FBI focuses on Florida in hunt for sender of package bombs

MIAMI, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Federal authorities investigating the pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of U.S. President Donald Trump are focusing on Florida, where they believe at least some of 10 packages originated.

A police bomb squad and canine units joined federal investigators on Thursday to examine a sprawling U.S. mail distribution center at Opa-Locka, northwest of Miami, Miami-Dade County police said.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed that Florida appeared to be the starting point for at least some of the bomb shipments.

"Some of the packages went through the mail. They originated, some of them, from Florida," she said during an interview with Fox News Channel. "I am confident that this person or people will be brought to justice."

All the targets were figures frequently maligned by right-wing critics. They included Democratic Party donor George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA director John Brennan and California Representative Maxine Waters. Two packages were sent to her.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that at least five of the packages bore a return address for the Florida office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

12 PHOTOS
Explosive packages, items sent to politicians, news outlets
See Gallery
Explosive packages, items sent to politicians, news outlets
A member of the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction team works outside the Time Warner Center, in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. A police bomb squad was sent to CNN's offices in New York City and the newsroom was evacuated because of a suspicious package. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
People gather outside the Time Warner Center, in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. A police bomb squad was sent to CNN's offices in New York City and the newsroom was evacuated because of a suspicious package. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
New York City Police Dept. officers arrive outside the Time Warner Center, in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. A police bomb squad was sent to CNN's offices in New York City and the newsroom was evacuated because of a suspicious package. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Officers with the Uniform Division of the United States Secret Service talk at a checkpoint near the home of President Barack Obama, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Washington. The U.S. Secret Service says agents have intercepted packages containing "possible explosive devices" addressed to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Broward County Sheriffs Office bomb device works outside the office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Fla. The FBI confirms a 'suspicious package' went to Schultz's office in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Joshua Replogle)
An officer with the Uniform Division of the United States Secret Service uses his dog to search a checkpoint near the home of President Barack Obama, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Washington. The U.S. Secret Service says agents have intercepted packages containing "possible explosive devices" addressed to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism John Miller, center, arrives outside Time Warner Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in New York. Law enforcement officials say a suspicious package that prompted an evacuation of CNN's offices is believed to contain a pipe bomb. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
An officer with the Uniform Division of the United States Secret Service sits in his car as news media work at a checkpoint near the home of President Barack Obama, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Washington. The U.S. Secret Service says agents have intercepted packages containing "possible explosive devices" addressed to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Police officers stand in front of property owned by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, N.Y., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. A U.S. official says a "functional explosive device" was found at the Clinton's suburban New York home. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Police officers stand in front of property owned by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, N.Y., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. A U.S. official says a "functional explosive device" was found at the Clinton's suburban New York home. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
An officer with the Uniform Division of the United States Secret Service uses his dog to search a checkpoint near the home of President Barack Obama, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Washington. The U.S. Secret Service says agents have intercepted packages containing "possible explosive devices" addressed to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A police car is parked in front of property owned by Hillary and Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, N.Y., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. A U.S. official says a "functional explosive device" was found at the Clinton's suburban New York home. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Holder's package ended up being rerouted and was delivered to the Wasserman Schultz return address. Brennan's package was sent in care of the Manhattan bureau of CNN, where he has appeared as an on-air analyst.

On Thursday, the investigation widened with the discovery of three additional packages. Two were intended for former Vice President Joe Biden in his home state of Delaware and one for the actor Robert De Niro in Manhattan.

Authorities believe the packages, which were intercepted before reaching their intended recipients, all went through the U.S. Postal Service at some point, a source said. None detonated and no one has been hurt.

A federal law enforcement source told Reuters the devices were thought to have been fashioned from bomb-making designs widely available on the internet.

Investigators are nevertheless treating the devices as "live" explosives, not a hoax, said James O'Neill, police commissioner of New York City, where two of the parcels have surfaced.

Authorities have branded the parcel bombs an act of terrorism. They were sent less than two weeks before national elections that could alter the balance of power in Washington.

"It does remain possible that further packages have been or could be mailed," William Sweeney, assistant director of the FBI, told a news conference in New York.

