JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Nine white extremists were convicted of murder today for a series of bombings that killed 21 people on the eve of the nation's first all-race election.

Judge H.C.J. Fleming found five other defendants guilty of lesser charges and acquitted four in the case that dates back to the 1994 vote that ended apartheid.

Four defendants, including three convicted of murder, escaped from prison earlier this month and remain at large.

All the defendants were members of the neo-Nazi Afrikaner Resistance Movement. The group vowed to fight black rule in South Africa but mounted little resistance beyond the three bombings in the Johannesburg area.

More than 30 members were arrested after the third bombing, effectively ending the group's terror campaign.

Group leader Eugene TerreBlanche attended today's court hearing but refused to comment on the verdicts.

TerreBlanche has insisted the bombers committed political crimes and should be eligible for amnesty similar to that granted former anti-apartheid guerrillas, who waged a terror and sabotage campaign for decades.

But President Nelson Mandela's government ruled that no crimes would be considered political if committed after December 1993, when a multiracial council was formed to help the former white government run the country until the April 1994 election.

Sentencing was set for a later hearing. South Africa has abolished the death penalty; life imprisonment is the maximum sentence.