Sunday 22 July 2018

Package which prompted Christmas market evacuation 'part of extortion plot'

The Christmas market was crowded a day after the package was found in Potsdam (AP)
The Christmas market was crowded a day after the package was found in Potsdam (AP)
German police talk with a vendor at the Christmas market a day after the package containing nails was found in Potsdam (AP)

A package containing nails that led to a bomb scare at a Christmas market was part of a plot to extort millions of euro from a delivery company, according to authorities.

The package which triggered the evacuation of the market in Potsdam, near Berlin, was delivered on Friday to a pharmacy on the same street as the market.

It was destroyed later in a controlled explosion.

The package contained "a cylindrical object with cables, batteries and nails" but was not viable as a bomb as it lacked an ignition mechanism, said police.

They now think it could have exploded but did not elaborate as to why.

The package also contained a letter directing investigators to an online message outlining a blackmail plot and mentioning the parcel delivered to the Frankfurt an der Oder company, said Brandenburg state interior minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter.

It is unlikely that the market itself was a target, said Mr Schroeter.

Officials declined to say if they had any clues to the identity of the sender who is still at large.

Further attempts to extort money from other companies or private individuals are likely, said Mr Schroeter.

An unknown sender, spelling mistakes or wires hanging out of a package could all be indications of a letter bomb, he said, adding that police had activated a hotline to deal with public concerns.

"If you get a suspicious package, do not open it. That could lead to an explosion," Mr Schroeter said.

Germans are still tense almost a year after 12 people were killed in a terror attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

Markets across the country have heightened security this year, while the government has warned that Germany remains a target for extremists.

AP

Press Association

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