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http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/26/weapons.raids.ap/COLLINSVILLE, Alabama (AP) -- Federal and state agents arrested six men and seized an arsenal of homemade hand grenades and firearms in raids Thursday, including one that forced the shutdown of a school.
The men, members of the self-styled "Alabama Free Militia," had no apparent plans to use the weapons, but the leader was described as a federal fugitive, federal authorities said.
"They just have a beef with the government, and they stockpile munitions," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said at a news conference in Fort Payne.
Agents recovered 130 hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, explosives components, stolen fireworks and other items, said Jim Cavanaugh, regional head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Charged in federal court with conspiracy to make a firearm were Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46; believed to be the group's leader; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41; Bonnell Hughes, 57; Randall Garrett Cole, 22; and James Ray McElroy, 20. Michael Wayne Bobo, 30, was charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm.
The six gave no statements as a magistrate read the charges. Five were to be given court-appointed lawyers, while Bobo was to retain his own attorney. Lawyers for the men did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
During the raids, at least five bomb teams were on hand in case explosives were found.
One of the raids in Collinsville, in northeast Alabama, was at a camper and another at a house about a quarter-mile from Collinsville School. School officials said they decided to cancel classes for about 650 students from kindergarten through 12th grade because of the swarm of police vehicles.
"We were going to delay school but because of the possibility of explosives at the residences, we felt it was safer not to have school," DeKalb Sheriff Jimmy Harris said.
Neighbors and friends of Dillard, whom they knew by a different name, said he had been living in a camper on farm property for about two years. The camper was painted with green camouflage design strewn with military items, including canteens, first aid kits, canvas or nylon sacks and military garb.
Federal authorities said he was a federal fugitive wanted in an ATF case out of Mobile from the mid-1990s.
Joanne Gunnin, who owns the property, said that Dillard was known for trying to recruit neighbors to join his militia, and that he expressed hatred for the government and illegal immigrants.
"He told a 16-year-old boy that he had to make up his mind which side he was going to be on, Americans or Mexicans," Gunnin said.