May 21 arson fires -- one at the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Ore., and the other at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle.
Both operations are developing hybrid poplar trees. The fire at the university caused as much as $3 million in structural damage; the Oregon fire caused at least $500,000 in damage.
Before dawn Friday, someone tried to torch six logging trucks at a company in Eagle Creek, 40 miles southeast of Portland. One truck was destroyed and two others were damaged. Plastic milk jugs were found beneath the trucks, apparently filled with a flammable liquid.
The trucks were going to be used for harvesting trees at a nearby site in the Mount Hood National Forest. For the past two years, environmental activists have been trying to block logging at the site.
The FBI suspects the reason for delays in the past is the ELF wants to make sure no one was hurt before asserting responsibility, Steele said.
"These are not stupid people," she said.
Little is known about the ELF.
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