Last 4 occupiers at Oregon wildlife refuge set to surrender

Oregon Protesters to Surrender
Oregon Protesters to Surrender

PORTLAND, Ore., Feb 11 (Reuters) - The last four armed protesters occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon were set to surrender on Thursday, a day after authorities arrested the Nevada rancher whose sons started the showdown.

Sean Anderson, one of the occupiers, said in a post on Facebook the group at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote eastern Oregon would be "standing down" at 8 a.m. PST 1600 GMT) on Thursday.

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Tensions were high in the 41-day standoff, after FBI agents on Wednesday night closed in on the last four anti-government protesters as one of the occupiers drove an ATV outside the barricades previously set up by protesters at the refuge.

"It's came to an end. We will be standing down tomorrow," Anderson wrote late Wednesday. He said they would surrender, escorted by Rev. Franklin Graham and State Assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Nevada.

Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, confirmed in a post on Facebook that he was on his way to Oregon as he called on his followers to pray for a peaceful resolution.

"It's a very sad day for me as we plan to turn ourselves over to the very people we fought so hard against," Sandy Anderson, Sean's wife, said in a post through his Facebook account on Thursday morning.

See photos of the Oregon protests:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Cliven Bundy, 74, of Nevada was arrested on Wednesday evening in Portland. He was reportedly on his way to the refuge to support the militants in their protest over federal land control in the West.

His sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, led the armed group of protesters that took over the refuge on Jan. 2. They were arrested later in the month along with 9 other protesters on a snow-covered roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, was shot dead. A 12th member of the group surrendered to police in Arizona.

The elder Bundy faces conspiracy and weapons charges, the Oregonian newspaper reported. He led a 2014 standoff with the government over Nevada grazing rights that ended with federal agents backing down in the face of 1,000 armed militiamen.

His sons, Ammon and Ryan, face the same conspiracy charge for their role in the Oregon standoff.

The occupation was sparked by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires that spread to federal property in the vicinity of the refuge. It also was directed as a protest against federal control over millions of acres of public land in the West.

The four remaining protesters were indicted last week along with 12 others previously arrested on charges of conspiring to impede federal officers during the occupation.

A judge has cited the continuing standoff as a major obstacle to the release of at least some of those who remain jailed on federal charges. (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Julia Edwards in Washington,; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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