Police in Australia examine suspicious consulate packages

Reuters, MELBOURNE

Thu, Jan 10, 2019 - Page 6

Australian police are investigating suspicious packages sent yesterday to a wide range of embassies and consulates, which officials said included the US and British missions in Melbourne, but there were no reports of harm to staff.

Local media reported that more than a dozen foreign offices received the packages and that some staff said they contained asbestos, a material used in building construction that can cause cancers and other health problems.

There were no details of any possible motive and some of the targeted sites that reporters visited were opened later yesterday afternoon.

“The packages are being examined by attending emergency services,” the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement.

The packages were sent to consulates in Melbourne and embassies in Canberra, the AFP said, but it did not provide the number of affected sites, or identify any of them.

“The circumstances surrounding the incidents are being investigated,” the AFP statement said.

Officials at the US and British consulates in Melbourne separately confirmed suspicious packages had been received.

“We handled the package according to our standard procedures and in close coordination with local authorities,” a US Consulate spokesman said.

A New Zealand official told Australian Broadcasting Corp that the consulate received an envelope with small plastic bags that appeared to contain concrete and asbestos, with “asbestos” written on one of the bags.

Other consulates in Melbourne reported by media to have received suspicious packages included those representing Greece, Italy, Spain, Thailand, India, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, Denmark and Switzerland.