Package which prompted Christmas market evacuation 'part of extortion plot'

Potsdam Christmas market in 2014

A suspicious package found near a Christmas market in the German city of Potsdam two days ago was not terrorism-related, but part of an attempt to blackmail delivery company DHL and would be very risky, German authorities said on Sunday.

"The good news is it that we can say, with all likelihood, that the package was not aimed at the Christmas market", said Brandenburg's Interior Minister, Karl-Heinz Schröter.

"According to evidence so far, our investigators think it is rather unlikely that the Christmas market was the target", Potsdam police tweeted.

"The bad news is it was a blackmail attempt targeting the DHL delivery service".

Authorities found the parcel after it was delivered to a pharmacy in downtown Potsdam. Investigators put the pieces together and found a QR code.

The Christmas market was evacuated to allow explosives experts to secure the device and destroy it in place outside the pharmacy in Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, just outside of Berlin.

"The perpetrator takes damage to human life and health as a given cost", Brandenburg police chief Hans-Jürgen Mörke said on Sunday.

ISIS threatens European Christmas markets
ISIS threatens European Christmas markets

The market was only partially evacuated on Friday and will reopen as normal on Saturday with a stronger police presence, a local police spokesman told AFP.

The object was found Friday afternoon.

German police say they've destroyed a suspicious object found at a Christmas market in the city of Potsdam that contained either explosives or flammable material.

On Sunday, however, officials said that forensic teams examined the package and determined it was risky and that there was a "high likelihood of it being capable of activation".

'If you get a suspicious package, do not open it. The detonation may have have been avoided due to sheer luck.

An online company in the town of Frankfurt an der Oder received a similar package at the beginning of last month.

Moerke said further deliveries of a similar nature are possible and perhaps even probable. Police in Potsdam said members of the public should remain alert and not open unexpected packages from senders they don't know. Its contents are separate from USA TODAY.

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