Mail bomb campaign in Athens reaches Germany
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 9:20 PM
ATHENS, Greece -- Suspected Greek terrorists unleashed an unprecedented two-day wave of mail bomb attacks in Athens and abroad, with one package reaching the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.
Greek militant groups are suspected of mounting the attacks targeting embassies in Athens and international organizations and foreign leaders abroad. If that is confirmed, it would mark a dramatic escalation for organizations that have never before attempted to strike targets abroad.
The campaign used small devices that only caused one injury and minimal damage. But it highlights the difficulty of keeping bombs out of the international delivery system - also a target of Yemen-based militants armed with more powerful and potentially deadly explosives.
Security at all embassies in Athens has been increased and authorities on Tuesday suspended all international mail deliveries from Greece for 48 hours for further checks.
By Tuesday evening, at least 11 mail bombs had been detected in the Greek capital - one addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and eight to the embassies of Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Chile, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Two more were destroyed in controlled explosions at Athens' international airport - one addressed to the European Union's highest court in Luxembourg and the other to law enforcement agency Europol in the Netherlands.
"A little flame was sparked" when a package addressed to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was opened by bomb experts at the airport at Bologna, Italy, said police spokeswoman Donatella Dosi. No one was injured.
The TNT cargo plane had made an emergency landing in Bologna after TNT officials back in Greece realized there was a package aboard addressed to Berlusconi and informed the pilot, she said
The plane had originally been been bound for Paris and Liege, Belgium, the site of a package distribution center, said Dosi. The airport was closed to takeoffs and landings for hours while the TNT plane was searched to locate the package.
It was unclear whether the bomb sent to Germany was delivered by land or air. If sent by plane, it would highlight the potential limitations of air cargo security that remain, despite the concern triggered by the mail bombs dispatched recently from Yemen.
"If they have been flown, then it rather begs the question whether European freight air security is up to muster at all," said UK-based aviation security consultant Chris Yates.
But transportation industry officials also said there are few if any security checks on packages transported within the European Union by road or rail.