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Waco Siege


WACO SIEGE, a fifty-one-day siege by federal agents of the Branch Davidian religious group's commune headquarters outside Waco, Texas, in early 1993. The siege, which began after a botched and bloody attempt on 28 February 1993 to arrest the group's leader, David Koresh, on a weapons charge, ended in the deaths of four federal agents and seventy-eight Branch Davidians. The stalemate ended when U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the use of force on April 19. Soon after federal agents moved, fire engulfed the compound, killing seventy-two, provoking controversy over the use of force in dealing with dissident sects. Although some surviving members of the sect were acquitted of manslaughter, they received harsh sentences when convicted on lesser charges. In August 1999, new documents surfaced indicating that the FBI had fired three flammable tear gas canisters during the raid on the compound. Following a ten-month investigation, Senator John C. Danforth released a report concluding that although federal agents had mishandled evidence, they had neither started the fire nor improperly employed force.


Reavis, Dick J. The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Tabor, James D., and Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America. Berkeley: University California Press, 1995.

Wright, Stuart A. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Bruce J.Evenson


See alsoCults ; Millennialism .

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