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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 01:38 GMT
EU force to probe letter bombs
Firefighters at European Parliament
Firefighters were on hand to deal with suspect packages
European Union anti-terrorism officials have said they plan to set up a joint force to investigate a series of letter bomb attacks on its senior leaders.

On Monday two of three bombs sent to Euro MPs exploded at offices in Belgium and the UK though no-one was hurt.

The packages, all sent from Bologna in Italy, are believed to be linked to a spate of letter bombs that were sent to several leaders in December.

Investigators say Italian anarchists may be behind the mailings.

The Italian interior ministry said the force would spend two months gathering data on the phenomenon of "anarchist insurrection" across the EU before making recommendations to police.

Italy will co-ordinate the new task force,

The packages which exploded on Monday were addressed to UK MEP Gary Titley in Manchester and German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering in Brussels.

That sent to Mr Poettering, head of the European People's Party, burst into flames as it was being opened.

"It caught fire, there was a bang," a party spokesman said.

Mail checks

The package sent to Mr Titley, leader of the Labour Group in the European Parliament, also burst into flames when it was opened by his secretary.

We are concerned that out of the tens of thousands of packages received in recent weeks one or two have apparently slipped through the security net.
David Harley
European Parliament spokesman

The MEP's assistant, Roger Fellows, told the BBC that a fire took hold quite quickly before he managed to smother it.

David Harley, a spokesman for European Parliament President Pat Cox, said the two packages were of similar size and both were sent from Bologna, postmarked 22 December.

Belgian police were working with parliamentary security services, he said, to rescan packages sent to the European Parliament in recent weeks.

He said an inquiry would be carried out to assess what further security measures might be required.

A third device was sent to Jose Ignacio Salafranca, head of the Spanish conservatives in the European Parliament, but was not opened and passed on to Belgian police, parliamentary officials said.

Bologna link

In December similar packages were sent to European Commission President Romano Prodi, the head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet and the offices of Europol and Eurojust in the Hague, the Netherlands.

Letter bomb targets
28 December:
Romano Prodi (European Commission president)
29 December:
Europol (EU criminal intelligence service);
Jean-Claude Trichet (European Central Bank chief)
30 December:
Eurojust (EU body working for judicial co-operation)
5 January:
MEP Hans-Gert Poettering;
MEP Gary Titley;
MEP Jose Ignacio Salafranca
Mr Prodi's package exploded when he opened it at his home in Bologna.

All the devices were sent from Bologna, prompting authorities to block any further parcels sent from the Italian region to EU institutions.

An unknown Italian group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation is believed to be behind the campaign.

At the end of last year it threatened to target "the apparatus of control that is repressive and leading the democratic show that is the new European order".


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby
"Police are warning EU personnel to be vigilant"



SEE ALSO:
MEPs brush aside bomb campaign
05 Jan 04  |  Europe
Letter bomb at MEP's office
05 Jan 04  |  Manchester
Bologna mail blocked after bombs
31 Dec 03  |  Europe
Letter bombs sent to EU figures
29 Dec 03  |  Europe


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