People gather outside the Time Warner Center, in New York on October 24.(AP Photo)
People gather outside the Time Warner Center, in New York on October 24.(AP Photo)

Suspected explosive devices sent to CNN office in New York

Police intercepted a live explosive device and an envelope containing white powder at the Time Warner Center, where the CNN newsroom in New York is based.
By Reuters | Washington/New York
UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2018 11:32 PM IST

Police intercepted suspected explosive devices sent to former US President Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the CNN bureau in New York that apparently targeted figures disparaged by right-wing critics two weeks before US congressional elections.

“This is clearly an act of terrorism,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference.

With the country deeply polarized under President Donald Trump, the packages brought a new level of tension to political contests that will decide whether Democrats can challenge the majorities now held by Trump’s Republicans in Congress.

The package to Clinton was found late Tuesday while the one addressed to Obama was recovered early Wednesday, both during routine off-site mail screenings, the Secret Service said. Obama and Clinton were not at risk, they said.

Police intercepted a live explosive device and an envelope containing white powder at the Time Warner Center, where the CNN newsroom in New York is based, Police Commissioner James O’Neill told the news conference. Experts were analysing whether the powder was a dangerous substance, he said.

In the weeks following the attacks of September 11, 2001, anthrax spores were mailed to news media offices and two US senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others.

The Time Warner Center was evacuated “out of an abundance of caution”, CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a note to employees. He said CNN was checking its bureaus worldwide.

New York police briefly issued an emergency alert urging people around the building, which is near the southern edge of Central Park, to “shelter in place.”

CNN is a frequent target of Trump, who routinely calls the news media the “enemy of the people” and belittles critical coverage as “fake news.”

CNN reported the package it received was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, a periodic guest commentator on the cable network.

Brennan has been an outspoken critic of Trump, calling the president’s performance during a July joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki “nothing short of treasonous.”

Trump in August revoked Brennan’s security clearance in retaliation for the criticism.

The White House, in a statement, condemned the attempted attacks on Obama and Clinton.

“These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. “The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.”

Trump was briefed on the suspicious packages “and we’re taking it very seriously,” said a senior White House official.

Reports of other intercepted mailed devices were also emerging.

In Florida, the building that houses the office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former Democratic Party national chairwoman, was evacuated after a suspicious package arrived in the mail, WFOR-TV in Miami reported, citing Sunrise police.

A bomb was delivered earlier this week to the suburban New York home of George Soros, a major Democratic Party donor.

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