The Dallas Morning News
Experts assess significance of tanks' arrival They believe sect may have anti-tank weapons, armor-piercing bullets
The arrival of M-1A1 tanks outside the Branch Davidian compound suggests that the sect may be armed with shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons or perhaps a .50-caliber machine gun with armor-piercing bullets, experts say.
Such weapons could damage or even destroy the armored personnel carriers that arrived early last week to support the federal agents who surround the compound near Waco.
Federal agents said Monday that sect leader David Koresh claimed he could blow the armored vehicles, known as Bradley fighting vehicles, "40 or 50 feet into the air' with explosives. The Bradleys apparently were withdrawn Monday morning as the Abrams tanks arrived.
One possible explanation for the change in armor is that federal agents "have intelligence that the equipment the Davidians have is a little heavier than we've known about and includes weapons such as armor-piercing .50-caliber rounds, or rocket-propelled grenades, or shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons that the Bradley would be vulnerable to,' said Dr. Ron Hatchett, a military analyst with Texas A&M University's Mosher Institute for Defense Studies.
"And they don't want another embarassment,' he added. "You can imagine the embarassment . . . if they went forward with a couple of Bradleys and they were knocked out by the Davidians.'
While not common, anti-tank weapons are available on the black market. Law enforcment officials say that some have been smuggled off military bases or stolen from National Guard armories. Experts do not rule out the possibility that some foreign weapons may have entered the United States with U.S. troops returning from the Persian Gulf war.
"If you have the money, you can buy a lot of things,' Dr. Hatchett said.
The Soviet-designed RPG-7G, for example, is a rocket-propelled grenade launcher designed to penetrate more than 300 millimeters of conventional armor. The U.S.-made M-72 light anti-tank weapon (LAW), also was designed to penetrate more than 300 millimeters of conventional armor. Both are shoulder-fired.
"There are LAWs floating around,' said Dr. Austin Bay, a military analyst and co-author of A Quick & Dirty Guide to War.
Dr. Bay, who has served as a tank officer in the U.S. Army, said that Soviet-designed RPGs might "bounce off a Bradley's frontal armor' but could damage it elsewhere.
Even a .50-caliber machine gun with armor-piercing rounds, he said, "might punch through it if you sit there and spray it.'
A Molotov cocktail -- basically a bottle filled with gasoline -- might disable a Bradley, Dr. Bay said. But this is unlikely, he said, if the vehicles are used with the appropriate covering fire.
Dr. Hatchett said the Abrams tank is better able to withstand such weapons.
"They're not going to do much of anything to the M1 under any kinds of circumstances,' Dr. Bay said.
The M-1A1 Abrams is protected by a top-secret armor. At 67 tons, it is more than double the weight of a Bradley, which is designed to carry infantry and relies on aluminum and steel armor to protect the troops from small-arms fire and shrapnel.
If federal agents decide to "mount an assault and want to collapse portions of the building, then the M-1 would be better for that,' Dr. Hatchett said.
The Dallas Morning News
Koresh trying to provoke `war,' federal officials say Agencies think sect has light anti-tank weapons
WACO -- Cult leader David Koresh is trying to provoke an all-out war to fulfill his apocalyptic prophecies, federal officials said Monday, so they began bringing in Abrams tanks to protect agents surrounding the be-sieged compound.
"He has indicated he has been prepared for this confrontation since 1985, that he has stockpiled extensive arms and ammunition,' said Bob Ricks, special agent in charge of the FBI's Oklahoma City office. "He has indicated he would be most pleased if we would engage in a gun-battle with him.'
Intelligence gathered by federal investigators suggests that Mr. Koresh's Branch Davidian sect may have stockpiles of light anti-tank weapons. The cult leader has bragged that he has fire-power capable of blowing Bradley armored personnel carriers "40 to 50 feet in the air,' federal officials said.
Mr. Koresh has repeatedly tried to goad negotiators with statements such as "We are ready for war' and "Let's get it on,' Agent Ricks said.
The revelations about Mr. Koresh's apparent belligerence came after federal agents launched a suprise Monday morning raid on a Davidian-controlled business.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms search of a rented garage about four miles from the compound yielded only six shotgun shells, federal officials said.
A federal source who declined to be identified said the building rented by Davidian follower Paul J. Fatta appeared to have been "cleaned out.'
Authorities said no charges have been filed against Mr. Fatta.
Federal investigators say they have evidence that the business, the Mag Bag, received large shipments of chemicals, ammunition, firearms components and guns in the months before ATF agents tried to raid the cult's heavily fortified compound east of Waco on Feb. 28.
