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PULLMAN, Wash. – A pre-dawn fire heavily damaged a Planned Parenthood clinic early Friday in Washington state, and the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force is trying to determine whether it was arson.
The fire started around 3:30 a.m. in the college town of Pullman and may keep the clinic closed for a month or more, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tanya Riordan told The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/1PQDFNr).
The cause of the fire is not yet known, but FBI Special Agent Frank Harrill said federal agencies were involved because of the history of anti-abortion activists targeting health care providers offering abortion services.
In 1996, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Spokane Valley was bombed. Four men were convicted in the blast. They were members of a white supremacist, anti-abortion group called the Phineas Priesthood.
Firefighters extinguished the fire by 6:30 a.m., Pullman police spokesman Cmdr. Chris Tennant said. He described the fire as suspicious.
The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also involved in the investigation, Harrill said.
The fire follows a recent wave of protests at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. On Aug. 22, some 500 protesters gathered outside the Pullman clinic, waving signs and calling for Congress to defund the organization.
Many protesters referenced a series of videos released by anti-abortion activists in California that appeared to show Planned Parenthood executives saying the organization profits from the sale of aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood denied the allegations and contended the videos were selectively edited.
Riordan said Planned Parenthood will be looking for a temporary office in Pullman so it can resume services as quickly as possible.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com