Nine members of a Christian militia group known as the Hutaree were arrested over the weekend in a series of FBI raids in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, on suspicion they were plotting to kill a police officer. Various reports say the plan was part of a larger violent strategy and that the Hutaree were "preparing for the Antichrist." Here, ten key questions about this shadowy Michigan-based group:
1. What is a Hutaree?
The group's website describes a Hutaree as a "Christian warrior." It goes on: "We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. All Christians must know this and prepare... The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield is so God wills it [sic]"
2. Why did the FBI initiate raids?
According to the indictment, the Hutaree are accused of devising a complicated plot to: 1) Kill a police officer in Michigan; 2) Exploit the subsequent funeral as an opportunity to attack other officers with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices); 3) Retreat to "rally points" after the proposed funeral attack, and then — protected by trip-wired bombs — engage law enforcement officials in "violent standoffs."
3.What did the group hope to achieve?
According to the Associated Press, the Hutaree believed this series of attacks would touch off a larger uprising against the U.S. Government. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Hutaree were "conspiring to levy war against the United States." It's not immediately clear how the "Antichrist" comes into the picture.
4. Is the group well-organized?
Very, according to its site, which outlines a clear hierarchy along paramilitary lines. The term "gunner" seems to designate the most humble member (watch a YouTube video showing members training with guns), while "radok" is the highest rank a Hutaree can achieve.
5. Who exactly is under suspicion?
The indictment names nine individuals: David Stone (45), also known as "Joe Stonewall" and "Captain Hutaree"; his wife, Tina Mae (44); his sons Josh (21) and David Jr (19); Joshua Clough (28), also known as "Azzurlin"; Michael Meeks (40); Thomas Piatek (46); Kristopher Sickles (27), also known as "Pale Horse"; and Jacob J. Ward (33).
6. Are they all in custody?
They are now. As of yesterday, Josh Stone — son of leader David Stone — was reportedly still at large, but has since been apprehended.
7. What exactly have they been charged with?
Seditious conspiracy, attempting use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.
8. Do militia groups like the Hutaree pose a threat to public safety?
A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says that the combination of a bad economy and a black president has generated a spike in militia activity. According to the SPLC, the number of active militia groups in America rose from 42 in 2008 to 127 in 2009.
9. What other factors may be driving the uptick in militia activity?
"Issues like eminent domain and immigration, and apparently national health care in some quarters," says David Cid, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent and executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, as quoted in the Associated Press.
10. Are any commentators attempting to link the Hutaree to the Tea Party?
Conservative bloggers are bracing themselves: "The timing of this raid is troubling," comments PipelineNews.org, "coming in the immediate wake of a sustained attempt by Democrat politicians to characterize opponents to the Obama agenda as violent, right-wing, Christian racists...."
SOURCES: CBS News, NY Times, SPLC, Hutaree.com
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