Parcel plot not linked to international terror: Greece

A Greek parcel bomb plot that has seen packages mailed to European leaders and foreign embassies in Athens has "no link" to international terror, the government said Wednesday as Europe moved to tighten security.

Athens: A Greek parcel bomb plot that has seen packages mailed to European leaders and foreign embassies in Athens has "no link" to international terror, the government said Wednesday as Europe moved to tighten security.

"All the evidence so far clearly shows that these incidents have nothing to do with any kind of organised international terrorism," Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas told reporters in Athens.

Thirteen parcel bombs have so far been accounted for, including one that reached the German chancellery in Berlin and another found on board a courier plane to Paris after it was diverted to Bologna.

These were respectively addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A third parcel intended for French President Nicolas Sarkozy was found Monday. The two men carrying it were arrested, and one was subsequently found to be wanted as a suspected member of a Greek far-left group.

The outfit, Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, was hitherto known for arson and bomb attacks on government buildings and the offices and homes of Greek politicians.

Authorities bolstered security arrangements at Athens embassies in the wake of the attacks and halted all foreign mail and parcel deliveries for two days to enable a thorough re-examination of pending dispatches.

One package sent to the Mexican embassy exploded inside a courier company on Monday, burning an employee`s hand. After the alert was raised, police found two more packages intended for the Dutch and Belgian embassies.

But on Tuesday, five other parcels surfaced.

One was destroyed by controlled explosion inside the Bulgarian embassy, but two more burst into flames at the Swiss and Russian embassies when handled by staff. Nobody was injured.

Two more parcels mailed to the German and Chilean embassies were also intercepted and destroyed by police, who have appealed for information leading to the capture of five men, aged between 21 and 30.

Police said Wednesday that at least three people and possibly four were involved in mailing the bombs.

Apart from the pair arrested, a young man left the parcel addressed to Merkel at a courier company near the Athens railway station.

The package for Berlusconi had been mailed by a youth from another courier company in the Athens district of Perissos.

Police were not able to state Wednesday if they were two different people but the two companies are several kilometres (miles) apart.

The bombs were contained in hollowed-out books and dossiers and are believed to contain a small amount of explosives, according to Greek police.

Greek Police Minister Christos Papoutsis said courier companies were responsible for inspecting suspicious packages, and called for tougher operating restrictions on such companies.

"A dialogue should also open at European level to harmonise legislation," he said.

European bomb detection experts are to meet Friday to examine whether Europe needs to step up air cargo security measures following the Greek parcel bombs and others sent to the United States from Yemen last week.

Two parcels intercepted at Athens international airport were addressed to the European police agency Europol in the Netherlands and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

A spokesman for the Dutch anti-terrorism coordinator said international organisations based in The Netherlands had been warned to be on their guard.

They included Europol, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court.

As Italy opened an inquiry into the bomb addressed to Berlusconi, ANSA news agency said Italian secret services were also investigating a possible link between the Greek campaign and Italian militant groups.

Italian airport authorities said they had bolstered checks at Rome`s Ciampino and Fiumicino airport on both passengers and goods.

The attacks come in the run-up to local elections in Greece and in a climate of social tension against draconian austerity cuts imposed by the government to turn around the recession-hit economy following an unprecedented debt crisis.

Bureau Report