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.

41 PHOTOS
Photos of the week: 10/19 - 10/26
See Gallery
Photos of the week: 10/19 - 10/26
This image obtained Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, and provided by ABC News shows a package addressed to former CIA head John Brennan and an explosive device that was sent to CNN's New York office. The mail-bomb scare widened Thursday as law enforcement officials seized more suspicious packages. (ABC News via AP)
MEGYN KELLY TODAY -- Pictured: Melissa Rivers, Jacob Soboroff, Jenna Bush Hager and Megyn Kelly on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency, SPA, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, shakes hands with Salah Khashoggi, a son, of Jamal Khashoggi, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Saudi Arabia, which for weeks maintained that Jamal Khashoggi had left the Istanbul consulate, on Saturday acknowledged he was killed there in a "fistfight." (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
President Donald Trump is greeted by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as he arrives for a campaign rally at Houston Toyota Center, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Families rest roadside while traveling with a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America en route to the United States, on their way to Mapastepec from Huixtla, Mexico, October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ZHOUSHAN, CHINA - OCTOBER 22: Workers assemble cables on a 500 kv high-voltage transmission tower on October 22, 2018 in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province of China. The construction of the tower, 224.4 meters in height, is a part of the 500 kV power transmission and transformation project of Zhoushan City. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Cesar Altieri Sayoc is pictured in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. in this August 2015 handout booking photo obtained by Reuters October 26, 2018. Broward County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 22: Former U.S. President Barack Obama greets supporters after speaking at a get-out-the-vote rally at the Cox Pavilion as he campaigns for Nevada Democratic candidates on October 22, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Early voting in Clark County, Nevada began on October 20 and has recorded the highest turnout during the first two days of early voting in a midterm election. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Berg Beteda shows his just purchased lottery tickets in Los Angeles, California on October 23, 2018, - The Mega Millions jackpot, now reaching 1.6 billion USD, will be drawn tonight. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
DUZCE, TURKEY - OCTOBER 21: A forest with all fall colors in a plateau during autumn season in in Duzce, Turkey on October 21, 2018. (Photo by Omer Urer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - An injured girl and her parents are transported on a quad after the motorcycle in which they where travelling squidded off the route linking Escuinapa and the fishing village of Teacapan, which remains cut off after the passage of Hurricane Willa, in Sinaloa state, Mexico on October 24, 2018. - Hurricane Willa crashed ashore in western Mexico Tuesday, lashing the Pacific coast with powerful winds and heavy rain before weakening to a tropical depression as it moved inland. (Photo by Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
A van covered in blue tarp is towed by FBI investigators on October 26, 2018, in Plantation, Florida, in connection with the 12 pipe bombs and suspicious packages mailed to top Democrats. - A suspect identified by investigators as Cesar Sayoc, 56, was arrested near an Auto store in Plantation. (Photo by Eric BARADAT and Michele Eve Sandberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT,MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
SUVA, FIJI - OCTOBER 24: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the University of the South Pacific on October 24, 2018 in Suva, Fiji. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on their official 16-day Autumn tour visiting cities in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Noble - Pool/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Lavern Cox and Chase Strangio of the ACLU embrace at the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth on October 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Yes on 3 is the coalition working to uphold the Massachusetts' transgender nondiscrimination law on the November 6, 2018 ballot. (Photo by Natasha Moustache/Getty Images)
Cars drive past a vintage plane that had German World War II-era markings and crashed onto highway 101 in Agoura Hills, California on October 23, 2018. (Photo by Cynthia Alvarez / AFP) (Photo credit should read CYNTHIA ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Children smile and wave flags as Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrive in Suva, Fiji, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man has his face painted as "Catrina", a Mexican character also known as "The Elegant Death", as he takes part in a Catrina parade ahead of the Day of the Dead in Mexico City, Mexico, October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Stapff TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A woman sits on a swing bridge beyond Schlegeis reservoir on a sunny autumn day near the alpine village of Ginzling, Austria October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
