Anti-technology group attacks university researchers

The attacks already have spurred some universities to take extra security precautions.

An anti-technology group calling itself “Individuals Tending Toward the Savage” (translated) was responsible for a package bomb that injured two university professors just outside Mexico City, a state prosecutor said Aug. 9. The group reportedly is responsible for other attacks in Europe, leading to speculation that it might target U.S. universities, too.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office announced that a suspicious envelope presumably containing explosives also was found at Mexico’s National Polytechnical Institute on Aug. 9, though it didn’t detonate.

The office has opened investigations into both incidents, it said in a statement.

The Aug. 8 explosion at the Monterrey Technological Institute’s campus on the outskirts of the Mexican capital injured two professors, one of whom was involved in robotics research. Neither suffered life-threatening injuries, but both suffered second- and third-degree burns.

Mexico State Attorney General Alfredo Castillo said at a news conference that the group’s involvement was identified from a partially destroyed note found at the scene.

Mexico State prosecutors’ spokesman Sonia Davila said authorities are investigating the authenticity of the manifesto, but said its description of how the dynamite-stuffed pipe-bomb was constructed matched evidence found at the scene of the small explosion on the outskirts of the capital. Officials had not revealed details of the device that injured two professors.

Castillo described the device as “rudimentary, one could say homemade.” He said the group opposes experiments with nanotechnology and has staged attacks on academics before.

“The ITS is a movement that, in accordance with its ideals, opposes any development of neo- or nanotechnology anywhere in the world, and they are linked to attacks in several different countries of Europe, including Spain and France,” Castillo said.

He confirmed that the package had been disguised with labels from a well-known express package service, but did not say which one.

A manifesto signed by the group and posted on a radical website said that it has no remorse, and that its goal—having the guards deliver the package to the intended professor—was accomplished.

Nanotechnology, or the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale, may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, biomaterials, and energy production.

However, nanotechnology also raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nano-materials.

The manifesto expressed fears that nano-particles could reproduce uncontrollably and form a “gray goo” that would snuff out life on Earth.

“When these modified viruses affect the way we live through a nano-bacteriological war, unleashed by some laboratory error or by the explosion of nano-pollution that affects the air, food, water, transport, in short the entire world, then all of those who defend nanotechnology and don’t think it is a threat will realize that it was a grave error to let it grow out of control,” according to statement by the group.

The manifesto said the bomb was directed at professor Armando Herrera Corral, who is listed on the university’s website as a specialist in information technology. But the group also expressed satisfaction that professor Alejandro Aceves Lopez, an expert in robotics technology, also was injured in the blast.

Prosecutors say Herrera Corral brought the package to his colleague’s cubicle to show it to him, when it exploded.

The statement also claimed responsibility for attacks at another university in April and May against professor Oscar Camacho, listed by Mexico’s National Polytechnical Institute as a specialist in micro-electro-mechanical systems. His academic background includes computer and electronic engineering.

The ITS statement said Camacho’s “police impulses” to inspect the package triggered the detonator, adding that “there is no doubt that curiosity killed the human.”

The group praises the “Unabomber,” whose mail-bombs killed three people and injured 23 in the United States.

Jorge Lofredo, an Argentine expert on regional armed movements, said that the group appears to be relatively new. He said that most anarchist groups avoid violent acts, and noted that previous Mexico City blasts blamed on anarchists were small and sought to avoid causing injuries.

The group’s statement suggested the bombing would not be the last.

“We will not hesitate to carry out our actions against the system of domination and against those who support and protect it,” it read.

A manifesto posted on the radical website mentions at least five other Mexican researchers whose work it opposes.

The attorney general warned universities, businesses, and professional groups involved in nanotechnology to beef up their security and notify authorities of anything suspicious.

The attacks already have spurred some universities to take extra security precautions.

Officials at the campus hit by the bombing said that metal detectors would be used at access points, vehicles entering the campus would be inspected, dogs would be used to detect suspicious artifacts, visitors would have to have an escort while on campus, and student or faculty IDs would be required to enter the campus.

A police bomb squad removed a suspicious package left Aug. 9 at a Mexico City research institute, but an institute spokeswoman later told local media the package simply contained books.

In a statement, the head of Mexico’s National Association of Universities, Rafael Lopez Castanares, condemned the attack.

“I would link [these attacks] to some type of imbalance totally foreign to the causes of universities,” he wrote.