on ‘eco-anarchist’ terrorists


This seems like it belongs in a Neal Stephenson book and not on Nature’s website, but here we are. Apparently there’s this thing called eco-anarchism or green anarchism and apparently groups of people identifying with the movement have been taking claim for attacks against scientists.

A group calling itself the Olga Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation International Revolutionary Front has claimed responsibility for the non-fatal shooting of a nuclear-engineering executive on 7 May in Genoa, Italy. The same group sent a letter bomb to a Swiss pro-nuclear lobby group in 2011; attempted to bomb IBM’s nanotechnology laboratory in Switzerland in 2010; and has ties with a group responsible for at least four bomb attacks on nanotechnology facilities in Mexico. Security authorities say that such eco-anarchist groups are forging stronger links.

Last year after an attack by a similar group in Mexico, the brother of one of the physicists that was attacked wrote a column in nature describing his reaction.

My elder brother, Armando Herrera Corral, was this month sent a tube of dynamite by terrorists who oppose his scientific research. The home-made bomb, which was in a shoe-box-sized package labelled as an award for his personal attention, exploded when he pulled at the adhesive tape wrapped around it. My brother, director of the technology park at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, was standing at the time, and suffered burns to his legs and a perforated eardrum. More severely injured by the blast was his friend and colleague Alejandro Aceves López, whom my brother had gone to see in his office to share a cup of coffee and open the award. Aceves López was sitting down when my brother opened the package; he took the brunt of the explosion in his chest, and shrapnel pierced one of his lungs.

Both scientists are now recovering from their injuries, but they were extremely fortunate to survive. The bomb failed to go off properly, and only a fraction of the 20-centimetre-long cylinder of dynamite ignited. The police estimate that the package contained enough explosive to take down part of the building, had it worked as intended.

The rhetoric of the organizations is almost stranger than fiction, but I guess I can see people, especially impressionable young people could buy into it. It’s certainly not any more strange than other organizations that attract people on college campuses.

An extremist anarchist group known as Individuals Tending to Savagery (ITS) has claimed responsibility for the attack on my brother. This is confirmed by a partially burned note found by the authorities at the bomb site, signed by the ITS and with a message along the lines of: “If this does not get to the newspapers we will produce more explosions. Wounding or killing teachers and students does not matter to us.”

In statements posted on the Internet, the ITS expresses particular hostility towards nano­technology and computer scientists. It claims that nanotechnology will lead to the downfall of mankind, and predicts that the world will become dominated by self-aware artificial-intelligence technology. Scientists who work to advance such technology, it says, are seeking to advance control over people by ‘the system’. The group praises Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, whose anti-technology crusade in the United States in 1978–95 killed three people and injured many others.

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