Man, 74, arrested in Spain over letter bombs sent to PM and embassies

Six explosive devices sent to targets including Pedro Sánchez and the Ukrainian and US embassies

Spanish police have arrested a 74-year-old man in connection with a series of letter bombs and explosive devices sent to the Ukrainian and US embassies and the office of the Spanish prime minister at the end of last year.

Spain stepped up security at government buildings and embassies in December after six devices were sent to targets that also included the defence minister, an airbase near Madrid, and a weapons company that manufactures the C90 rocket launchers that have been donated to Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the Policía Nacional on Wednesday said a 74-year-old man had been arrested in the city of Miranda de Ebro in northern Spain in connection with the letter bombs. She could not confirm when the arrest had taken place and gave no further details.

Spain’s highest criminal court, the audiencia nacional, is investigating the case, and experts have been examining the envelopes for DNA and handwriting comparison.

The Ukraine embassy letter bomb exploded when it was opened by an employee on 30 November, causing minor injuries to the worker’s hands and leading Ukraine to warn its diplomats to bolster their security precautions.

The second, discovered hours later at Instalaza, a weapons company in Zaragoza that manufactures C90 rocket launchers, was deactivated by bomb squad officers.

In the early hours of 1 December, police were called to the European Union satellite centre at the Torrejón de Ardoz airbase after security systems detected a suspicious package.

Later the same day, it emerged that a letter containing “pyrotechnic material” and addressed to the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, had been intercepted on 24 November at Moncloa Palace, his official residence.

Shortly afterwards, the defence ministry said a suspicious package had been detected at 9am, prompting a call to bomb squad officers. It was addressed to the defence minister, Margarita Robles. Another device in a similar envelope was found at the US embassy at 12.30pm on 1 December and “neutralised” by police, according to the interior ministry.

The ministry said the discovery of the Moncloa Palace package had led it to order an immediate tightening of security at public buildings, especially for postal checks.

After the discovery of the first package, Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, urged all of Ukraine’s embassies to tighten their security measures. The minister said whoever was responsible “will not succeed in intimidating Ukrainian diplomats or stopping their daily work on strengthening Ukraine and countering Russian aggression”.

Russia’s embassy in Madrid released a statement on 1 December expressing its “total condemnation … [of] any threat or terrorist act – especially those directed at diplomatic missions”.

Contributor

Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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