Christmas market bomb dangerous and part of DHL blackmail attempt

A suspicious package found near a Christmas market in the German city of Potsdam two days ago was not terrorism-related, but part of an attempt to blackmail delivery company DHL and would be very dangerous, German authorities said on Sunday.

“The good news is it that we can say, with all likelihood, that the package was not aimed at the Christmas market,” Brandenburg State Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter said at a press conference Sunday afternoon, according to German media Focus Online.

Schroeter said a suspect asked DHL, the parcel delivery division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post, for a sum of money in the millions of euros in a note attached to the package.

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

A piece of paper was torn by the explosion into pieces. Investigators put the pieces together and found a QR code. Scanning the code investigators found the blackmail letter.

Authorities found the suspicious package after it was delivered to a pharmacy at the Christmas market in the center of Potsdam on Friday. The police had reported after the case that it did not find a detonator and that the box likely contained no explosives, indicating it was a fake bomb.

However, authorities said at the press conference that the package would have had the worst injuries in case of explosion. Moerke said the explosive device had been analyzed again.

Schroeter said that further analysis had shown the device to be “highly dangerous” and capable of seriously injuring people. He added that the pharmacist who opened the package on Friday had heard a hissing sound when he tried to open it.

A similar package was delivered some time ago in the eastern city of Frankfurt an der Oder, Schroeter said,

Moerke said that the main suspect in both cases was a man from the greater Berlin area, but declined to give further details, according to news agency DPA.

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.