Letter Bombs Sent To Paper, Prison Seven Devices, Mailed From Egypt, Were Disguised As Holiday Cards

FRIDAY, JAN. 3, 1997

Seven letter bombs disguised as holiday cards and mailed from Egypt were discovered Thursday in the Washington office of an Arabic newspaper, at a post office handling the paper’s mail and at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan.

“We are treating it as a terrorism matter,” said FBI spokeswoman Susan Lloyd. She said the agency had no suspects.

None of the bombs exploded, and no one was injured. The FBI warned the public to be wary of similar cards.

“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 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.

The agency warned people receiving similar cards to use extreme caution, not handle the envelopes and contact police or their local FBI office.

The five bombs mailed to the Washington National Press Building office of Al Hayat, an Arabic newspaper owned by the Saudi royal family, were in musical holiday cards that played a tune when opened, the FBI said.

The bombs mailed to the Kansas prison were addressed to “parole officer,” without any particular name, Lanza said.

“Very tentatively, they appear to be similar to the ones that were received” in Washington, said Lloyd.

She said the FBI has no suspects but is mobilizing its legal attache based in Cairo and its terrorism task force in Washington.

Two of the bombs were detonated and the envelopes were destroyed, but the others are “fairly whole” and are being examined in the FBI laboratory in Washington, Lloyd said. A “complete examination” will include a search for latent fingerprints.

All seven bombs had the “same type of address, format, same kind of parcel, same postmark from the Middle East,” she said.

The FBI said the envelopes also had other markings, which it did not identify.

The first two bombs found at Al Hayat were discovered Thursday morning by an employee who “partially opened a letter and suspected that it was a letter bomb, and he stopped,” said police spokesman Robert Garisto.

Officials were confused about why the bombs in Kansas were sent to a “parole officer” at the prison. Max Geiman, an FBI spokesman in Kansas City, said federal prisons don’t have parole officers and the federal penal system has phased out parole as an option for convicts.

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