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Bombs sent to EU parliament deputies, no one hurt
( 2004-01-06 11:37) (Agencies)

Letter bombs sent to prominent European Parliament members exploded in Brussels and the British city of Manchester on Monday, and Belgium said a further seven suspect packages were intercepted.

Both bombs that went off were posted in Bologna, Italy, as was another suspected bomb intercepted in Brussels, leading to immediate assumptions of a link with a string of letter bombs sent from there last month to European figures and institutions.

No one was injured in Monday's two blasts.

The Italian Interior Ministry said Rome will lead a multinational task force to investigate the spate of letter bombs which have been sent from Italy's central city of Bologna.

After a meeting in Rome with anti-terrorism experts from Europol and six European countries, the ministry said the task force would be created to probe anarchist movements in countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece for the next two months and make recommendations to police.

Italian police suspect anarchists opposed to what they called the "new European order" were behind the letter bomb campaign which began last month when a parcel exploded in the hands of European Commission President Romano Prodi.

The bombs that exploded on Monday were sent to Hans-Gert Poettering, head of the largest political group in the parliament, in Brussels, and to Gary Titley, leader of British Labour Party members of the parliament, in Manchester.

Another package was delivered to a Spanish member of Poettering's European People's Party, Jose Ignacio Salafranca Sanchez-Neyra, and sent for tests by Belgian police.

"It is not to be excluded that there may be other packages," David Harley, spokesman for the President of the European Parliament, told Reuters.

Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael said in a statement that five suspect envelopes were discovered on different floors of the parliament building in Brussels on Monday, while two more suspect packages were intercepted at a post office in Antwerp.

Harley said in a statement that Belgian police were working with parliament's security services to rescan tens of thousands of packages received in recent weeks.

It was not immediately clear when the packages arrived. European Union institutions have been closed for Christmas and New Year, and Harley said they arrived during the last few days.


A series of letter bombs were sent to European officials late last month. On December 31, an Italian prosecutor said authorities had blocked mail sent from the Bologna region of northern Italy and addressed to EU bodies.

He was speaking after four devices in four days were mailed from Bologna -- to European Commission President Romano Prodi, European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet, EU police agency Europol and Eurojust, which helps fight cross-border crime. No one was injured by any of them.

An Italian group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation had threatened a campaign against the "new European order" just days before the first device targeted Prodi on December 27.

Harley said the bomb that went off in Poettering's office "sounded very like the one sent to Prodi's home."

Bologna's chief attorney said he was not surprised by Monday's bombs. "Just yesterday I said the only thing that was missing was (a bomb) against the legislative power. We were expecting it," Enrico Di Nicola told Radio 24.

Chief European Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen, speaking shortly before news of the device at Poettering's office was confirmed, said security was sufficient.

But Poettering told German mass circulation daily Bild that security would have to be stepped up.

"Until now only post to EU President Prodi was checked. Now it's clear that as of straight away all mail to EU deputies must be checked," he said.

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