Report That Militants May Have Scouted Small Oregon Town Leaves Residents Puzzled
By Jeff Barnard Associated Press Writer
Published: Jul 13, 2002
BLY, Ore. (AP) - The people on the sheep ranch outside town didn't make much of an impression when they moved there about three years ago. But locals have been searching their memories since the FBI came to Bly.
Agents began asking three weeks ago about the sheep rancher, known as Ivan Fisher, and another man living on the ranch. The man, who dressed in a skull cap and long tunic, was known around town as Sammy.
On Friday, the Seattle Times reported the FBI was investigating whether members of a defunct mosque in Seattle were scouting around this tiny logging and ranching town for a lonely spot to practice with firearms. Among the mosque members was Semi Osman, who was indicted recently on federal charges that he tried to gain U.S. citizenship through a sham marriage.
Osman also allegedly owned a semiautomatic pistol with the serial number removed.
Kelly Peterson, who said he had trained horses for the ranch's owner, told the AP that Osman lived at the ranch with a woman and two children for about three months in 1999, and that he had seen nothing out of the ordinary there.
But Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said federal agents briefed local investigators about the ranch in 1999, before he was elected. He said he could not say whether they had visited the property.
Bly resident Don Wessel said he never heard anything about terrorism locally, but that he could see why terrorists might stay in the town.
"It's fairly isolated and a lot is for sale around here, yet you're a long ways from anyplace," he said. "It's kind of a depressed area."
Bly is an unincorporated town of a few hundred people located 50 miles east of Klamath Falls. Its name comes from the mispronunciation of an Indian word for a place where two rivers come together.
The high school closed in 1968, and the town has been struggling to survive for 15 years or so, ever since Weyerhaeuser shut down its lumber mill. The Star movie theater is now a hardware and feed store. A former gas station sells cow skulls and farm implements as antiques.
Log trucks still roll through town, but they are headed east to the mill in Lakeview. It is a 50-mile drive to see a barber or a doctor.
The Wessels live a couple miles down Highway 140 from Fisher's ranch, and their son, Jeff, sold it to Fisher.
Peterson, a cowboy and truck driver, said he told the FBI that he never met Osman, but that Fisher couldn't keep his livestock from starving and had gone by other names including Ivan Rule and Ivan Settle.
At the Bly Cozy Cafe and Lounge, owners Chester and Ellen Brown said they were skeptical of reports that people from the Seattle mosque may have taken target practice at Fisher's ranch.
"It's bogus," said Chester Brown. "I live right across from there. I never heard any automatic weapons out there. Shotguns and .22's at the cinder pit, but folks shoot at fence posts all the time."