Police have said that letters targeting the mayor of New York City tested positive for ricin. The first letter was sent to the mayor's office and the second to his Washington-based group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
New York Police confirmed that suspicious letters containing a pinkish-orange "oily substance" had been laced with the poison ricin, according to preliminary tests. A mail facility in Manhattan had intercepted the first letter, which was addressed to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on Friday. The second letter arrived at the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group Mayors Against Illegal Guns over the weekend.
"In both letters the content was identical," police spokesman Paul Browne said, indicating that they had referenced the US gun control debate, but declined to provide further detail about specific threats made to Mayor Bloomberg.
In the wake of the Newtown shootings late last year, the New York City mayor has maintained a high-profile during the nationwide debate over tighter gun control, advocating stricter background checks for gun purchases and an assault weapons ban.
The advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns was co-founded by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 and has since grown into a coalition of 850 mayors from 44 states.
Browne also said that New York authorities who had come into contact with the first letter had since recovered from their initial ricin exposure symptoms. Although the Mayors Against Illegal Guns director, Mark Glaze, had opened the second letter, he had not experienced any symptoms.
Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. When inhaled, it can cause respiratory problems. However, the ingestion of ricin, even in small quantities, can be lethal.
The New York Police Department Intelligence Division and the FBI would continue the investigation together, Browne said.
In reaction to the test results, Mayor Bloomberg appeared unconcerned with the attempt to harm him and his colleague in Washington.
"In terms of why they've done it, I don't know. The letter ... obviously referred to our anti-gun efforts, but there's 12,000 people that are going to get killed this year with guns and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we're not going to walk away from those efforts," Bloomberg said.
Shortly after the Boston Marathon Bombings in April, US President Barack Obama also received a ricin-laced letter, as did two officials in the southeast state of Mississippi. Officials later charged a Mississippi man with possession of ricin and with attempting to use it as a weapon.
kms/pfd (AP, Reuters, dpa)