"We were not suprised that there was not much (found inside the building). It seemed to function as a mail drop,' said the federal source. "They were getting in powders to make explosives, propellant powders such as gunpowders, grenade hulls, handguns, AK-47s, AR-15s, and there were also shipments of firearms parts.
"Some of their single (arms) purchases were in the realm of $10,000 or $12,000.'
Federal officials say they believe that many -- if not most -- of the compound's arms were legally purchased from sources in Texas, Florida and Washington state. But they suspect many of the weapons were illegally modified by the cult.
The federal source said investigators believe the cult was trying to set up a manufacturing facility inside its compound capable of building submachine guns. One cult member is a machinist with expertise and heavy tools that could be used in turning out large quantities of weapons, the source said.
"We had information that they were capable of doing machining on the compound,' the source said. "We don't know if they were in production yet.'
Whether the cult's weapons were made, purchased or converted to automatics, the source said, its arms stockpile is massive.
An ATF team leader who managed to fight his way into the group's weapons room during the Feb. 28 raid reported seeing "more guns than he had ever seen in his life' before being repulsed by cult members.
"And this agent is a veteran of special forces in Vietnam, a 20-year ATF veteran and the case agent on the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord case,' the source said, referring to an investigation that led to the 1985 seizure of a large arms cache from an Arkansas white supremacist group.
Both the raid and officials' new eagerness to discuss Mr. Koresh's penchant for violence were striking developments in the standoff's ninth day.
Agent Ricks of the FBI said the admitted polygamist leader has displayed hostile and often provocative behavior virtually since negotiations began. But until Monday, authorities downplayed the "negative side of his personality' in an effort to move talks forward, Agent Ricks said.
"I think it is important for you and for the American public to maybe have a better understanding of what we are dealing with,' Agent Ricks said. "It's our belief that he believes that his prophecies will be fulfilled if the government engages in an-all out firefight with him in which he is executed.'
To provoke federal agents, Agent Ricks said, Mr. Koresh's followers have mounted automatic weapons in gun ports built into the building's sides. He also has repeatedly dared agents to return to the compound for a final showdown.
In response to pleas from relatives of those still barricaded inside the compound, Mr. Koresh allowed negotiators to talk with 13 followers Sunday night. That brings to 33 the number of sect followers who have talked with negotiators since the siege began, authorities said. Mr. Koresh has said that 107 men women and children remain inside the compound.
All have told federal authorities that they were free to leave but chose to stay with Mr. Koresh, Agent Ricks said.
"They were all completely devoted to David and what he was trying to accomplish,' Agent Ricks said. "What he is doing is the fulfillment of everything they believed in.'
One woman told negotiators Sunday that she and her five children wanted to leave, but negotiations for their release "have broken down,' Agent Ricks said.
No children have been released since Sunday, when the last of 21 children was turned over to authorities. Two elderly women also have left the compound and are being held as material witnesses.
Mr. Koresh also has rejected federal offers to supply milk, an offer made after he demanded it.
"It last broke off when they in effect told us to go and make ourselves a milk-shake,' Agent Ricks said.
But Mr. Koresh asked federal negotiators to allow his followers to bury a man apparently killed during the initial firefight.
Agent Ricks said negotiators agreed to allow the group to conduct a burial Monday about 50 yards outside the compound. The name of the dead cult member was not released.
Mr. Koresh has refused to discuss other possible casualties sustained in the raid. Four federal agents were killed and 17 were wounded during a 45-minute firefight with Mr. Koresh and his followers.
Although federal officials remain hopeful of a peaceful resolution, Agent Ricks said, they are increasingly concerned that the Davidians appear to be fortifying their compound for "additional confrontation.'
Mr. Fatta, proprietor of the business raided Monday, is a longtime follower of Mr. Koresh. He stood trial for attempted murder with the cult leader and six other followers in 1987. All were aquitted.
Mr. Fatta lives in the remote rural compound but was not there during the Feb. 28 raid because he was attending a gun show in Austin. He is believed to be in the Waco area but could not be reached for comment Monday.
According to state tax records, Mr. Fatta began the business in February 1992, almost a year after he began renting the garage to repair personal vehicles. State records list the business as a sporting goods company.
Gary Welch, owner of the garages and the surrounding five-acre tract, said Mr. Fatta began renting the property about 21 months ago to store and repair his collection of old cars.
Mr. Welch said Mr. Fatta and his friends appeared to live in the building, which is surrounded by weeds and aging cars and trucks. But Mr. Welch said he had no idea that the man belonged to the Davidians and he never saw anything but cars and car parts during regular visits to the property.
"Now the feds have torn the building to pieces,' he said of the pre-fabricated buildings, which were badly battered during the federal raid. "I don't understand why they had to do that. I offered yesterday to give them a key.'
Staff writers George Kuempel and David McLemore contributed to this report.