FBI arrests three more militiamen leaving wildlife refuge

BURNS, Oregon (AP) — It was unclear early Thursday whether the rest of an armed group occupying an Oregon wildlife refuge would follow their jailed leader’s advice to “go home,” a day after officials said three members surrendered to authorities.

The three arrests Wednesday, announced by the FBI and Oregon State Police, followed the arrests a day earlier of leader Ammon Bundy and seven others.

After Bundy made his first court appearance on Wednesday, his attorney, Mike Arnold, read a statement from his client: “Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is now in the courts.”

A video posted Thursday by the holdouts occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge said the remaining five members of the armed group will leave if none of them face arrest.

Ammon is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights. The group Ammon Bundy led is protesting what it calls onerous federal land restrictions, and it objects to the prison sentences of two local ranchers convicted of setting fires.

Bundy and the seven others arrested Tuesday are charged with felony counts of “conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats.”

The criminal complaint says the 16 employees at the wildlife refuge “have been prevented from reporting to work because of threats of violence posed by the defendants and others occupying the property.”

Details have begun to emerge about the confrontation Tuesday on a remote highway that resulted in the arrest of Bundy and other leading figures in the group, and in the death of militant Robert Finicum.

Bundy followers gave conflicting accounts of how Finicum died. One said Finicum charged at FBI agents, who then shot him. A member of the Bundy family said Finicum did nothing to provoke the agents.

Authorities refused to release any details about the encounter or even to verify that it was Finicum who was killed.

Federal law officials on Wednesday called on the rest of the occupiers to go home. There is a huge law enforcement presence in the region, and the FBI has now set up checkpoints outside the refuge.

FBI officials said Wednesday night that in addition to the three men arrested, five people left the refuge through the checkpoints and were released without arrest.

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