Friday 19 July 2019

De Niro and Biden latest targets of US mail bomber

Terror fears: Donald Trump kisses wife Melania at the White House after she spoke about the bombs
Terror fears: Donald Trump kisses wife Melania at the White House after she spoke about the bombs

Devlin Barrett

Actor Robert de Niro and the former US vice-president Joe Biden became the latest targets of a suspected serial bomber yesterday.

The suspicious packages addressed to the Oscar-winning star, who has been public in his opposition to President Donald Trump, and to Mr Biden set off a new wave of alarm.

The new packages, which resemble those containing explosive devices previously sent to figures including former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, were located in Delaware and New York.

Like the others, they were intercepted before reaching their intended targets.

Last night a law enforcement source said the investigation was focusing on leads in Florida. All the suspicious packages are believed to have gone through the US postal system at some point, the source said.

The devices found so far, which officials have described as pipe bombs, have put many in the country on edge, and authorities have begun an intensive effort to find other explosives that may still be out in the postal system.

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro

Investigators found a package addressed to Mr Biden in a Delaware mail facility that was like the other pipe bombs found this week, according to a law enforcement official.

The package was apparently not delivered to Mr Biden's home and may have been on its way to being returned to the person listed on the return address of the envelope, the official said.

In a statement, the FBI declined to confirm that a package addressed to Mr Biden was found, instead saying only that local and state police, along with US Postal Service investigators and FBI agents, were "responding this morning to a United States Postal facility in Delaware to conduct law enforcement activity".

A similar package was found addressed to De Niro at his production offices in Manhattan, according to law enforcement officials. This package was discovered around 5am by security staff working for De Niro's film company, Tribeca Productions.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

A police spokesman said the parcel "was similar to explosive packages that had been publicised".

An X-ray of the package indicated a similar pipe bomb inside, and investigators suspect it was sent by the same person who sent explosives to Ms Clinton, Mr Obama and others, a law enforcement official said. Video from the scene showed the NYPD bomb squad removing the package in a heavily armoured containment truck. It was transported to Rodman's Neck, a peninsula in the Bronx where the NYPD explodes bombs, the department said.

New York's Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio urged people across the city to be on alert, and to refrain from opening suspicious packages.

"Alert authorities, call 911," he said on CNN.

He added that the city had "put an additional NYPD presence outside media companies across the city, outside the offices of certain elected officials."

The hunt for a serial mail bomber was launched late on Tuesday when Secret Service personnel conducting standard mail screenings found a pipe bomb inside a plain manila envelope with a bubble-wrapped interior addressed to Ms Clinton, the former secretary of state.

A similarly packaged bomb was found hours later in mail addressed to Mr Obama.

Neither bomb got close to its intended target, and neither contained a written message, according to law enforcement officials.

But the twin discoveries led to other undetonated devices being found elsewhere, including in the mailroom at CNN's New York headquarters and a district office of the Florida Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

As more devices were discovered, a disturbing pattern emerged - the bomber or bombers appeared to be targeting prominent figures on the political left.

The first such package had been discovered on Monday at the New York home of George Soros, a billionaire activist known to fund pro-democracy and liberal political groups.

That activism has made Mr Soros the frequent target of Mr Trump's incendiary rhetoric.

Trump supporters regularly make unsubstantiated claims that Mr Soros pays individuals to demonstrate at anti-Trump protests.

The package addressed to De Niro came after he had also publicly tangled with Mr Trump.

At the Tony Awards in June, he made his disgust with Mr Trump clear in a speech which received a standing ovation. "F*** Trump," he said. "It's no longer down with Trump," he said, "but f*** Trump."

Irish Independent

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