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Bomb meant for German leader destroyed

ATHENS, Greece — Suspected Greek terrorists unleashed an unprecedented two-day wave of mail bombs targeting embassies in Athens, international organizations and foreign leaders, with devices exploding at the Russian and the Swiss embassies on Tuesday. German authorities also destroyed a bomb sent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

By late Tuesday, 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. As a precaution, Greek police said, international mail and parcel services was suspended for two days.

It was unclear whether the bomb sent to Germany was delivered by land or air. No connection was made to the mail bombs from Yemen that were found on aircraft in Britain and Dubai, and Greek authorities were focusing on domestic groups.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the package that arrived Tuesday at Merkel's office was sent from Greece two days earlier by UPS delivery and resembled the Athens packages.

He described it as a package that appeared to be a book.

The news agency DAPD reported the package contained a pipe filled with black powder.

UPS, which transports packages in Europe both by ground and air, said it was aware of reports it had delivered the package but could not confirm them. "We're working closely with authorities to investigate," UPS spokesman Norman Black said by e-mail.

Two more packages were destroyed in controlled explosions at the Athens airport — one addressed to the European Union's highest court in Luxembourg and the other to law enforcement agency Europol in the Netherlands.

"If they have been flown, then it rather begs the question whether European freight air security is up to muster at all," said United Kingdom-based aviation security consultant Chris Yates.

Transportation industry officials also said there are few if any security checks on packages transported within the European Union by road or rail.

"Once they're in Europe, the goods are free to move around," said Robert Windsor, manager of trade services at the British International Freight Association.

The attacks began Monday when a mail bomb addressed to the Mexican Embassy exploded at a delivery service in central Athens, wounding one worker.

Greek police arrested two men in their 20s shortly after the blast. They were allegedly carrying mail bombs addressed to Sarkozy and the Belgian Embassy, along with handguns and bullets in waist pouches.

The two — Panagiotis Argyros, 22, and Gerasimos Tsakalos, 24, were charged with terrorism-related offenses Tuesday. Both refused to cooperate with authorities, declining to give their names and claiming to be political prisoners.

Police said Argyros was already wanted on suspicion of membership in a radical group called Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire, which has carried out crude arson and small bomb attacks in the past.

Bomb meant for German leader destroyed 11/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 8:12pm]
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