Greece Suspends Outgoing Airmail After Wave of Bombs

November 3, 2010


BERLIN — A package bomb addressed to the German chancellor and shipped by air from Greece was found in her office’s mailroom on Tuesday, even as Athens was shaken by a second day of letter bombs aimed at foreign embassies and experts defused explosives addressed to European leaders.

Greece suspended all outgoing airmail for 48 hours to check for further packages, news reports said.

Though only one person was injured, and only lightly, and most of the devices were neutralized, the wave of bombs unnerved European officials already scrambling to secure the continent’s air-cargo system after two explosive devices were intercepted en route from Yemen to the United States last Friday.

In a token of heightened tension, a plane from the TNT cargo airline made an emergency landing at Bologna, Italy, after officials in Greece realized that it was carrying a package addressed to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and warned the pilot, The Associated Press reported.

“A little flame was sparked,” when bomb experts defused the package after closing the airport to traffic for several hours, police spokeswoman Donatella Dosi was quoted as saying. No one was injured. The plane was heading for Paris and Liége, Belgium.

Earlier, anxiety spilled over in Athens as officials destroyed one suspicious package at the airport’s cargo terminal. In all, Greek officials dealt with nine confirmed bombs — four on Monday and five on Tuesday — including one addressed to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as the embassies of Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Chile, Mexico and Russia.

In Germany, officials said that the bomb addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel was found at the chancellery, the seat of the federal government, about 1 p.m. and that it had been moved outside by robot and demolished with a water cannon. The interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said that it had been sent by airmail from Greece two days earlier and that it appeared in design and construction similar to a device that exploded outside the Swiss Embassy in Athens.

At that embassy on Tuesday, staff members thought the package looked suspicious and hurled it outdoors, where it exploded without harm.

Greek officials said they had charged two young men who were arrested Monday with committing terrorist acts. At least one of them was suspected of being tied to radical leftist organizations, and a government spokesman, Giorgos Petalotis, said the goal was apparently to “disturb the peace and order of Greek society,” in advance of local elections scheduled for Sunday. But he spoke before the device was found in Germany, clouding the issue of motive.

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