The exterior of one of the suspicious packages sent to multiple locations in the US. Picture: FBI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
The exterior of one of the suspicious packages sent to multiple locations in the US. Picture: FBI/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Miami — US police found two more suspicious packages on Friday, addressed to US senator Cory Booker and former US director of national intelligence James Clapper, as the hunt for those who mailed bombs to prominent Democrats and critics of US President Donald Trump focuses on Florida.

The 11th package was addressed to Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, and was discovered at a mail sorting facility in Florida, the FBI said. A 12th package was addressed to Clapper and was intercepted at a New York City post office, a federal law enforcement official said.

“This is definitely domestic terrorism, no question about it in my mind,” Clapper said in an interview with CNN. “This is not going to silence the administration’s critics.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the wave of parcel bombs that has been denounced by authorities as terrorism. It comes less than two weeks before the of US congressional mid-term elections that could alter the balance of power in Washington.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the senate intelligence committee, told MSNBC on Friday that US leaders, including Trump, must reassure the public. Elected officials and others need to say that this is not who we are as a country, Warner said. “That would be a heck of a lot stronger if that message also came from the White House”.

In a tweet on Friday, Trump tweeted the incidents were distracting from successful efforts by Republican candidates to win over voters. “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows — news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!” 

Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’
US President Donald Trump

In Florida, local police and canine units joined federal investigators on Thursday to examine a sprawling US mail distribution center at Opa-Locka, north-west of Miami.

US homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Florida appeared to be the starting point for at least some of the bomb shipments. “I am confident that this person or people will be brought to justice,” Nielsen told Fox News Channel on Thursday.

Right-wing critics

All the people targeted by the suspicious packages have often been maligned by right-wing critics. They include Democratic Party donor George Soros, former president Barack Obama, former vice-president Joe Biden, and former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The FBI has said that at least five of the packages bore a return address from the Florida office of US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

There has been an outcry from Trump’s critics, who charge that his inflammatory rhetoric against Democrats and the press has created a climate for politically motivated violence. After first calling for “unity” and civil discourse on Wednesday, Trump lashed out again Thursday at the “hateful” media. His supporters accuse Democrats of unfairly suggesting the president is  to blame for the bomb scare.

“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’” Trump tweeted at about 7.15am GMT on Friday.

Authorities believe the packages, which were intercepted before reaching their intended recipients, all went through the US Postal Service at some point, a source said. None detonated and no one has been hurt. The devices were thought to have been fashioned from bomb-making designs widely available on the internet, a federal law enforcement source told Reuters.

Still, investigators are treating the devices as “live” explosives, not a hoax, said James O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner.

Investigators have declined to say whether the devices were built to be functional. Bomb experts and security analysts say that based on their rudimentary construction it appeared they were more likely designed to sow fear rather than to kill.

The parcels each consisted of a manila envelope with a bubble-wrap interior containing “potentially destructive devices,” the FBI said. Each was affixed with a computer-printed address label and six US “Forever” postage stamps, the agency said.

Two packages were sent both to Waters and Biden. Others who received the bombs were former attorney-general Eric Holder, former CIA director John Brennan, US representative Maxine Waters of California, and actor Robert De Niro.

“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” De Niro said in a statement. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People MUST vote!”

Man arrested

At 5.03pm Johannesburg time, it was reported that US Federal authorities have arrested Cesar Sayoc in connection with the explosives, citing unnamed sources. 

Reuters