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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Explosives sent to Obama and Clinton houses 'act of terror'

Bombs were sent to several high profile Democrats and CNN

Police officers stand in front of property owned by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, New York. A US official says a "functional explosive device" was found at the Clinton's suburban New York home. AP
Police officers stand in front of property owned by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, New York. A US official says a "functional explosive device" was found at the Clinton's suburban New York home. AP

Police intercepted pipe bomb packages sent to former president Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and several high-profile Democratic politicians in what New York officials on Wednesday said was an act of terrorism.

No one was injured and it was not immediately clear if the devices were rigged to detonate or simply send a message.

With the country already deeply polarised, details of the six packages triggered fears of a politically motivated bombing campaign ahead of next month’s midterm elections.

They all arrived in padded manila envelopes, at least one bearing the return address of a former Democratic office holder, according to police officers.

Donald Trump, who has frequently been blamed for stoking anger at his opponents and the media, condemned the attempted attacks.

“In these times, we have to unify, we have to come together, and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America,” he said at the White House.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, where one of the packages arrived at the CNN offices, said: “This clearly is an act of terror attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence.”

The political figures targeted by suspicious packages: Top, left to right: US Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party donor George Soros and Barack Obama. Bottom, left to right: former US Attorney General Eric Holder, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Former CIA director John Brennan. Reuters
The political figures targeted by suspicious packages: Top, left to right: US Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party donor George Soros and Barack Obama. Bottom, left to right: former US Attorney General Eric Holder, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Former CIA director John Brennan. Reuters

All the targets have been singled out by Mr Trump and his supporters.

The first package was discovered on Monday at the home of George Soros, the billionaire financier and philanthropist.

The package addressed to Mrs Clinton in Westchester County, a suburban area of New York state, was spotted late on Tuesday by a Secret Service employee charged with checking her mail.

The device sent to Mr Obama was intercepted on Wednesday morning.

“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such, said the Secret Service in a statement.

“The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”

Details emerged rapidly on Wednesday morning as a fourth suspicious package was identified at CNN’s offices in New York, prompting the building to be evacuated and the channel to switch hurriedly to a commercial break. The parcel was found in the news organisation’s mail room.

Eric Holder, who was US attorney general under Obama, and Democratic Representative Maxine Waters – described as “low IQ” by Mr Trump - were also among those targeted.

The devices were sent at a particularly febrile moment in America’s political cycle.

President Donald Trump has frequently been accused of stoking tensions - and his supporters of promoting hate speech - since he entered the political fray in 2015. He has used bombastic language in attacking media organisations that he accused of spreading “fake news” and led supporters in chants of “CNN sucks”.

The country is preparing for midterm elections in two weeks time, a vote widely seen as a referendum on his record in power.

Police said no one had yet claimed responsibility.

Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI officer who led the analytical team credited with identifying the "Unabomber”, told MSNBC that the bombs were an extreme symptom of a national malaise.

“By the selection of targets they are telling you the political leaning of the individual who might have done this,” he said.

“MSNBC has discussed this for months, how polarised we have become. And how as individuals... we have lost the ability to discuss... are you with me or against me? And for some people if you are against me that gives me the right to take up arms or in this case bombs against you.”

Mr Soros’s wealth and activism have long made him the target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. During the past week he has been cited in right-wing claims that powerful liberals were funding a caravan of some 7000 people walking across Mexico on its way to America’s southern border.

His home is in a suburb north of New York City, not far from the Clinton’s upstate residence.

Law enforcement officers said that device was made from a six-inch length of pipe, filled with explosive powder, and hand-delivered to his home.

It was spotted by a caretaker on Monday afternoon and investigators are examining CCTV to see if they can spot who delivered it.

The FBI photographed the device and then detonated it near Mr Soros' home.

Mrs Clinton was on the campaign trail in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, Bill Clinton was at the family's Chappaqua home at the time the package was intercepted, according to a person familiar with his schedule. The device was found at a screening facility away from the residence and never reached the Clintons’ home, the source told the Associated Press.

Earlier this month, federal authorities said they had intercepted packages containing the deadly poison ricin addressed to President Trump and the Pentagon.

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