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AOL News: FBI Probes Racism Motive in Failed MLK Day Bombing


January 19, 2011- Authorities say a potentially lethal bomb hidden in a backpack planted along a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., could have inflicted "multiple casualties," and the FBI is investigating whether the motive was racism.

The bomb was defused at the scene before it could explode Monday, and no one was hurt. But it caused quite a stir about half an hour before the city's annual Unity March. The parade's 1,500 marchers had to be re-routed along a new path, and businesses in the area of the sidewalk bench where the backpack was found had to be evacuated.

Lindsey Reiswig was working at her bookstore when an officer in a bomb suit came in to alert them of the danger. Seeing his suit, "We decided that maybe we should back away from the windows," Reiswig told The Spokesman-Review newspaper. Streets were closed for another nine hours.

Witnesses told local TV station KREM that they spotted the black, Swiss Army-brand backpack half open, with wires sticking out of a plastic package. They alerted police, and the bomb squad moved in. They brought bomb-sniffer dogs and a robot designed to disarm explosives.

Investigators today are trying to determine who owns the backpack and what their motive could be. The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the owner, who may have been seen between 8 and 9:25 a.m. that day, KREM reported. The bureau is also asking anyone who took photos or video in the neighborhood that day to send them to authorities for review, in case the owner was inadvertently caught on film.

"We're certainly approaching it as a potential domestic terrorism event at this point," Frank Harrill, the FBI's supervisory senior resident agent in Spokane, told The New York Times. "Whether the motive was racial or an individual was being targeted, it's too soon to say."

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