The arrests occurred when the militia members, who were heading to a meeting with local community members some 160 km away from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, were intercepted by the authorities, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Oregon State Police.
The FBI said all those in custody face federal felony charges.
Group leader Ammon Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who took part in a 2014 armed standoff with federal agencies over grazing rights. By occupying the refuge in Oregon, his group demanded that the federal land be turned over to local authorities.
Reports said federal law enforcement officers moved on to the refuge later in the day after the arrests and began to set up a perimeter. It was not clear how many of Bundy’s followers, once more than a dozen according to some witnesses, were still in the facility.
The seeds of protest by the militiamen were sown by a decade-long dispute between some westerners and the federal government over the use of public land.
Some ranchers have strongly objected to the government’s management of federal land, especially over issues of water or environmental conservation, and to the terms of their leases. But critics of the push for more local control have said the federal government should administer the public land for the widest possible uses. Enditem