Letter bomb to Arab newspaper forces evacuation at U.N.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Two letter bombs were discovered at the U.N. headquarters Monday, forcing the evacuation of scores of people. Authorities said at least one of the bombs was addressed to the U.N. bureau of an Arabic-language newspaper.
Earlier today, a bomb exploded at the London headquarters of the same newspaper, Al-Hayat, injuring two people.
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said both bombs were contained in greeting card-sized envelopes. One addressed to the newspaper was found about 11 a.m., about 15 minutes before it would have been delivered to the newspaper’s offices.
U.N. security guards started inspecting all the mail, and discovered the second bomb later in the basement mail room.
After the first discovery, guards evacuated the second and third floors of the 38-story U.N. headquarters, located along the East River in Manhattan, and summoned the New York City bomb squad. The basement mail room and delivery area were evacuated after the second discovery.
“The past pattern is that these things come in groups, so we will be looking for at least a third one,” Eckhard said. He did not say whether the second letter was also addressed to Al-Hayat.
This afternoon, police rushed to the offices of the Israeli consulate near the United Nations and the nearby Tudor Hotel, where many diplomats stay, after fears another suspicious package had been discovered. However, officials said both were false alarms and that no letter bombs were found.
In London, two mail clerks were wounded earlier in the day, one seriously, when a bomb exploded in the mail room of the Al-Hayat newspaper. Police blew up two other suspicious packages.
On Jan. 2, five letter bombs were sent to the Washington offices of the same newspaper in the National Press Building. None of those bombs exploded.
The Al-Hayat’s U.N. correspondent, Raghida Dergham, said she alerted U.N. authorities to screen her mail carefully after hearing of the London explosion.
“Upon hearing this morning that our offices in London were targeted and two people injured, when I came to the U.N. I alerted security to that fact and asked them to take extra careful measures to isolate the mail of Al-Hayat,” she said.
“We at Al-Hayat really don’t know who is behind this,” Dergham, president of the U.N. Correspondents Association, added. “There are no indications to suspect any particular party.”
Khairallah Khairallah, managing editor of Al-Hayat in London, also was perplexed.
“We don’t see any reason why this is happening,” he said in a telephone interview from his office. The paper is owned by members of the Saudi royal family, however, and unrest has increased in recent months in the kingdom.
The five letter bombs sent to Al-Hayat’s Washington bureau were among eight mailed to U.S. addresses at the beginning of the month. Two were received at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and a third was intercepted at the Leavenworth post office. None exploded.
U.S. officials are investigating whether the letter bombs were mailed by supporters of Omar Abdel-Rahman, a radical Egyptian Muslim cleric convicted in a U.S. court in 1995 of conspiracy to blow up New York landmarks, including the United Nations.