December 4, 2017 10:45 AM, EST
German Market Bomb Scare Part of DHL Blackmail Attempt
German police officers talk with a vendor at a Christmas market a day after a suspicious object was found in Potsdam, Germany, Dec. 2. Markus Schreiber/AP

BERLIN — A suspicious package found near a Christmas market in the German city of Potsdam was not terrorism-related, but part of an attempt to blackmail delivery company DHL, an official said Dec. 3.

Karl-Heinz Schroeter — interior minister of Brandenburg, where Potsdam is located — said a suspect asked DHL, a division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post, for millions of euros in a note attached to the package.

The parcel contained materials to create a bomb, including about 100 nails, an unidentified powdered substance and a metal cylinder. It also contained a blackmail letter encrypted in the form of a QR code, police Chief Hans-Juergen Moerke said.

The package was dropped off at one of DHL’s packing stations in Potsdam, not far from the city’s famed Sanssouci Palace. Investigators are now seeking witnesses who may have seen the suspect drop off the package.

Prosecutor Heinrich Junker said that his office had begun an investigation to look into charges of suspicion of attempting to cause an explosion and attempted robbery by blackmail.

A similar package was delivered in early November in the eastern city of Frankfurt an der Oder, the minister said, adding that that device had caught fire upon opening, causing the blackmail letter to be destroyed.

Moerke said that the suspect or suspects in both cases were from the greater Berlin area, but declined to give further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Despite earlier indications that the device could not have gone off due to the lack of a detonator, Schroeter said that further analysis had shown the device to be “highly dangerous” and capable of seriously injuring people.

Moerke said that further deliveries of a similar nature are possible and perhaps even probable. Officials warned postal customers to be wary of opening unexpected packages for the time being.

DHL, which delivers about 1.2 billion packages in Germany each year, declined to comment.

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