Detroit - The leader of a paramilitary group in northern Michigan said today that the group was disbanding because membership had plummeted and it no longer had any members with enough military experience to lead training exercises in the woods.
The leader, Norman E. Olson, said his group, the Northern Michigan Regional Militia, had only about 100 members left, but acknowledged that he had seen few of them in the last year. He once said there were 1,000 members, although rival militia officials said the real number was tiny.
Mr. Olson attributed the dwindling membership to the election of President Bush. "Across the nation, there is a satisfaction among patriots with the way things are going," he said.
Mr. Olson is best known for having been the commander of the Michigan Militia in late 1994, when Terry L. Nichols came to at least one meeting but did not become a member. Mr. Nichols and Timothy J. McVeigh were convicted in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Mr. McVeigh is to be executed on May 16; Mr. Nichols has been sentenced to life in prison.
The Michigan Militia pushed Mr. Olson out a month after the bombing, with a less extreme faction keeping the Michigan Militia name and condemning the bombing. Mr. Olson also criticized it but said the federal government had driven Mr. McVeigh and Mr. Nichols to their action with the assault by federal agents two years earlier on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex.
"The federal government created Timothy McVeigh; Timothy McVeigh reacted because of Waco," he said in a telephone interview today.
The Michigan Militia has become the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines. Tom Wayne, the group's chief of staff, said that Mr. Bush's election had not hurt his group's membership at all and that Mr. Olson had simply lost the support of people interested in joining militias.
After his split with the Michigan Militia, Mr. Olson set up his new group, which opened a wilderness training camp near Black Lake in northern Michigan. He disbanded it on the seventh anniversary of the founding of the Michigan Militia.
It is a coincidence that the disbanding of the group comes so soon before the scheduled date for Mr. McVeigh's execution, he said.
Mr. Olson, who runs a gun shop in Alanson, Mich., added that he did not share others' satisfaction with Mr. Bush and predicted that interest in militias would revive someday. "It'll all show up again," he said.