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'Bomb' was fake - but who planted it?

Daily Astorian | September 14, 2007

The Astoria Police Department is asking for public help: Did anyone see anything suspicious Friday night or Saturday morning?

The action follows the discovery of a "bomb-like device" that caused a scare Saturday and led to the Regatta Grand Land Parade being diverted.

Eventually, the item was destroyed as a precaution by a state bomb expert.

A similar device was found in Portland two months ago, and the FBI is investigating whether there is any connection.

The object was discovered shortly after 8 a.m. in the doorway of 818 Commercial St., the Spexarth office building, which houses the U.S. Army Career Center and several other businesses.

Army personnel arriving for work discovered the suspicious device and notified the Astoria police, whose officers then called in the Oregon State Police and FBI.

Astoria police cordoned off a two-block perimeter around the building and the Astoria Fire Department brought in its Hazmat trailer, which was stationed near the courthouse and used as a command center.

Sgt. Steve Sigurdson, an Oregon State Police bomb technician from Salem, flew into the Astoria Regional Airport at Warrenton to help with the case.

Shortly after the Grand Land Parade began at noon, Sigurdson donned protective gear, analyzed the device and found it free of any explosives. The device was then destroyed as a precaution, shattering a glass pane next to the doors leading into the building.

"It was not a real bomb, but it was made to look like one," said Astoria Assistant Police Chief Alan Oja, who was incident commander at the site.

Sigurdson said, "It had the appearance of an improvised explosive device. It was unfortunate that the Regatta Parade had to be rerouted, but it was such a device that because of safety concerns, it was necessary. ... It was

a realistic-appearing hoax device and was appropriately handled, and there is an ongoing investigation with the FBI, the Astoria Police Department and the state police."

Army Maj. Bob Gambrell, who oversees the Astoria Career Center and six other recruiting offices in Oregon, arrived from Portland.

He said that a fake bomb "very similar in nature" was found roughly two months ago at the Portland Army recruiting office.

Astoria Police Officer Matt Clausen said the device found in Astoria had German writing on it that translated to "no war."

"It looked kind of like a radio receiver, but fatter and with something wrapped around it," said Clausen.

The fake bomb found at the Portland office contained the German words Weiße Rose, which translates as "white rose."

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Web site, White Rose was the name of a German students' group formed at the University of Munich in 1942 to protest the Nazi regime. Some leaders of the group were tried and executed in 1943. The name has also been associated with modern anti-neo-Nazi groups in Germany.

FBI Special Agent Michael Sweeney said Sunday that "there is another incident being investigated in Portland by the FBI Domestic Terrorism Squad." He couldn't comment on specifics or similarities between the Astoria and Portland hoaxes.

Anyone with information about the hoax, or suspicious activity in the area late Friday night or early Saturday morning, should contact Astoria Police Officer Chris Mc-Neary at 338-6411.

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