Greece resumes air freight after parcel bomb spate

ATHENS Thu Nov 4, 2010 7:40pm EDT

1 of 6. Greek police explosives experts search the area after a controlled explosion of a suspicious package at a courier company in Athens November 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece resumed the shipment of all mail and packages abroad after midnight on Friday, following a suspension it imposed in the wake of a spate of parcel bombs sent to embassies in Athens and to European governments.

Greek authorities have blamed leftist militants for the bombs, which were discovered over the past several days. One reached German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office in Berlin.

Authorities ordered a 48-hour suspension of air freight on Wednesday. A civil aviation official said late on Thursday that it would not be extended beyond midnight.

"As agreed with police, the shipment of air freight will be conducted as normal from midnight on, but with tough security measures," the official who declined to be named told Reuters.

Airport officials confirmed shortly after midnight on Friday morning that the shipment of mail abroad had resumed.

Small bombs exploded at the Swiss and Russian embassies in Athens on Tuesday, a parcel with explosives was intercepted at the German chancellor's office and another package addressed to Italy's prime minister caught fire when it was checked.

Police also intercepted a booby-trapped parcel addressed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday and found parcel bombs at the Chilean and Bulgarian embassies. On Thursday police found a bomb hidden in a book addressed to the French embassy.

Two Greeks in their 20s arrested on Monday after a package exploded at a courier company in Athens have been charged with participating in guerrilla groups, a court official said. They are accused of sending parcel bombs addressed to the Mexican and Belgian embassies, Sarkozy and European police agency Europol.

"All evidence shows this is a clear domestic case, with no connection with international terrorism," Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said on Wednesday. "The evidence so far shows we are dealing with extreme left, anarchist groups."

The devices may be intended to spur an anti-government vote in Sunday's local elections in protest against Prime Minister George Papandreou's austerity plan, agreed with the EU and International Monetary Fund to deal with Greece's debt mountain.

They did not contain enough explosives to seriously harm any recipient -- police said most burst into flames when they were opened rather than exploding in transit -- and analysts say they were probably designed as a show of force by Greece's web of urban guerrilla groups.

Greece has a decades-old history of leftist violence. Some groups became more active after riots in December 2008 that were triggered by the police killing of a teenager and attracted worldwide media attention.

(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander; Writing by Alison Williams; Editing by Peter Graff)

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