Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Greek parcel bombs sent to EU institutions

  • The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg was one of the targets (Photo: European Court of Justice)

Two of the dozen mail bomb packages detonated in Greece and addressed to European leaders and embassies abroad were headed to Europol and the European Court of Justice, Greek police have said.

"Both packages contained explosive devices, they've been detonated. One was destined to go to Europol and the other one to the European Court of Justice," one of the police officials in Athens told Reuters.

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The EU's police co-operation agency Europol is based in the Hague in the Netherlands, while the bloc's highest court, the European Court of Justice, has its headquarters in Luxembourg.

Greek police said international air mail and parcel services would be suspended for two days after at least 11 other letter bombs were detected in Athens. One was addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, two others to the Greek parliament and eight to the embassies of Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Chile, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In Berlin, the German chancellery was on high alert after police destroyed a bomb addressed to Angela Merkel. The parcel was sent from Greece by air mail and UPS delivery and was similar to the Athens letter bombs, German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

The package, with the Greek ministry of economy listed as alleged sender, contained explosives hidden in the covers of a book. It was detonated by security forces in a building adjacent to the chancellor's office. Ms Merkel herself was not in Berlin at the time.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also had explosives sent to his address. A suspicious parcel was detected at the Bologna airport in northern Italy and caught fire when it was searched, AFP reports. Nobody was hurt, but the airport was temporarily closed down and several flights got re-routed to other Italian airports.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou condemned the bombing attempts, which are attributed by the police to anarchists. The perpetrators were trying to "disturb the social peace in the country through criminal acts," he said.

Two men, aged 25 and 22, have been arrested in connection with the plot. One of them is a chemistry student who was seized wearing a wig and a bulletproof vest, the Irish Times has reported.

He is believed to be linked to the radical group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire," which has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against government buildings and banks. The group is thought to be linked to the urban guerrillas who have killed police officers and a prominent journalist, and vowed to turn Greece into a "war zone."

The anarchist movements are fuelled by popular anger over harsh austerity measures passed by the Papandreou government in return for an EU-IMF bailout earlier this year.

A government spokesman called the bombing campaign a deliberate attempt to "terrorise" public opinion ahead of Sunday local elections.

The air mail bombs come only a few days after two powerful explosive devices hidden in ink cartridges were detected on-board passenger planes in packages shipped from Yemen to the US. One bomb travelled on two passenger planes before being seized in Dubai, while the other passed through Germany and almost slipped through Britain before being discovered on a plane at East Midlands Airport.

In reaction to the news, Germany on Monday introduced a ban on all passenger and cargo flights from Yemen - a move criticised by the Yemeni government as unfairly hitting tourists, business people and anti-terrorism fighters in the country.

In an apparent prediction of these events, last month, the US government issued a blanket travel alert for its citizens visiting Europe, urging them to be cautious when in tourist hotspots, as fresh terrorist attacks may be under way. EU governments responded differently to the alert, with notably Germany being the most sanguine about it, without raising its threat level or issuing travel alerts to its own citizens.

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