An extremist animal-rights group has claimed responsiblity for mailing letters booby-trapped with razor blades to more than 80 United States scientists. It has threatened that the violence will escalate unless they stop using primates in their research.
No injuries were reported, and most of the letters were intercepted after warnings were issued by scientific organisations and law enforcement agencies.
It was the first concerted action in the US by activists calling themselves the Justice Department. The group originated in Britain and has previously targeted Europeans and Canadians.
The letters mailed to scientists were sent from Las Vegas, Nevada. They were received
at universities across the country. Many of the recipients had posted information about their work
on websites meant to be read
by counterparts at other institutions.
Inside the envelopes was the message: "You have been targeted and you have until autumn of 2000 to release all your primate captives and get out of the vivisection industry. If you do not heed our warning, your violence will be turned back upon you."
In a statement issued separately, the group said: "The time has come for abusers to have but a taste of the fear and anguish their victims suffer."
Americans for Medical Progress, which tracks threats of violence against researchers, partly with financial help from the pharmaceuticals industry, decried the incidents.
But Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said: "After 100 years of writing polite letters and demonstrating peacefully and despite all we have learned about our fellow primates, monkeys used in experiments are still denied all recognition."