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New Zealand Authorities Investigate Terror Threat Against US - 2003-02-27

Police in New Zealand are investigating letters threatening terror attacks on American interests if the United States goes to war with Iraq. Four copies of the letter were sent, with one envelope containing the deadly poison cyanide. Three letters were mailed to the British, American and Australian embassies, and one to a New Zealand newspaper.

Police and forensic experts in New Zealand are searching for clues about the four envelopes. Each contained the threatening letter and a white powder substance. Police confirmed that only one of the envelopes contained a small amount of cyanide.

The letters, signed by "Alluha Akbar" of the "September 11" group, threatened a jihad, or holy war, against American interests if the United States went to war with Iraq. New Zealand police say they have no knowledge of the "September 11" group, and do not know if a group or an individual sent the letters. They do believe the letters came from within New Zealand.

New Zealand has a very small Muslim population that has no record of militancy.

"There were three letters sent through the New Zealand postal system. They were stopped at a postal center in Auckland and some white powdery substance was discovered," said John Neilson, the New Zealand National Police Commissioner's spokesman. "One of the letters had cyanide in it, the other powders have not been found to be hazardous substances at this point. The fourth letter was sent directly to the New Zealand Herald and they immediately called police."

The letter, written in English and peppered with grammatical errors, stated that the "September 11" group was formed to "to challenge the actions of the great Satan America and resist its imperialist ambitions in the Islamic world." The letter said the group had a stockpile of about 25 kilos of cyanide it could use for terror attacks. It named the America's Cup competition - an international yacht race now being hosted by New Zealand, as a potential target for its attack.

It also referred to a similar letter mailed to the U.S. embassy in New Zealand last year, which threatened an international golf competition featuring Tiger Woods. Police said that envelope contained enough cyanide to kill at least 20 people. Police confirmed there are similarities in style between last year's letter and the four sent over the past week and a half, but have not drawn any conclusions.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark warned recently that a war against Iraq could promote widespread resentment against the West and lead to more terror attacks.

New Zealand supports the United States and would lend logistical help in the event of a U.S. led attack on Iraq, but only if it were approved by the United Nations.