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FBI probing arson attack on UCLA researcher's car [UPDATED]

March 9, 2009 |  7:47 pm

The FBI is looking into an arson attack on a vehicle owned by a UCLA neuroscientist who was targeted by an anti-animal-research group for using primates in his study of psychiatric disorders.

Saturday's incident involving a homemade incendiary device took place outside the faculty member’s home and caused no injuries, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

The UCLA professor, who researches treatments for schizophrenia, drug addiction and other disorders, was not identified.

The incident is one in a series string of aggressive acts aimed at university researchers who use animals in medical studies and research, said UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton. In other cases, firebombs have been left on doorsteps, vehicles have been vandalized and researchers have received threatening phone calls and e-mails.

The harassment led to a court order last year that has since been converted into a preliminary injunction  banning distribution of researchers’ personal information on websites and fliers.

Eimiller said the investigation of Saturday’s incident will be conducted by a Joint Terrorism Task Force that includes the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the UCLA Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The loosely organized animal rights group Animal Liberation Front posted a message on its website Monday from a group that claimed responsibility for the attack.

UCLA is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the incident.

Updated, Tuesday 3:15 p.m.: A previous version of this story referred to the incident as a firebombing. In fact, the FBI has not called it a firebombing and considers the incident "suspicious arson."

-- Julie Cart