BERLIN – A suspicious package that was found near a Christmas market in Germany was linked to an attempt to blackmail the international courier and delivery giant DHL, German authorities said on Sunday.
On Friday, an improvised explosive device containing nails, cables and a firecracker was found in a pharmacy close to a Christmas market in Potsdam, eastern Germany, raising fears that a terror attack had been narrowly avoided.
The Brandenburg regional interior minister, Karl-Heinz Schroter, said on Sunday that the good news was that the package was not terror-related, but the bad news was that it was part of an attempt to extort millions from DHL.
According to the president of the region’s police, Hans-Jurgen Morke, once the package was detonated by security officials, experts managed to piece together fragments of a QR code that led to an extortion letter.
Potsdam prosecutor Heinrich Junker said the authors were demanding money in exchange for not sending similar packages in the future, adding that an investigation was ongoing into extortion and provoking an explosion.
Schroter said the senders of the package assumed that it would seriously harm, or even possibly kill, the addressee.
The package had sparked panic in Potsdam on Friday, as the Christmas market and surrounding areas were evacuated amid fears of a foiled attack.
Similar markets had opened last week in Germany with heightened security measures, a year after a man who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State terror organization drove a truck through crowds in Berlin, killing 12 people.