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LETTER BOMB ANARCHISTS TARGET BRIT; Euro alert after blast in MEP's office.

Byline: By BRIANROBERTS

A LETTER-BOMB has exploded at the office of a senior Labour Party chief. Anarchists targeted British MEP Gary Titley with the potentially deadly package.

But it was his secretary who opened the device, which then burst into flames.

Titley, Tony Blair's top European envoy, said last night: ``Thankfully, no one was physically injured though obviously this was a shocking incident.

``There can be no justification for these attacks which in reality are an attack on democracy.''

His spokesman Roger Fellows added: ``It filled the office with dense, acrid smoke. Luckily, nobody was injured.''

Titley, 53, who is leader of the UK Labour MEPs in Brussels, was not in the office at Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, at the time.

He received one of three devices posted by an Italian anarchist group to European political leaders. They were hidden in books and delivered in brown envelopes They were all posted on December 22 in Bologna, fromwhere otherpackages have been posted to senior EU officials in the past.

Yesterday, one package was sent to the German leader of the centre-right European People's Party, Hans-Gert Poettering.

It was opened by a member of his staff and ignited but again no-one was seriously hurt.

The other was sent to the head of the Spanish conservatives, Jose Ignacio Salafranca, but was not opened.

Previous letter bombs were sent to European Commission President Romano Prodi at his Bologna home, to thehead of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Jean-ClaudeTrichet, and to the to offices of Eurpol, an EU police datagathering centre in the Hague.

Staff at the Europeanparliament in Brussels have been ordered not to touch incoming mail.

Secretary-general Julian Priestley summoned senior staff for an urgent security review.

Belgian MEP Nelly Maes questioned how letter bombs could get through to the offices of senior politicians.

She said: ``This incident warrants not only thorough investigation in itself but we also need a full review of security procedures for mail delivered to the parliament.

``We have to strike a balance between openness and transparency in our work and withimplementing adequate security procedures to allow us to go about our work as safely as possible.''

Like the European Commission, the European parliament routinely screen all mail through a central reception service before it is despatched to the offices of staff and MEPs.

Last night, Titley's office in a terraced house was sealed off.

Two Army bomb disposal officers remained at the scene, while a uniformed police officer kept guard at the front door.

The group claiming to be behind the attacks call themselves the Informal Anarchist Federation and complain about the ``repressive apparatus of control'' in Europe.

SWITCHES

CAPTION(S):

RED ALERT: Firefighters at the European Parliament in Brussels after the letter bomb attacks yesterday; SCARE: Labour's Gary Titley
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 6, 2004
Words:462
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