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Suspicious Packages Sent to Five More Embassies in Australia

VOA News | June 9, 2005
By Phil Mercer

Five embassies in the Australian capital, Canberra, have received suspicious packages, including the U.S. and Japanese missions. Australia's parliament house and the prime minister's office also received similar envelopes. Authorities say they believe the white powder found inside them is harmless.

The suspicious packages sparked a security emergency in the Australian capital. Britain's High Commission, along with the embassies of the United States, Japan, South Korea and Italy were all targeted. All five were closed temporarily while the parcels were investigated.

There was drama at the Australian parliament, as well, where a small section was shut down when another mystery letter was discovered.

Police say tests on two of the packages show the powder inside was not dangerous, but the security alerts have caused outrage. Letters containing anthrax-laced white powder caused security concerns in the United States four years ago.

Australian police commander Shane Connelly could barely contain his contempt for those responsible. "It's a nonsense. It's a waste of resources and it's a silly way for any person to make their point - political or otherwise," he said.

The Canberra police have said little about the packages and who might be sending them. The city's law enforcement agencies were tied up much of the day investigating the packages.

It is the third time in a week Canberra has been affected by this sort of security alert.

Last week, an envelope addressed to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer at Parliament House held white powder. It, too, turned out to be harmless.

The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra was forced to close down twice last week when it received similar packages. Again, the contents were not dangerous. Authorities say they believe those parcels were linked to public anger over the jailing of an Australian woman who was convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia last month.

Schapelle Corby was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The sentence provoked great public hostility in Australia, where many people thought Corby was innocent and did not receive a fair trial.


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