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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Police play down letter threats
St Andrews University
St Andrews University received a 'suspicious package'
Senior police officers have said they are confident that suspicious packages sent to addresses in Scotland are hoaxes.

Tests are being carried out on a white powder found in A5-sized packages which also contained letters warning of the anthrax bacterium.

Detectives believe packages found at St Andrews University were part of an ongoing campaign by Scottish republican extremists angered by Prince William studying at the Fife campus.

No connection has been made between the Scottish packages and those found elsewhere in the UK, or anthrax discoveries in the US following the attacks on Afghanistan.

Fife police HQ
Fife police HQ was also targeted
Twenty one people at the university have undergone decontamination procedures as a precaution and some have been prescribed antibiotics.

Seven employees of Scotsman Publications, the Edinburgh - based publishers of papers including The Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, were understood to have undergone hospital checks.

The move followed an alert about a package delivered to the company's headquarters in Holyrood Road.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said officers were investigating the incident in Edinburgh.

And Central Scotland Police said a package was removed from a racial equality office in Falkirk.

There is every likelihood that these fall more into the hoax category

David Mellor, Fife Police

Assistant Chief Constable David Mellor, of Fife Constabulary, confirmed that a small number of packages had been sent to addresses in Fife and Edinburgh.

"But, there is every likelihood that these fall more into the hoax category that we have previously experienced here in Fife than any direct connection with other events currently ongoing elsewhere in the world," Mr Mellor said.

"All the six packages contained white powder and they each contained a letter claiming the powder to be anthrax.

"Obviously we have responded to that situation this morning by isolating the people who could have come into contact with the white powder, and sealing off those parts of the building in which the packages have been opened.

"A total of 21 people who may have come into contact with the powder have been decontaminated and given antibiotics until the powder is confirmed not to be anthrax.

Contact police

"We are not making any connection whatsoever between these packages today and international events.

"What we are doing is linking the packages to similar packages received at St Andrews University and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 20 August this year.

"Those earlier packages purported to be anthrax, but when analysed were found to be a combination of salt and sugar, and those packages formed part of a series of hoaxes, threats and other activity which has been directed against Prince William's decision to study at St Andrews and are believed to have emanated from the Scottish Republican Movement.

We would advise businesses and the public in general to be alert to unusual packages

Lothian and Borders Police
"It's our firm belief that the substances we are in the process of recovering from the packages today will turn out when analysed not to be anthrax.

"I think the important thing with this type of threat is not to overact and not to panic."

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: "We would advise businesses and the public in general to be alert to unusual packages and tell police about anything which is suspicious."

Later in the day, Central Scotland Police said a suspect package was received at the offices of the Central Scotland Racial Equality Council, in Park Street, Falkirk.

About 20 people were evacuated and the package was taken away for examination.

It was thought that police considered it too early to say whether the incident was linked to the others in Scotland.

Andrew Anderson reports
"These incidents come at a time when anthrax has been detected elsewhere in the world"
See also:

13 Oct 01 | Health
Doctors given anthrax advice
12 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: A widespread threat?
26 Sep 01 | Health
NHS plans germ war response
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax: How do you stop it?
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
10 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Anthrax fears played down
14 Oct 01 | Americas
New US anthrax cases emerge
15 Oct 01 | Health
Q&A: Anthrax
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