This day, 16 years ago, saw the Waco siege end after 51 days. The stand-off at the Branch Davidian Church’s ranch in Texas had begun on February 28, 1993 when agents from the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to search the property, resulting in a gun battle in which four agents were killed.
The cult’s leader, David Koresh, had taken a number of its female members as “wives”, some of whom were teenagers. This brought allegations of child abuse, while Koresh’s launch of a business selling guns added to the disquiet. On April 19, FBI agents tried to force their way in to the compound, and up to 80 members of the group including 20 children and Koresh himself, were killed as fire engulfed it.
Exactly two years after the siege ended, on April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh detonated a huge truck bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people – the United States’ biggest ever terrorist outrage before 9/11. McVeigh had spent a brief time in the army, and was decorated for bravery, but he began to fear the government was planning to abolish Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms. He went to Waco to watch the siege, and took the view that the FBI’s actions were illegal.
Soon after, he began planning the Oklahoma attack, which targeted a Federal building in the city. An hour after the explosion, McVeigh was stopped for a driving offence, and was found to be illegally carrying a concealed hand gun. He was executed in 2001, and an accomplice was sent to prison for life.