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Waco Gropu May Not Surrender until 'Cataclysmic Events' Occur

By Stephen Braun
Los Angeles Times

WACO, Texas

Despite the delivery of a second letter written by David Koresh in the name of God, federal authorities said Monday that the sect leader now waits for a heavenly sign in the form of an earthquake or another natural disaster before he will agree to surrender.

As the standoff entered its seventh week, a senior FBI official on the scene said it appeared increasingly remote that Koresh and 95 members of the Branch Davidian sect would peacefully leave their fortified compound after the end of their Passover celebration on Tuesday or Wednesday. Authorities had last week raised hopes that the two events might be linked.

FBI Special Agent Bob Ricks said that in 15 conversations over the weekend with Koresh aide Steven Schneider, negotiators were told that the cult leader awaits both verbal signs "from God" and "certain catacylsmic events to take place, either fire, earthquakes, or other events of that nature."

Ricks added that if the end of Passover was once "significant to their coming out, it seems to be that they're downplaying that significance now." According to authorities, the Branch Davidians celebrate Passover, and not Easter, because of its prominence as a rite celebrated in the Old Testament of the Bible.

The Branch Davidians appeared to become "very excited" by reports of a minor earth tremor last week in South Texas, Ricks said. Their interest apparently waned when they learned the quake had no impact in the Waco area.

"They were hoping it was a lot closer to here, that it would affect us," Ricks said.

The second letter written by Koresh was delivered at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in similar fashion to another communication given to federal authorities Friday. Schneider left the letter outside the compound after emerging from the door following a brief telephone conversation with negotiators. Federal agents protected by a Bradley personnel carrier then retreived the missive.

Declining to detail the exact contents of the letter, Ricks said that it was again loaded with warlike passages from the Bible. It also threatened that "if we do not listen to Koresh we will be devoured by fire or destroyed by other means."

The communication also contained a warning to authorities not to hurt Koresh. " `Please do not hurt my Lamb,' " Ricks said the letter warned.

The letter was signed "Yaweh Koresh." The first name is a Judaic term for God frequently found in the Old Testament.

Ricks said that at least two women in the compound are pregnant, one due in May.