More Harlan County Trail Cameras Rigged With Explosives

The song "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" refers to the dangers of working in coal mines, but apparently the residents of Harlan are facing a new danger from an amateur bombmaker. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued another warning regarding explosives linked up to trail cameras in the rural county of Kentucky, according to Outdoor Hub.

Explosives were found as early as May of this year and an arrest was made in June, but 12 more IEDs have been found in Harlan County, according to the ATF and Kentucky State Police Post 10. Specifically, the latest devices were found near the Dave Smith Drainage Area on the Little Black Mountain Spur, which is part of the Woodland Hills Subdivision. The trail cameras in question have been set to explode when batteries are placed in them or via a trip wire.

ATF warning
[Image via ATF]

Guns also reports that paint cans, milk jugs, and protein powder cans have been found in the area with explosive devices as well as a "booby-trapped" tree stand.

Last June, Mark Sawaf, 39, was arrested in connection with the bombs attached to trail cameras. While there is no explanation as to what what led the police to investigate Sawaf, materials associated with explosive devices were found in his trash. Police found thermally-damaged shotgun shells, dried hot glue, and firecrackers. Perhaps the most chilling find was a note that read "Broken camera for a broken soul."

The materials in the trash linked Sawaf directly to a particular bombing that had injured a man, severing several fingers of the victim in the random attack.

After Sawaf's arrest, police searched his home and found further evidence supporting a case against him, including trail camera parts, as well as hobby fuse, wire insulation similar to that used in the IEDs, a 410 shotgun shell containing an explosive filler and a hobby fuse, 11 metal flashlights and one with damage from an explosive blast, a jug of black powder, and six cameras in various states of disrepair he had been working on.

IED
[Image via AP Stock]

Unfortunately, instead of cooperating with police and revealing any other bombs that could cause harm, Sawaf attempted to escape and was fatally shot. Authorities had taken him out onto a trailhead in Harlan County to try to locate other devices that had been tampered with on August 11 when he made the escape attempt. Lexington Fire Investigator Captain Brad Dobrzynski was assisting with the investigation and brought down the suspect before he could escape.

Harlan County is a rural area in southeastern Kentucky known for being one of the many communities in the region that rely heavily on coal mining to support the local population. It was featured prominently in the FX series Justified, detailing the battles between a renegade U.S. Marshal and his old, hometown friend who had turned to a life of organized criminal activity and dealing drugs in Harlan.

While Sawaf's true motive will never be known, Harlan County does have its fair share of illegal activity, including a high rate of drug trafficking for such a small, rural community. In fact, Kentucky Sports Radio reported back in June that the Harlan County Police Chief himself had been arrested in connection with an organized drug trafficking ring. Could Sawaf have thought the trails were somehow used for moving drugs through the area and set out to shut them down? No hints at the possible motive have come to light, and the only recourse now for law enforcement is to try to protect the community by finding any other dangerous explosives.

The police and ATF are uncertain about how many more devices might be out on the trails, cautioning any hikers to notify law enforcement if they come across anything that looks suspicious. You can call the Kentucky State Police Post 10 at 606 573-3131 or contact the local ATF at 859 219-4500 if you see any potential devices that have been tampered with or possible explosives.

[Image via Rural King]