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Spanish Authorities Arrest Suspect in Letter Bombs

Spanish authorities have had a busy week with recent arrests, notably that of a suspect linked to six letter bombs that were sent to Spain’s prime minister, the United States embassy, and the Ukrainian embassy.

Police arrested a 74-year-old man in Miranda de Ebro, a town in the northern region of Spain. The suspect was “described as having some expertise with computers and was found to be active on social networks,” according to BBC News. The suspect has only been identified by his initials, P.G.P., the New York Times reported.

The first bomb was discovered on 24 November 2022 at Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s official residence. Along with targeting Sanchez, the bombs were also sent in late 2022 to Spain’s ministry of defense, an air force base, and a weapons manufacturer of the C90 rocket launchers, according to The Guardian. All of the targets are perceived as supporters of Ukraine and its defense against Russian military attacks that began in early 2022.

Almost all of the bombs were detected and deactivated or neutralized between the end of November 2022 and the first week of December 2022, with one exception. On 30 November, the bomb sent to the Ukraine embassy “exploded when it was opened by an employee…causing minor injuries to the worker’s hands and leading Ukraine to warn its diplomats to bolster their security precautions,” The Guardian reported.

The Spanish ministry also increased security of public buildings, including heightened postal screenings.  

Prior to the man’s arrest, speculation arose that the letter bombing campaign had support from Russian backers.

U.S. officials “believe that the attack was likely a warning shot to European governments which have rallied around Ukraine since Russia’s invasion,” CNN reported on 23 January.

Speaking with the Times on the condition of anonymity, U.S. officials noted that investigations into the bombings were recently focused on the Russian Imperial Movement, a global terrorist organization that is suspected of maintaining ties with Russian intelligence agencies.

While the retired Spanish citizen arrested on 25 January is accused of making and sending the explosives, Spanish authorities have not ruled out that he may have received assistance or been influenced by others.

Spanish authorities this week also responded to two attacks in Catholic churches in Algeciras, where a man armed with a machete killed at least one person and injured a priest and three other people. The authorities are calling these incidents a possible terrorist attack, and are investigating the attacker, who was arrested. Police have not released the man’s name or details about his background.