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Letter bombs strike Spain, including premier’s office, U.S. and Ukraine embassies

Spanish police officers near the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid on Wednesday. (Oscar Del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)
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A string of letter bombs in Spain, mailed to the office of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez as well as the embassies of Ukraine and the United States, have prompted authorities to boost security around public buildings while racing to look for clues about the letters’ origins.

Five of the six known letters — all mailed in recent days — have been detected in time. But the letter sent to the Ukrainian mission exploded Wednesday, injuring an embassy employee, Spain’s Interior Ministry said.

Other targets have included the Defense Ministry, the arms manufacturer Instalaza in Zaragoza, and the satellite center at a Madrid air base.

The letter sent to the U.S. Embassy was intercepted midday Thursday, Spain’s Interior Ministry said, and showed “similar characteristics to the previous ones.” It added that the letter was then detonated by security officials in a controlled explosion.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid confirmed that “a suspicious package was received.”

“We are grateful to Spanish law enforcement for their assistance with this matter,” it said.

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The letter to the prime minister’s office was found and neutralized on Nov. 24. The Spanish arms manufacturer, whose weapons are being used in Kyiv’s defense against Russia, received a letter bomb on Wednesday.

“As a result of these events, the National Police is conducting a confidential investigation,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding that it had ordered “an increase in security measures around the consular legations present in our country as well as in other areas that need special protection.”

Rafael Pérez Ruiz, the secretary of state for security, said Thursday that while the investigation was ongoing, it appeared all the letters originated from inside the country.

“Both the characteristics and the content of the envelopes were similar in all five cases,” he said, adding that investigators have clues on what the origin might be.

The envelope that arrived at the Ukrainian Embassy, addressed to Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev, exploded as an employee tried to open it, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said. The worker suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and received medical care.

The employee received superficial cuts to a finger on his right hand, according to Spanish newspaper El País. The letter was shipped in a 4-by-7 inch (10-by-18 cm) envelope, and the address and recipient’s name were handwritten in blue ink, the newspaper reported, citing police.

On Wednesday afternoon, an envelope addressed to the head of Instalaza arrived at the company, which produces the C90 grenade launchers sent to Ukraine by the Spanish government. The building was evacuated and then the bomb was detonated by a National Police bomb squad, according to the ministry statement.

The letter to the Torrejón de Ardoz air base was detected in the early hours of the morning Thursday and, after being examined by X-ray technology, was deemed to contain a “mechanism.” Police are analyzing the envelope, which was addressed to the base’s satellite center, the Interior Ministry said.

The letter to the Defense Ministry was intercepted at about 10 a.m. local time and addressed to the minister, Margarita Robles.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba instructed the country’s embassies to tighten security in the wake of the attack, Nikolenko said. Kuleba said the perpetrators would not intimidate Ukraine in its fight against Russia, according to the spokesman, who added that Kyiv had asked Madrid to urgently investigate.

Spanish officials are assessing possible connections among the envelopes and examining whether they have any link to the Russian invasion, according to Spanish media.

Russia’s embassy to Spain, on its official Twitter account, issued a statement in light of “information appearing in the Spanish media regarding the explosives.” Russia said that “any threat or terrorist act, even more, directed against a diplomatic mission, is totally condemnable.”

The Spanish Embassy in Ukraine condemned the attack in a statement, saying the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Spain has been a steady supporter of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. As of August, the country had taken in some 130,000 Ukrainian refugees, according to the Spanish Foreign Ministry. It has also provided small arms and air defense assets, and dispatched financial aid to Kyiv.

Spain also pledged generators to Ukraine after repeated Russian attacks against Ukrainian energy facilities in recent weeks.

Rios reported from Brussels and Harlan from Rome. Paul Schemm in London contributed to this report.