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CBN reopens building and mail room

By MITCHELL MILLER

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Mail bombs sent to televangelist M.G. 'Pat' Robertson last week and to a religious broadcaster in Texas in January share some chacteristics but more tests are needed to determine if they were sent by the same source, a federal official says.

'There are up-front initial similarities that suggest that there's a link,' Jack Killorin, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington, said Monday.

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Killorin said the two bombs have some similar technological characteristics, but he declined to go into detail. He also cautioned that more tests are needed to determine if the bombs were from the same source.

A package addressed to Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and a 1988 presidential candidate, arrived at CBN headquarters in Virginia Beach last Friday. A security guard who opened the package, Scott Scheepers, sustained a leg wound from flying shrapnel.

As the investigation continued, CBN reopened its mail room Monday and the operations building where the bomb exploded. No security has been added because existing measures are adequate, said James Small, CBN's director of security.

'We've really tried hard to get our operations back to normal as quickly as possible,' Small said.

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U.S. Postal Inspection Service and ATF investigators said over the weekend the bomb sent to Robertson and one sent to the Rev. John Osteen at the Lakewood Church in Houston were mailed from Bladen County, N.C., with Fayetteville return addresses.

Small said the 6-inch-long package sent to Virginia Beach included some type of pipe that flung pieces of metal. Contents of the package, which was apparently sent from the Bladenboro Post Office in North Carolina, are being tested at a lab in Washington.

A package sent from another Bladen County, N.C. post office to Osteen also contained a pipe bomb, Killorin said. That bomb injured Osteen's daughter, who opened the package Jan. 30.

In a third incident involving a national religious figure, the Anderson, Ind., office of Christian singer Sandi Patti was burned by arsonists April 17. Killorin said he was not familiar with that case and could not comment on it.

A group called the Equal Religious Coalition claimed responsibility for the Indiana arson, saying the organization was upset with religious leaders who mass market their message.

Last Friday, Robertson suggested the latest bombing may be part of pattern of attacks against evangelical Christians.

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'This particular spate of mail bombings to known televangelists appears to us to be something brand new,' Killorin said.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which had offered a $50,000 reward for information in the Houston bombing, is now offering a $50,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Virginia Beach bombing.

'We are appealing for information,' said Lee Aske, postal inspector in Columbia, S.C. 'We need all of the help we can get.'

Scheepers, the wounded guard, was treated at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for shrapnel wounds to his left leg. He was released from the hospital Monday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

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