Orangutan Theodora and her newborn daughter Java are seen at the zoo of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France, October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Trader Jonathan Mueller works in his booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. Stocks are opening broadly lower on Wall Street, a day after a massive surge, as a number of big companies reported disappointing results. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Zoeth, a two year old girl from Honduras, is cleaned by her mother as they rest with thousands of other migrants from Central America en route to the United States, in Huixtla, Mexico October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 22: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks as Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) listen behind him during a campaign rally held at the University of South Florida Campus Recreation Building on October 22, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. The rally was held to support U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum as they run against their Republican opponents. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A street artist performs during a warm and sunny autumn day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Florida gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis, left, and Democrat Andrew Gillum fist bump after a debate, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, at Broward College in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)
Law enforcement stands outside the gatehouse of Bill and Hillary Clinton's house in Chappaqua, New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Buddhist pilgrims light candles around the Golden Rock or Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda to celebrate the full moon festival in Kyaikto, Mon state, Myanmar October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Wang TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The tail of a stranded whale is pictured on the beach of De Haan, Belgium October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A memorial to slain Gwinnett County Police Officer Antwan Toney is set in front of the Gwinnett County Police Annex in Lawrenceville, Ga., Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. A Gwinnett County police officer on Monday shot and killed Maynard, 18, accused of fatally shooting Toney on Saturday near a school in the Atlanta area, police said. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
WHITBY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24: A light display illuminates the historic Whitby Abbey on October 24, 2018 in Whitby, England. The abbey will be illuminated over Halloween Week and visitors will be able to experience the site after dark and wander through the dramatic ruins of the abbey famously noted for being the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The famous Benedictine abbey sits on East cliff in the Yorkshire seaside town in a commanding position overlooking the North Sea. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
FRASER ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 22: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex stands with aboriginal man Joe Gala at McKenzie's Jetty where he took part in an aboriginal cleansing ceremony on Fraser Island on October 22, 2018 on Fraser Island, Australia. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on their official 16-day Autumn tour visiting cities in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. (Photo by Stephen Lock - Pool/Getty Images)
ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 22: Students from St Andrews University, many in fancy dress, indulge in a tradition of covering themselves with foam to honour the 'academic family' on the lower college lawn on October 22, 2018, in St Andrews, Scotland. The 'raisin weekend' stems from a gift of raisins (now flour and foam) traditionally given by a first year student to their academic 'parents' in gratitude for their guidance. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
People rally to protest the Trump administration's reported transgender proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth, in Los Angeles, California, United States, October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L) poses for photographs with students from Aiton Elementary School third graders during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly restored Lockkeeper's House on the National Mall October 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. Built over 180 years ago and restored by the Trust for the National Mall, the Lockkeeper’s House is 'the oldest structure on the National Mall' and will now welcome Washington visitors as a gateway to the mall. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ballerinas perform during an ice-cream factory promotional event at an observation floor of the Moscow International Business Centre, also known as "Moskva-City", in Moscow, Russia October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
GAZA CITY, GAZA - OCTOBER 22: Palestinians throw stones and burn tyres in response to Israeli forces' intervention as they gather to support the maritime demonstration to break the Gaza blockade by sea with vessels in Gaza City, Gaza on October 22, 2018. (Photo by Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
One-week-old White Bengal tiger cubs are seen at Taigan Safari Park near Belogorsk, Crimea October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People cast their votes on the third day of early voting at the Galleria at Sunset in Henderson, Nev., Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
TOKYO, JAPAN - OCTOBER 24: A large King Kong sculpture hangs over the side of a building, on October 24, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
People walk in a field of fireweed, or Kochia scoparia, at the Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Japan, October 22, 2018. Fireweed is a grass bush that takes on a bright red colour in autumn. REUTERS/Toru Hanai TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A long-eared owl flies in Frouzins near Toulouse, France, October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

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 "forever" postage stamps, the agency said.

The episode sparked an outcry from Trump's critics, who charged that his inflammatory rhetoric against Democrats and the press was creating 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 accused Democrats of unfairly suggesting the president was 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 said on Twitter at about 3:15 a.m. EST on Friday.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombs, and the public was asked to report any tips.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.