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Letter Bomb Explodes at European Parliament; No Injuries - 2004-01-05


A letter bomb sent to a top member of the European Parliament in Brussels exploded in his office, but no one was injured. Investigators believe the incident is linked to several letter bombs that were sent last month from Italy to other European figures and institutions.

The bomb that detonated was addressed to conservative German lawmaker Hans-Gert Poettering, who heads the European People's Party, the biggest political group in the European Parliament.

Mr. Poettering was returning to Brussels from Germany at the time, and the aide who opened the videocassette-sized package suffered no injuries when it burst into flames.

Bomb disposal experts managed to neutralize another suspicious parcel that was addressed to Jose Ignacio Salafranca, a Spanish member of Mr. Poettering's party.

A spokesman for the European Parliament, David Harley, says one or two other suspect packages are being checked by security officials.

Mr. Harley says the packages were mailed from the Italian city of Bologna on December 22. He says he does not know when they arrived at the European Parliament, which reopened after a long Christmas and New Year's holiday.

Four similar devices were mailed last month from Bologna to other European Union leaders and agencies. One was opened by the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, at his home in Bologna. It did not hurt him, but caused a small fire.

Another was sent to the Frankfurt office of European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, and the others were mailed to the heads of Europol, an EU police agency, and Eurojust, an institution grouping European prosecutors, both of which are based in The Hague. Those bombs also did not cause any injuries.

On December 31, Italian authorities said they were blocking all mail sent from Bologna to European agencies.

Italian police have linked the devices to a little-known Italian anarchist group that took responsibility for setting off two small bombs in garbage cans outside Mr. Prodi's Bologna home on December 21.

The group says it planted the bombs to strike at what it called the repressive European control apparatus.

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