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US mail bomb suspect arrested in Florida

October 26, 2018

Investigators have arrested a man in Florida in connection with pipe bombs sent to Democrats and Trump critics. Authorities warned that there may be more devices in the mail system than the 13 found so far.

US postal police agent at Opa-Locka distribution facility in Florida
Image: picture-alliance/abaca/C.M. Guerrero

Speaking at a Department of Justice press conference Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other law enforcement officials praised the federal, state and local agency cooperation that led to the arrest of a man accused of sending a series of mail bombs to various addresses across the US.

The man will be charged with at least five crimes and may face up to 48 years in prison. FBI Director Wray stressed the fact that the 13 packages secured to date were "not hoax devices." 

US authorities arrested the man earlier in the day in Plantation, Florida, in connection with a total of 13 suspected pipe bombs sent to Democrats, their supporters, and critics of US President Donald Trump. DNA and a fingerprint found on one of the packages were used to identify the suspect.

Law enforcement officials say the man is a 56-year-old Florida resident with a long criminal record. Authorities also impounded a white van said to belong to him and transported it to a government facility for analysis.

Federal authorities have warned that more packages may be in the postal system.

The list of targets spreads from New York, Delaware and Washington, DC, to Florida and California with details of the packages suggesting a pattern. The items were packaged in manila envelopes, addressed to prominent Trump critics and carried US postage stamps.

President Trump delivered a short statement at the White House praising law enforcement for the "incredible job" they had done in arresting the suspect, though it is still unknown whether the man arrested in Florida was acting alone.

Trump says bomb suspect to be prosecuted fully

Trump went on to say: "These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country," but added that he held no blame for the suspect's actions.

The president later took aim at the media at a campaign rally, accusing journalists of using "the sinister actions of one individual to score political points" against him.

A van thought to belong to the suspect being impounded in Florid
Federal authorities impounded a van thought to be the suspect's on Friday. The vehicle's windows were covered with pro-Trump and violent anti-Democrat, anti-CNN stickers.Image: Reuters/WPLG

The mail bomb timeline so far:

October 22: The first device was found in a postbox near the New York home of billionaire businessman George Soros — a major donor to the Democratic Party.

October 23: The Secret Service uncovered a second package addressed to former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Earlier this month Clinton had said: "You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about."

October 24 morning: A suspected bomb en route to former President Barack Obama was intercepted in Washington, DC. Another package was sent to broadcaster CNN's New York office, causing the entire building to be evacuated. That package was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan — a Trump critic who had been due to appear on CNN that day. Police said they found an "envelope containing white powder" in the packaging of the device.

October 24 afternoon: It was then revealed that former Attorney General Eric Holder had been sent a suspected bomb. But the package had ended up at the office of representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Sunrise, Florida, which was listed as the return address.

It was then reported that another device addressed to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters had been found at a mail sorting facility near Washington, DC. A second suspicious package addressed to her was later discovered in Los Angeles. In June, Waters had called on supporters to harass Trump's Cabinet members in public. 

Speaking at the White House, Trump condemned "acts or threats of political violence," saying they "have no place in the United States."

October 25 morning: A suspected explosive device was sent to a Manhattan restaurant owned by actor Robert De Niro, a vocal Trump critic. Two officials told the Associated Press that a person working at De Niro's Manhattan office called police after seeing images of a package bomb sent to CNN and recalling a similar package addressed to the actor.

It was later revealed that two suspected bombs were sent to former Vice President Joe Biden in his home state of Delaware.

October 25 afternoon: At a press conference on Thursday, police would not explain why none of the packages had detonated and stressed they were still treating them as "live devices." The devices were being examined by technicians at the FBI's forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.

October 26:  Investigators were searching for the culprit on Friday. Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged like booby-trapped package bombs that would explode when opened, but it remains unclear whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to explode.

Two more mail bombs were discovered early Friday, bringing the total number to 12. They were addressed to New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The package addressed to Booker was secured at a Florida postal facility. The package addressed to Clapper was sent to CNN, where he is an analyst.

Clapper said the ongoing threat is "definitely domestic terrorism," adding that he was "not surprised" to have been targeted.  

The US Department of Justice has announced that a suspect has been arrested in Florida in connection with the bombings. 

js,law/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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