VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Sixteen Greenpeace activists were being held Sunday on suspicion of domestic terrorism following an unsuccessful attempt to halt a test of a ballistic missile defense system, officials said.
Four activists were arrested Saturday after swimming ashore from inflatable rafts moored off the California coast, said Air Force Master Sgt. Lloyd Conley.
Fourteen other people were arrested by the FBI in cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard, which chased the rafts — known as Zodiacs — up the coast toward San Luis Obispo, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Foree Cooley. The Coast Guard captured three rafts Saturday night and a fourth Sunday morning around 8 a.m., Cooley said.
The arrests caused about a two-minute delay to the launch of the unarmed Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile, said Air Force Sgt. Rebecca Bonilla. The missile, equipped with a mock nuclear warhead, was shot down at 8:09 p.m. by an interceptor rocket launched from a tiny Pacific island.
The purpose of the protest was to stop the test by entering the “exclusion zone” and show opposition to President Bush’s proposed missile defense network, said Greenpeace spokeswoman Carol Gregory.
“Greenpeace feels there will be no success until Star Wars is stopped,” Gregory said.
The activists were arrested on suspicion of domestic terrorism but it was not immediately clear what they would be charged with, said Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman with the FBI.
Gregory identified those arrested after swimming ashore as Jon Aguilar, 31, of Carpinteria; Brent Hanssen, 22, of Columbia, Mo.; Kelly Osborne, 32, of Littleton, Colo.; and John Wills, 27, of Great Britain.
She identified the other activists arrested as Nic Clyde, 31, of Sydney, Australia; Patrick Eriksson, 32, of Oja, Sweden; Katie Flynn-Jambeck, 29, of Minneapolis; Bill Hebert, 31, of Oceanside; Tom Knappe, 33, of Germany; Guy Levecher, 33, of Greenfield Park, Quebec; Steve Morgan, 45, of Cottingham, United Kingdom; Bill Nandris, 31, of London; Samir Nazareth, 29, of Nagpur, India; Mathias Pendzialek, 34, of Hamburg, Germany; Dan Rudie, 36, of Minnesota; and Jorge C. Torres, 33, of Mexico City.
A British news agency reported that an independent photographer from the U.K. and a videographer were also arrested.