Merkel calls for improved air freight security

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Germany's chancellor Wednesday urged better air freight security coordination after a parcel bomb from Greece was seized at her office and two US-bound parcel bombs were sent to the US from Yemen.

Both incidents "must be an opportunity to coordinate freight controls within Europe, with the United States and then worldwide as far as possible," Angela Merkel told the Passauer Neue Presse regional daily.

"We urgently need to implement tougher worldwide controls to guard against terror attacks. This recent case shows, however, that the international coordination of security forces is working."

On Tuesday, a package containing explosives arrived at Merkel's offices in Berlin in what authorities said was a thwarted attack linked to a mail bombing campaign in Greece.

While no one was injured, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the bomb "could have caused not insignificant damage" if it had exploded.

In total, around a dozen small parcel bombs were discovered addressed to the leaders of France, Germany and Italy and foreign embassies in Athens.

Police managed to track down most of the parcels accounted for since the plot surfaced on Monday but not before one made its way to the German chancellery mail room in Berlin, where it was neutralised by Merkel's staff.

The parcel intended for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was found on a courier plane bound for Paris that was rerouted to Bologna late on Tuesday night.

Greece imposed a two-day ban on all international mail while police hunted for a gang of left-wing militants believed to be behind the campaign.

Last week, two parcels sent from Yemen and addressed to Jewish institutions in Chicago containing the lethal explosive PETN hidden in ink toner cartridges were uncovered in Britain and Dubai en route to the United States.

They have been linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the local franchise of Osama bin Laden's jihadist network, and a Saudi bombmaker believed to be hiding in Yemen.

The bomb found in Britain had been routed via the western German city of Cologne.

Merkel added that there was "a great deal of movement in the radical Islamic scene."

"Up until now, we have been able to thwart several attacks by excellent international cooperation and the work of our own security forces," Merkel said.

"However, I won't dress things up. There is a danger. Everyone needs to be vigilant."

© 2010 AFP

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