Thursday, 17th April 2014

Britain deal with suspect mail packages at military-related targets


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LONDON, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- British police on Thursday revealed that a series of suspect packages had been sent to military-related targets in urban centers across southern England.

Counter terrorism police were called to deal with seven separate suspect packages in the towns of Chatham, Kent; Reading, Berkshire; Aldershot, Hampshire; Oxford, Oxfordshire; Slough, Berkshire; and Canterbury, Kent.

The suspect packages in Chatham and Reading were dealt with on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the counter-terrorism police were called to deal with a package in Aldershot.

Counter terrorism police were again called to deal with packages, Thursday in Oxford, Slough, Brighton, and Canterbury.

All the packages had been sent to military recruitment offices, which are often in commercial premises. Aldershot is known as the home of the British Army, and Chatham has a strong 300-year-old connection with the military and the army, but the other towns have less strong military connections.

Xinhua spoke to businesses affected by the bomb alert in Oxford city center.

The incident began at about 10 a.m., according to an eyewitness, after a report of a suspicious package at the military recruitment center on St Giles, Oxford.

Later, Oxford police sealed the area off and closed businesses. Firefighters from the local brigade were also called.

At 12:15 p.m., British soldiers from the Royal Logistics Corp, some of whose troops are trained in bomb disposal, arrived to deal with the suspect package.

The soldiers deployed a remote-control robot device on tracks to inspect and handle the suspect package.

The area was reopened to the public at 3 p.m.

Damian Fantato, a journalist with Oxford's daily paper the Oxford Mail, told Xinhua that several businesses, mostly restaurants and cafes, had to close down and were evacuated by police.

"This never usually happens. I have never known for an event like this to happen in Oxford before," Fantato added.

The assistant manager of Browns Restaurant on St Giles, who gave her name as Julia, told Xinhua, "We were closed for two hours on the instructions of the police; they were very calming, they did not panic us."

She said Browns was closed between about 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and Business is back to normal now.

The sealed off area is close to the Eagle and Child pub where "Lord of the Rings" author JRR Tolkien often met friends for drinks during his University of Oxford academic career.

The assistant manager of the Eagle and Child told Xinhua the pub had not had to close as a result of the bomb scare.

Eyewitness Chris Bridgwood, who was studying in the library at St Benet's Hall, an Oxford University college, told the Oxford Mail that he saw the incident begin at about 10 a.m., when police and soldiers became suspicious of what appeared to be a letter.

A small cordon was thrown around the area shortly after, said Bridgwood, manned by police and soldiers.

Detective Superintendent Stan Gilmour of the counter-terrorism unit dealing with the incidents, South East Counter Terrorism Unit (SECTU), said, "The contents of the packages are suspicious in nature and will now be sent for examination."

In a statement posted on the website of the Thames Valley Police, covering the area where several of the packages were discovered, Gilmour added, "Even if the contents are determined to be a viable device they pose a very low level threat and are unlikely to cause significant harm or damage."

Gilmour continued, "When a suspect package is reported we have a routine response which means we may need to evacuate the area if necessary until we can be sure it poses no threat to the public. Whilst this can cause concern and disruption for communities, it is a necessary precaution until we know what we are dealing with."


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