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Alabama bunker standoff: Did politics set Jimmy Dykes off?

After killing a school bus driver, retired Alabama truck driver Jimmy Dykes has held a 5-year-old boy hostage for five days in an underground tornado bunker. Neighbors say the act may be a provocative political statement.

By Staff writer / February 2, 2013

Law enforcement officials work the scene of an ongoing hostage crisis in Midland City, Ala. Local, state and federal officers wait out a man accused of shooting and killing a school bus driver, then snatching a 5-year-old child. Suspect Jimmy Lee Dykes has been holed up in a bunker on his property with the child since Tuesday.

Julie Bennett/AP

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ATLANTA

A tense hostage situation involving a 5-year-old autistic boy and a menacing survivalist in rural Alabama is now stretching into its fifth day, as authorities continue to communicate with Jimmy Dykes through a pipe that extends into a dark, tight underground bunker.

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But while authorities have remained largely mum, some in Midland City, Ala., who know Mr. Dykes are speculating that the former truck driver's brazen attack on a school bus, which ended with a school bus driver dead, and the subsequent kidnapping of a boy identified as Ethan, may be an anti-government act, sparked by a court case against him.

"I believe he wants to rant and rave about politics and government," neighbor Michael Creel told the Associated Press. "He's very concerned about his property. He doesn't want his stuff messed with."

The morphing of the burgeoning survivalist movement with government defiance certainly isn't widespread. But some experts, as well as the US Department of Homeland Security, have speculated that, for some, survivalism as an ideology can spill over into anti-government zealotry and raise the specter of domestic terrorism.

Dykes had been preparing for some kind of action as he built his bunker and often patrolled his property with a rifle deep into the night. He had told neighbors the sunken bunker was intended as a tornado shelter.

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The ordeal in Midland City, Alabama, began Tuesday afternoon when police say Dykes stormed a rural school bus, demanding two young boys. Dykes killed a bus driver trying to protect the children, and then made off with a boy named Ethan, scurrying him into the bunker behind his house.

Police have maintained contact through a PVC pipe, and have been able to get Ethan medicine as well as coloring books. Police confirmed Dykes' identity on Friday.

The survivalist movement has gained steam in recent years as many Americans fear economic or political apocalypse, a trend now accompanied by TV shows like "Doomsday Preppers" about people who build bunkers and stash food in preparation for disaster.

While on the whole peaceful, and in many ways understandable, the movement has also contributed to a simmering paranoia that has subsumed some adherents.

"How do you know if you are preparing to survive and overcome realistic scenario or just obsessing with doom and gloom, maybe even focusing on very unlikely or even impossible scenarios while ignoring much more realistic and more probable events? It’s a thin line. People have obsessed and ended up losing not only their time and money, but also their families because of this," blogger FerFAL wrote on The Modern Survivalist blog last year.

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