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Federal Authorities Begin Edging Closer to Texas Cult Compound

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Federal authorities on Friday said they have begun edging closer to the fortified compound of the Branch Davidian cult and clearing its surrounding grounds of debris that could hamper an assault.

“We are getting closer and closer to it,” FBI agent Richard Swensen said at a news conference. “Is there an offensive motive in moving these things out? There could be a day when that will happen.”

But Swensen pointed out that clearing the perimeter of the 77-acre compound of go-carts, motorcycles and other obstacles also will prevent cult members from hiding behind them at night.

In addition, “it increases the pressure on the folks inside to . . . come out by showing them there is a certain amount of control out here in our hands,” Swensen said. “I don’t think anybody’s in favor of this thing going on indefinitely.”

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The announcement came two days after a 24-year-old Houston man ran past hundreds of heavily armed federal agents and entered the compound.

Louis Anthony Alaniz, who was described as a “religious fanatic” by federal authorities, apparently wanted to join the besieged group of 95 men, women and children led by David Koresh, Swensen said.

Also at the news conference, David Troy, chief of intelligence for the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, defended his agency’s ill-fated Feb. 28 attempt to serve warrants on Koresh for weapons violations.

The raid touched off an intense firefight in which four federal agents and an undetermined number of cult members were killed.

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Some cult members who have been released in recent weeks have insisted that ATF agents fired the first rounds, and tactical experts have suggested that the raid was badly planned and risked the lives of children living inside the compound.

“The critics might say why didn’t we just send a registered letter . . . ‘Dear (David), you’ve been a bad boy, why don’t you come on out,’ ” Troy said. “That’s obviously a foolish way to approach it, about as foolish as the second-guessers and Monday morning quarterbacks I’ve heard who do not have access to the facts.”

Troy charged that the raid, which he said was meticulously planned months in advance, was compromised when someone tipped off the cult members that ATF agents were on their way.


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