US company Chiron has been hit by two explosions at its headquarters in Emeryville, California. An animal rights extremist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which caused some minor damage to property but did not cause any casualties. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has started a domestic terrorism probe into the case.
Chiron's employees have suffered a campaign of nuisance attacks in recent months from activists who are angry that the company has been doing business with UK-based clinical research organisation Huntingdon Life Sciences, under fire for alleged cruelty to animals at its research facilities. However, the bombings mark an alarming escalation in hostilities.
HLS continues to operate, despite years of disruption by animal rights organisations, but has struggled to survive as animal protesters have targeted the companies with which it does business. Earlier this year, Deloitte & Touche stepped down as HLS' auditors after a campaign of harassment by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a UK-based group.
SHAC has a US arm which has mounted its own protest campaign against Chiron and other companies involved in animal testing. However, SHAC USA has denied all involvement in the bombing incident.
In recent weeks, several Chiron employees have been targeted by the activists, according to SHAC USA's web site. The campaign has included e-mail 'bombing' of top executives and damage to employee cars, as well as one attack in which rotten fruit and vegetables were delivered to a Chiron worker's house and posted through the letterbox. The attacks came after SHAC USA named Chiron as its "customer of the week" for protest actions.
The group claiming responsibility, calling itself the Revolutionary Cells, issued a communique shortly after the blasts in which it described the bombs used in the attack. Two bombs exploded in the early hours of 28 August while a third, larger device was located and made safe in a controlled explosion.
"This action came about because Chiron has continued their murderous connection with Huntingdon Life Sciences," said Revolutionary Cells in its statement, in which it also warned of additional actions.
Chiron's 2,000 employees at the Emeryville site were told to stay at home on the day of the blasts.
Responding to the attacks, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, an organisation dedicated to promoting public understanding of the need to use animals in medicines research, said: "this despicable act further reinforces what the biomedical research community has known for some time: animal rights extremists will stop at nothing to achieve their radical goal of ending all life-saving medical and scientific research involving laboratory animals.
"On behalf of the research community we urge law enforcement and our political leadership to use all the means at their disposal to stop radical animal rights extremists before someone is killed."