February 10, 2006

FBI raids target Puerto Rican independence group

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - The FBI raided a business
and five homes in Puerto Rico on Friday to prevent what it
described as a potential terrorist attack by a militant Puerto
Rican independence group.

No arrests were made in the six raids across the island but
an FBI statement said its agents were seeking to prevent a
terrorist attack and gathering evidence in a continuing

FBI Special Agent Harry Rodriguez said the searches
targeted Puerto Rico's radical Boricua Popular Army, which is
known as the Macheteros, or machete-wielders, and has sought
independence for the U.S. Caribbean territory.

Ojeda Rios, the 72-year-old founder of the Macheteros, was
a fugitive when he was fatally wounded in a shootout with FBI
agents in the Hormigueros area of western Puerto Rico in
September. His group was blamed for a wave of bombings and
killings targeting civilians and military sites in the 1970s
and 1980s.

The FBI provided no details about any evidence seized in
Friday's raids on six locations in the municipalities of San
Juan, Trujillo Alto, San German, Mayaguez, Aguadilla and

An altercation between agents and members of the local
media broke out during one of the search operations after a
reporter started interviewing one of the residents affected.

Reporters complained of having had pepper gas thrown at
them but the FBI said that it simply used nonlethal force to
prevent reporters and passersby from straying into a potential
crime scene.

The FBI said agents were hit by unknown objects as they
departed and that some of their vehicles were damaged.

Puerto Rican officials have urged the U.S. Justice
Department to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ojeda
Rios' death and whether he may have survived if he had been
given speedy medical attention.

He was shot through the neck and shoulder with a single
bullet, the FBI said, and died on the 137th anniversary of a
revolt against Spanish military rule in Puerto Rico.