- First device sent to Prime Minister’s Office on November 24
- Four similar letter bombs received on Wednesday and Thursday
- Ukrainian embassy official slightly injured by machine
- Ministry of Defense, arms manufacturer, air base also targeted
- Homemade devices designed to burn rather than explode
MADRID, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Demining experts defused a fifth letter bomb on Thursday as Spain tightened security to deal with a series of explosive devices sent to high-profile targets, including the prime minister and the Ukrainian ambassador in Madrid.
Early indications suggest the five packages were sent from Spain, the country’s deputy interior minister told reporters.
Rafael Perez, the deputy minister responsible for security, said the homemade devices were sent in brown packages containing flammable powder and a trip wire that would generate “sudden flames” rather than an explosion.
The parcels were addressed to the heads of the institutions to which they were addressed.
Perez said one of the devices exploded – injuring a security officer at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, three others were detonated by security forces in controlled explosions and one was kept intact for purposes of investigation.
“It looks like they were all sent from inside the country, but we are basing it on the first visual inspections without having an in-depth technical report yet,” he said.
Perez said it did not yet seem necessary to convene the security committee that would assess the escalation of the level of terrorist threat in Spain, which is already at the second highest level after the Islamist attacks in Europe in the last decade.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that it had, however, ordered the police to step up security around public buildings and in particular to carefully monitor postal deliveries.
A source close to the investigation said that while the devices were homemade, “they weren’t something anyone could make”, and investigators were now looking to trace their contents back to their origin.
Spain’s High Court specializing in terrorism has opened an investigation, a judicial source said.
ARMS COMPANIES, EU SATELLITE CENTER TARGETED
News of the letter bombs broke midday on Wednesday after police said a security official at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid suffered minor injuries after opening a package.
Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev told Ukrainian news site European Pravda that the suspicious package, addressed to him, was handed over to the Ukrainian embassy commander who took it out to open it.
“After opening the box and hearing a click, he threw it away and then heard the explosion…the commander injured his hands and suffered a concussion,” Pohoreltsev said.
“We have instructions from the ministry in Ukraine that, given the situation, we have to be prepared for any kind of incident…Russian activities outside the country,” Pohoreltsev told the TV channel. Spanish television TVE.
Russia invaded Ukraine nine months ago in what it calls a “special military operation” that Kyiv and the West describe as an unprovoked imperialist land grab.
After the incident, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered all Kyiv embassies abroad to “urgently” tighten security, a Ukrainian ministry spokesman said.
The Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in Spain issued a statement on Thursday condemning “any threat or terrorist act” in relation to the five letter bombs, “in particular directed against a diplomatic mission”.
Another package was received late Wednesday at the headquarters of Spanish arms maker Instalaza in Zaragoza, northeastern Spain, police said.
Instalaza manufactures the C90 rocket launcher that Spain supplied to Ukraine.
Spanish security forces also found a device early Thursday in an envelope sent to a European Union satellite center at an airbase in Torrejon de Ardoz, near Madrid, the defense ministry said.
The satellite center supports the EU’s common foreign and security policy by gathering information from space intelligence devices, according to its website, and was recently described by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, as part of the “eyes of Europe”.
On Thursday morning, the Spanish Interior Ministry revealed that an “envelope containing pyrotechnic material” addressed to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had been received on November 24 and disarmed by his security team. The device was “similar” to packages discovered this week, he said.
A fifth device was received at the Spanish Defense Ministry on Thursday morning and defused by specialist police, a Defense Ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Reporting by Corina Rodriguez, Emma Pinedo, Bethlehem Carreno, Juan Medina, Sun Landauro and Jesus Water; Writing by Inti Landauro and Aislinn Laing, editing by Alison Williams and Alex Richardson
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