McVeigh sees child victims as 'collateral

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A remorseless Timothy McVeigh calls the children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing "collateral damage," regretting only that their deaths detracted from his bid to avenge federal agents' raid at Waco, Tex., according to a new book.

American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing is the first time McVeigh has publicly and explicitly admitted to the crime and given his reasons for the attack.

"I understand what they felt in Oklahoma City. I have no sympathy for them," McVeigh told authors Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, reporters for The Buffalo News.

McVeigh claimed he did not know there was a daycare centre inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the authors said yesterday on PrimeTime Thursday.

"I recognized beforehand that someone might be ... bringing their kid to work," McVeigh said. "However, if I had known there was an entire day care centre, it might have given me pause to switch targets.

"That's a large amount of collateral damage."

McVeigh chose the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, he said, because it had everything he wanted -- federal agents and glass in the front, making it vulnerable and giving TV cameras a good shot.

But the FBI's lead investigator dismissed the bomber's claims he did not know there was a daycare on site.

"No matter what ... if you look at the building, you're going to see all the little cut-out hands, all the little apples and flowers showing that there's a kindergarten there -- that there are children in that building," FBI agent Danny Defenbaugh told CNN.

Mr. Michel said McVeigh's only regret was the children's deaths proved to be a public relations nightmare that undercut his cause.

He added he was disappointed when part of the building remained standing after his 3,000-kilogram bomb went off. "Damn, I didn't knock the building down. I didn't take it down," McVeigh said.

The April 19, 1995, bombing killed 168 people, 19 of them children. McVeigh, 32, is scheduled to be executed on May 16.

McVeigh said he was the sole architect of the plan, resorting to threats against Terry Nichols' family when his army buddy hesitated before helping to load the explosives into the rental truck.

In 75 hours of prison interviews with the Buffalo reporters, McVeigh, who was raised in Pendleton, N.Y., outside Buffalo, got choked up while talking about killing a gopher, but never expressed remorse for the bombing.

However, he had been brought to tears two years earlier while watching the disaster at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., in which 80 cult members died in a fire as federal agents raided their compound. The Gulf War veteran, a model soldier, carried out his attack two years to the day after Waco.

Before deciding to bomb the Murrah building, McVeigh considered a number of different possibilities, including assassinating elected officials, Mr. Michel said.

As he fled after the explosion, McVeigh recalled the song Dirty for Dirty by Bad Company. "What the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge was dirty. And I gave dirty back to them at Oklahoma City," he said.

In 1992 at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the wife and son of white separatist Randy Weaver were killed by federal agents during a standoff.

McVeigh told the authors he knew he would get caught and even anticipated execution as a form of "state-assisted suicide."

He dismissed those who do not believe he planned the bombing alone, Mr. Michel said, quoting the film, A Few Good Men: "You can't handle the truth.

"The truth is, I blew up the Murrah building," McVeigh said, "and isn't it kind of scary that one man could reap this kind of hell?"

The book is to be published on April 3.