US resort town evacuated after bomb threat

January 2nd, 2009 - 7:23 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 2 (DPA) The chic Rocky Mountain resort of Aspen, Colorado, was evacuated and four homemade bombs were defused during a dramatic New Year’s Eve that unfolded like a scripted drama in the brisk mountain air.In the end, the suspect, Jim Blanning, was later found dead in an apparent suicide, the Aspen Times reported Thursday.

Blanning apparently delivered bombs and threatening letters to Wells Fargo Bank and Vectra Bank Wednesday, saying “Aspen will pay a horrible price in blood” if they didn’t pay him $60,000 each in used 100-dollar bills, the Times reported.

Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn told reporters Thursday that the evacuation alert was lifted at 5 a.m. New Year’s Day.

A bomb squad from the nearby large town of Grand Junction, Colorado, disabled four handmade bombs late Wednesday and early Thursday, Linn said. The other two bombs were found in an alleyway.

Blanning was found dead in his Jeep Cherokee at the gate to a pass that is closed during the winter.

Blanning, who was 71, was a longtime resident of Aspen who spent time in prison for his conviction of fraudulent land sales, the Aspen Times wrote.

Linn said police had to close the downtown in the “interests of safety” despite the fact that New Year’s Eve was to have brought some help to struggling restaurants and bars that have lost money during the recession.

“It’s hard to actually quantify (the danger.) There were four actual bombs in downtown Aspen. How dangerous is that? Dangerous enough,” he was quoted as saying.

Blanning was identified from a security photo taken as he delivered the bombs and letters to bank employees.

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