Authorities confirmed Sunday the apparent bomb found near the Potsdam Christmas market on Friday was unrelated to terrorism but an attempt to blackmail delivery company DHL. The package resulted in a large-scale evacuation of the market in Potsdam, near Berlin.
“The good news is that we can say, with all likelihood, the package was not aimed at the Christmas market,” Karl-Heinz Schröter, Brandenburg’s state interior minister, told reporters. “The bad news is that it was a blackmail attempt targeting DHL.”
Security officials have been on high alert around Germany’s popular Christmas markets, following an attack last December when a terrorist plowed a truck into a crowded market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin’s city center, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.
Officials said the people who sent the package wanted to extort millions from DHL, the parcel delivery division of the German logistics company, Deutsche Post. They disclosed that a similar parcel had been found in the eastern city of Frankfurt/Oder last month and warned that the perpetrators would “likely” send more explosive devices to pressure DHL, especially around the holiday season when the company delivers millions of packages per day.
The Potsdam package, containing nails, an unidentified powder substance and a metal cylinder, was sent to a nearby pharmacy as a special delivery. The store’s owner informed authorities after noticing unusual wires and hearing a hissing noise while opening the package. Police initially believed the package to be a fake bomb but, after forensic teams examined it, determined it was “capable of activation.”
The item also contained a QR coded-label with information that, according to authorities, indicated the bomb was “definitely” intended to blackmail DHL.
Officials are warning postal customers to be careful of opening unexpected packages.
John Blau is a senior editor with Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: email@example.com