FBI offering reward for capture of arsonists behind 2003 San Diego fires

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The Federal Bureau of Investigations is offering up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for a series 2003 residential fires in San Diego.

The FBI said the blazes, deemed an act of domestic terrorism, destroyed a complex construction site in La Jolla on August 1, 2003, and two separate new home sites on September 19, 2003.

The Aug. 1 fire leveled a five-story residential complex under construction in the University City area of La Jolla. The fire at the planned La Jolla Crossroads Garden Community was so intense it forced evacuations of surrounding homes.

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A large white cloth reading, “If you build it—we will build it we will burn it the elf's are mad," was left behind near the heap of smoking ash and charred framework. The damage was estimated to total $50 million.

Sept. 2003's fires destroyed four homes and damaged two others on sites at Primrose Way and Rabbit Ridge Road. Similar handwritten banners were found at those sites, including one that read “Environmental murder. Nature demands justice. The E.L.F.s are mad.” The two fires totaled about $3 million in damages. 

No injuries were reported in either incident.

Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an environmental activist group and a self-described "international underground movement," claimed responsibility for the fires. The group has a history of advocating direct action through economic sabotage.

"The reward offer reaffirms the commitment of the FBI to bring those who participate in acts of eco-terrorism to justice," the FBI said in a release.

The FBI has claimed jurisdiction because "these crimes are considered to be acts of domestic terrorism," the federal agency said in a release.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the FBI at 800-225-5324 or online at tips.fbi.gov.

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