A letter bomb was discovered Friday at a Kansas post office as the FBI investigated possible connections between bombs mailed to the Washington bureau of an Arabic newspaper and to the federal penitentiary in Kansas.
The FBI said the latest letter was addressed to a parole officer in Leavenworth, Kan., the same as two previous ones. The letter was intercepted at the main post office in the town, said FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza in Kansas City, Mo.Postal workers "were on the lookout for something like that," he said. "Postal inspectors are taking a much closer look now at things coming through at that post office."
All told, eight similar letter bombs have been discovered in the past two days including the one that was intercepted Friday.
The FBI has said it is examining the Leavenworth inmate population, which includes a man convicted in the World Trade Center bombing.
"We will be studying the ethnic makeup of that prison's population in the course of our investigation," said a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified by name. "We have drawn no conclusions, but this is one obvious area to look at."
None of the seven letter bombs exploded, and no one was injured. The bombs discovered Thursday were disguised as musical holiday cards and mailed from Egypt. Four went to the Washington office of an Arabic newspaper, Al Hayat, at the National Press Building, and one was found at a post office handling the newspaper's mail. The Al Hayat is owned by a member of the Saudi royal family.
The Al Hayat office is one floor above the Deseret News Washington Bureau office in the National Press Building - and police twice ordered evacuation of the Deseret News office Thursday when the bombs were found.
The Al Hayat office is also two stories above the international and governmental affairs offices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which were evacuated only when a second delivery of letter bombs was discovered - and a search throughout the building for more bombs was conducted.
Two similar cards were sent to an unnamed "parole officer" at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan.
"We are treating it as a terrorism matter," FBI spokeswoman Susan Lloyd said. The agency had no suspects, she added, but was mobilizing its Cairo-based legal attache and its terrorism task force in Washington.
Among the inmates at Leavenworth is Mohammad Salameh, one of four people convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York that killed six people and injured more than 1,000.
We're trying to determine what the connection is between Leavenworth and the newspaper," Raymond Mislock, special agent in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, said late Thursday. "We don't know what connection that is at this point."
The seven bombs were in holiday cards, postmarked from Alexandria, Egypt, in plain, white, 5 1/2-by-6 1/2 envelopes with computer-generated addresses and no return addresses, the FBI said. Some were postmarked Dec. 21.
"These would have gone off. They weren't duds," said Jeff Lanza, an FBI spokesman in Kansas City, Mo. "They would have caused serious harm had they exploded."
The FBI warned the public to be wary of similar cards.
"We're concerned that there could be additional such letters still in the mail," Mislock said. "We would very much like anyone who identifies a similar piece of mail not to touch it or disturb it any way."