MADRID — Spanish security forces are investigating a wave of letter bombs sent to political, military and diplomatic targets.
Devices were sent to the US Embassy and Prime Minister’s Office, as well as four other destinations, triggering a security alert.
On Thursday, security personnel at the US Embassy in central Madrid discovered an incendiary device sent by courier. The surrounding area was cordoned off when police entered the building. No one was injured as the device was disabled.
It was just the latest of five similar cases, which included the Ukrainian embassy, the Spanish prime minister’s office, the defense ministry, an arms manufacturer and a military base.
The nature of the packets’ targets has raised suggestions of a link to Russia. Spain has been a staunch supporter of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and on November 19 the Ministry of Defense announced that it was about to send a new shipment of military aid to the country to help it repel Russian forces.
The National Court has opened an investigation into possible terrorism-related crimes and public buildings have been put on high alert, although the terrorist threat level has not been changed.
The first bomb was reported on Wednesday when a staff member at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid was injured as the contents of the package he had opened caught fire. He received medical treatment for hand injuries, but was not hospitalized. He was the only person injured by the devices.
The parcel was addressed to the Ukrainian Ambassador, Sergi Pohoreltsev. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has ordered increased security at all embassies in his country.
Pohoreltsev appeared to hint at possible Russian involvement, saying, “We know our enemy is a terrorist state and we can expect anything.
However, the Russian embassy in Madrid said it condemned “any terrorist threat or act, especially against an embassy”.
The series of attacks had in fact begun even before the embassy incident: it emerged that a letter bomb had been sent to the office of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, where it had been deactivated, on 24 November.
Secretary of State for Security Rafael Pérez said the substance in the package sent to the prime minister’s office was “a compound or ingredient with characteristics similar to the material used for fireworks.”
The newspaper El País published a photo of the package sent to the Prime Minister, which was made of cardboard, measured 10 cm by 18 cm and was addressed by hand. It had been sent by regular mail.
Another was sent to the office of Defense Minister Margarita Robles, where it was also deactivated on Thursday.
Hours earlier, police had also disabled a device sent to an arms manufacturer, Instalaza, based in Zaragoza, in the northeast of the country. Instalaza reportedly supplied grenade launchers to the Spanish government, which were shipped to Ukraine as military aid. The Torrejón de Ardoz military base, on the outskirts of Madrid, was also targeted.
Pérez said there appeared to be similarities between the separate packages, which were all believed to have been sent from inside Spain. Spanish media, citing security sources, said opening the packages ignites the device, which then generates a flame rather than an explosion.
Robles, who was in Odessa to meet his Ukrainian counterpart when the news broke, said Spain reiterated its commitment to Ukraine and its people.