German authorities intercepted a parcel bomb sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel from Greece that could have caused “not inconsiderable damage,” the government said.
Merkel was in Belgium when the parcel was discovered yesterday and no one was injured in the incident, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said. The mailing “fits into the context” of parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies in Athens this week, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said late yesterday.
The device was contained in a parcel with a book addressed to Merkel and listing the Greek Economy Ministry as the sender, German officials said. It was sent from Greece by air cargo, de Maiziere said.
Greek authorities found parcel bombs addressed to the Belgian embassy in Greece and to French President Nicolas Sarkozy on two men arrested in Athens on Nov. 1. Small parcel bombs exploded yesterday at the Swiss and Russian embassies in Athens, and police said at least three more packages addressed to foreign missions including the German embassy were disarmed.
The Passauer Neue Presse reported that Merkel called for better global coordination of cargo checks, pointing to the Berlin incident and the air-freight bombs discovered last week originating in Yemen bound for synagogues in Chicago.
“Terrorism can only be fought if we marshal our forces worldwide,” the newspaper cited her as saying in an interview in today’s edition. “Everyone has the duty to be vigilant.”
The “small parcel,” mailed three days ago to the Chancellery in central Berlin, was discovered at noon yesterday during a routine mail inspection and disarmed by explosives experts, Seibert told reporters.
“This was a functional explosive device,” de Maiziere said. “We haven’t determined how dangerous the explosive was, but it’s quite likely that if it was the same type of device as the package bombs in Athens, it could have caused not inconsiderable damage.”
Luxembourg said today it’s been the recipient of “a series of” parcel bombs sent from Greece. Among the known addressees are Luxembourg-based European Union institutions such as the EU’s highest court, the country’s government press department said in an e-mailed statement. Luxembourg is taking “adequate measures” to protect recipients of parcels that contain explosives which detonate on opening.
Germany’s Interior Ministry ordered government offices to step up vigilance for suspicious parcels after the Merkel package, de Maiziere said. Germany’s Federal Crime Bureau is investigating the incident.
“There’s no evidence of any connection” to the air-cargo bombs originating in Yemen that were discovered last week, he said. “Although it did come on a cargo plane.”
Germany was already on alert after the bombs from Yemen were discovered. One of those, concealed in a printer cartridge, passed through Cologne-Bonn airport. Germany and the U.K. have restricted package deliveries from Yemen and the U.K. prohibited some larger printer cartridges from going on flights.
German remains a target for terrorism, Joerg Ziercke, head of the Federal Crime Office, was cited as saying by Bild newspaper.
“The range of targets may include buildings with a high symbolic value,” the newspaper quoted him as saying in interview excerpts e-mailed to media today. “We have reason for concern, and even more so for precaution -- but not for panic.”
“There appears to be a new terrorist offensive,” Jan Techau, a research adviser at the NATO Defense College in Rome, said in an interview. “For a long time things had been quieter due to the high intensity of pursuit that extremists were subject to.”