Threat of bombs halts airmail

Authorities yesterday suspended overseas air shipments for 48 hours in a bid to sort through mail and avert anymore letter bombs from being sent abroad after an explosive device addressed to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left Athens International Airport on Tuesday night and was intercepted in the Bologna, Italy. Meanwhile, a Greek police source told Kathimerini that it was possible that two more letter bombs might have eluded the force’s detection. The source added that police had been expecting a wave of violence by extremists ahead of local authority elections due on Sunday. The discovery of the package intended for the Italian leader late on Tuesday came less than 24 hours after a similar device, also been sent from Greece, arrived at the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. A cargo aircraft that departed from Athens late on Tuesday bound for Paris with a Rome stopover was rerouted to Bologna after Greek police realized the plane was carrying a package addressed to Berlusconi and alerted the pilot. Greek counterterrorism officers blamed the delay on the slow response by the courier company that had dispatched the package. Italian authorities said the package caught fire while being inspected but caused no injuries. Police remained on alert yesterday, advising courier firms and foreign embassies to report suspicious packages. Several embassies were the recipients of letter bombs sent out by courier firms on Monday and Tuesday. The two suspects, Gerasimos Tsakalos, 24, and Panayiotis Argyrou, 22, arrested on Monday in connection to the letter bomb plot are to face an investigating magistrate today. Argyrou, a suspected member of Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, yesterday refused to speak to a magistrate investigating the guerrilla group’s activities. Police said that they had identified the two young men who brought the packages targeting Berlusconi and Merkel to two courier firms in Athens and said they were both suspected members of Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire. Commenting on the developments, Prime Minister George Papandreou said, «Democracy will not be terrorized.» «The irresponsible and mindless acts of those who aim to undermine the efforts of the Greek people to put the country and the economy back on track will not succeed.»