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FBI NOW ABLE TO CUT FREEMEN'S ELECTRICITY

Workers connected two portable generators to power poles near the Freemen ranch, giving the FBI the option of cutting power to the anti-government group without affecting neighbors.

Crews working in a hard rain completed the hookups Thursday.Duane Gackle, manager of McCone Electric Co-op Inc., said the generators still have to be tested, and that probably won't be completed today.

McCone will have a reduced staff over the Memorial Day weekend, making it unlikely the utility could disconnect power to the 960-acre farm before Tuesday, if ordered to do so by the FBI, Gackle said.

The Justice Department said Thursday that there had been no decision on whether to disconnect power to the Freemen compound, but steps were being taken to make it an option.

The generators and related equipment, covered by tarpaulins, were delivered Wednesday night in a convoy of three tractor-trailers.

The generators would supply power to about three dozen neighboring households in the sparsely populated area on the eastern Montana plains.

Shutting off the electricity would put pressure on the Freemen, who do not recognize state or federal laws. Several rounds of negotiations to end the 61-day standoff with the FBI have failed.

The Freemen, who are armed, are believed to have a generator that would supply power for a limited time. They also reportedly had stockpiled fuel and food for weeks before the standoff began March 25 with the arrests of two group leaders.

Some of the Freemen are wanted on state and federal charges that range from writing millions of dollars in bad checks to threatening to kidnap and kill a federal judge.

Janet Clark, the wife of Freeman Edwin Clark, spent five hours at the ranch Thursday, leaving with an assortment of goods, including a television. The couple's adult son is among the 18 people, including three children, the FBI believes are in the compound, 30 miles northwest of Jordan.