ROCKVILLE, MD—Militant pro-literacy terrorists struck here Friday night, as a pipe bomb exploded at Rockville Adult Learning Annex, killing 52 illiterates and injuring dozens more. Hours later, RIF, a radical reading-is-fundamentalist terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Montgomery County coroner Ed Rovere examines a body at the Rockville Adult Learning Annex, where RIF extremists killed 52 illiterates with a pipe bomb Friday. Experts say reading-is-fundamentalism is a growing movement in the U.S.

Committed to the eradication of illiteracy "by any means necessary," RIF was formed in 1973 by a coalition of dissident librarians censured by the government for their extremist views. Some 500 deaths have been linked to the group in the past 24 years, including a 1991 incident in which an armored bookmobile exploded at a Ku Klux Klan rally outside Mobile, AL, killing 83 illiterates.

According to the group's 900-page manifesto, RIF is committed to fighting illiteracy by "first-hand targeting of illiterates." The manifesto also outlines a three-point plan to achieve its goals by "speaking to schoolchildren about the importance of reading, lobbying Congress for increased funding for literacy-awareness programs, and banishing illiterates to the very bowels of Hell."

"Illiteracy is a crime—a crime against God Himself," read a RIF statement delivered anonymously to the Rockville Post-Gazette Monday. "For too long, we have stood idly by while wonderful, absorbing books—books that can transport you to magical, far-off places like Lilliput and Treasure Island—go unread. The feeble attempts made by the Learning Annex to reform illiterates is too little, too late. God has spoken through us with this strike against non-readers. We know God's truth, for we have read it."

President Clinton, responding to the attack, made the following statement: "While, like the members of RIF, I support the eradication of illiteracy in the United States, I cannot condone the means by which they go about achieving this goal. Such acts of terrorism as theirs are unconscionable and cowardly, and must not be tolerated, even when done in the name of something as admirable as getting people to read."

Clinton said that steps are being taken by the State Department to establish a diplomatic dialogue with RIF leaders, and that officials are working closely with Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, winner of the 1989 Helping-Hand Award for his pro-literacy efforts, who will serve as a liaison in the negotiations.

In addition to using terror, RIF has sought to eradicate illiteracy via a series of spots airing on Saturday-morning television, in which a hooded, armed representative of the faction warns children to read "as if your life depends on it—for it does." The group has also distributed videotapes to over 3,700 U.S. elementary schools featuring footage of abducted illiterates being shot in the back of the head by RIF members, followed by a music video, "Reading Is Where It's At," starring the group's mascot, Pages The Rappin' Raccoon.