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Suspected eco-terrorist in local firebombing arrested in Cuba, back in Oregon

One of the last two fugitives alleged to be part of the Earth Liberation Front firebombings that caused $45 million in damages in Southern Oregon and elsewhere in the West has been captured.

Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 50, who fled the United States in 2005 and “traveled the world to avoid capture,” was detained earlier this month by Cuban officials at the behest of U.S. officials in Havana as Dibee was about to board a plane bound for Russia, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Dibee, a former Seattle resident whose ELF name was “Seattle,” was back in Portland Friday in U.S. District Court, where he was arraigned on arson, conspiracy to commit arson and other federal charges stemming from ELF attacks in Oregon, Washington and Northern California, officials said.

Federal officials describe ELF as a loosely affiliated group of environmental extremists who called themselves “The Family” and used arson and sabotage to influence private company and government policies involving logging, wild horse meat processing and other activities.

Because fellow co-defendants admitted in federal court that the crimes were committed to intimidate and retaliate against society on behalf of animals or the environment, their conduct was labeled eco-terrorism under federal law.

Dibee’s Oregon charges include conspiring in the 1997 firebombing of a Redmond horsemeat packing plant with two co-defendants, including Jonathan Christopher Mark Paul, who lived in the Greensprings at the time of his 2006 federal court appearances.

Dibee also allegedly took part in the firebombing of a federal Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service building in 1998 in Olympia, Washington, according to the federal indictment.

Dibee also is suspected of conspiring with several co-defendants in the 2001 firebombing of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Facility in Litchfield, California, according to the indictment.

Dibee’s charges are from alleged actions through the ELF as well as the Animal Liberation Front, the indictment states.

Dibee and 10 other members of “The Family” were indicted in 2006 through the FBI’s Operation Backfire investigation into more than 40 criminal acts ranging from vandalism to arson between 1995 and 2001.

Those included the firebombing of the Superior Lumber Co. mill in Glendale in January 2001 with several co-defendants, among them Applegate Valley resident Suzanne Bicole Savoie and Chelsea Dawn Gerlach of Portland. Savoie and Gerlach pleaded guilty to charges against them in 2006.

Dibee was also an alleged co-conspirator in the 1997 firebombing of the U.S. Forest Industries office on Whittle Avenue in Medford.

That leaves just Josephine Sunshine Overaker as the last accused ELF member on the lam, according to federal officials.

Overaker is a U.S. citizen believed to be either 43 or 46 years old. She fled to Europe in 2001. She faces 19 felony charges, including conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit arson and destruction of an energy facility, attempted arson, and arson from cases in Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

Overaker speaks fluent Spanish and may seek employment as a firefighter, midwife, sheep tender or masseuse, according to federal officials.

The FBI continues to offer a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to her arrest.

A similar reward was offered for information leading to Dibee’s arrest.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him @MTwriterFreeman.