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Two teenagers arrested, charged

Fire bombings of temple at St Louis:
Two teenagers arrested, charged

By George Joseph in New York
March 25, 2003 11:25 IST
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Two teenagers were arrested and charged in the fire bombings of a temple at St Louis.

Paul Laird and Nathaniel Conner, both 17, who live near the temple, fled to Arkansas after the fire-bombings on February 22 and February 28.

The police arrested them in Independence county, Arkansas.

"In cooperation with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our detectives were able to conduct an extremely thorough investigation which developed two suspects that live in the vicinity of the temple," St Louis County police chief Ron Battelle said.

"These individuals are responsible for both attacks on the temple. After identifying the two individuals as suspects, we learned that both suspects had left the state."

"After entering the suspects as wanted, authorities with the Independence County, Arkansas sheriff's department located and detained them. With the assistance of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, we were able to interview the suspects in Arkansas," Battelle said.

The teens admitted to the police that they threw Molotov cocktails at the temple. The fires caused minor damage to the temple.

The first attack caused charring to both the exterior and interior of the door, but burned itself out prior to causing extensive damage.

On February 28, another device was thrown through a temple window, causing damage to the window, the window frame and carpeting inside. This attack triggered the temple's alarm system notifying authorities.

The teenagers were charged with two counts each of arson in the second degree and two counts each of criminal possession of a weapon. Bond is set at $75,000 each.

Why the teenagers attacked the temple is not yet clear.

"I wish to commend the police officers, detectives and agents from all the agencies who worked so diligently on this investigation. Their quick identification and arrest of the two suspects should bring a peace of mind to the citizen's of St. Louis county," Special Agent in Charge (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Thomas E Bush III said.

"We are pleased that arrests were made so quickly into this investigation. Any crime of this nature, where a location is singled out and repeatedly damaged with an incendiary device is taken very seriously," Assistant Special Agent in Charge (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) Jeff Fulton stated.

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George Joseph in New York