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Mystery in Brooklyn: Bomb factory at Columbia University professor's home

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 22, 2008 10:03 AM

The NY Daily News reports today on a disturbing discovery at a Columbia University instructor’s home:

Police stumbled upon a bomb-making factory Sunday in the home of a Columbia professor who specializes in the spread of infectious disease – and are investigating whether he and his roommate have terror ties.

Cops evacuated the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood around the Remsen St. home of Michael Clatts, a medical anthropologist, after finding seven pipe bombs fitted with fuses in his flat, police sources said.

The frightening cache was discovered almost by accident – Ivaylo Ivanov, the man living with Clatts, accidentally shot off the tip of his left index finger and sought police help in the street about 1:15 a.m.

When investigators went to the 37-year-old Ivanov’s apartment, they found the bombs, already capped on both ends and filled with powder. One of the pipe bombs was inserted into a Nerf football, cops said.

A 9-mm. handgun, two ammunition magazines, a 12-gauge shotgun, silencers, a bulletproof vest, a crossbow and bomb-making equipment, including a drill and threading machine that could be used to make pipe bombs, were also recovered, cops said.

Clatts cannot be located. Who is he?

Clatts is a medical anthropologist with a specialty in epidemiol.ogy – the spread of disease among large populations.

He is an associate professor in Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and holds a Ph.D. from the Ivy League school.

The senior director of communication for the school, Randee Levine, said she cannot comment on a police investigation.

Clatts’ exact relationship with Ivanov is unknown. Building residents said Clatts once described himself and Ivanov as roommates, nothing more.

Cops became suspicious of Ivanov because he first claimed he had been shot by a stranger but then admitted shooting himself. Fearing another person had been injured at the address, police went to the apartment and opened the door to the bomb factory. They immediately sealed the apartment while they got a search warrant, cops said.

Cops called the bomb squad, which evacuated the building and three others nearby and removed the materials. Residents were not allowed back inside for nearly 12 hours.

Police said last night they were uncertain whether all of the bombs were operative.

Ivanov has prior arrests for possession of drug paraphernalia, including hypodermic needles, a police source said. A man with the same name was deported from the U.S. a couple of years ago for drug dealing, but cops are unsure whether this is the same person, a police source said.

The NYTimes reports on a bizarre twist in the case: Ivanov has confessed to a string of anti-Jewish vandalism incidents last fall. Ivanov, his lawyer told the media, is himself Jewish.

According to a law enforcement official, detectives are exploring the possibility that Mr. Ivanov had planned to use the pipe bombs against synagogues. The official said that Mr. Ivanov told investigators he intended to use the bombs for fishing; but, given his admission that he painted swastikas on synagogues, investigators became concerned he was planning violence. Detectives have seized his computers, and are searching them for clues, the official said.

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