Published at 1:35 p.m. ET December 3, 2017 | Updated 1:38 p.m. ET December 3, 2017
The Minister of the Interior of the State of Brandenburg Karl-Heinz Schroeter is surrounded by media during a press conference in Potsdam, East Germany, on December 3 of 2017. (Photo: Gregor Fischer, AP)
The apparent bomb found on the Christmas market in Potsdam was probably not related to terrorism, German officials say. Police suspect that the perpetrators are trying to blackmail the transport giant DHL and warn that they could try again.
The suspicious package that caused a large-scale evacuation of the Christmas market in Potsdam was apparently sent by people wanting to extort millions of German DHL, German authorities said on Sunday.
"The good news is that we can say, in all likelihood, that the package was not aimed at the Christmas market," said Brandenburg's Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Schröter.
"The bad news is that it was an attempt at blackmail aimed at the delivery service of DHL," he added.
The authorities found the package after it was delivered to a pharmacy in the center of Potsdam. The item contained a QR code, which can be scanned with a mobile device to reveal information. On Sunday, police said they detonated the package in a controlled explosion and had yet to rebademble the "hundreds" of pieces of the destroyed QR code to scan it.
The information hidden in the code indicated that the bomb was "definitely" an attempt at blackmail, said state police chief Jürgen Morke.
Police information indicates that the package was left at the local DHL packing station in Potsdam on Thursday. The authorities asked for possible witnesses to appear.
Preliminary information indicates that the perpetrators were in the German state of Brandenburg or in neighboring Berlin.
After the incident on Friday, police initially reported that they did not find a detonator and that the box probably did not contain explosives, indicating that it was a false bomb. It was said that the package contained a metal cylinder, nails, some kind of gunpowder and large fireworks.
However, on Sunday officials said forensic equipment examined the package and determined it was dangerous and that there was a "high probability of being able to activate."
The pharmacist who received the package heard a whistle at open it, police said, indicating that it could have been set to blow up. The detonation may have been avoided due to sheer luck.
Officials said that it was extremely unlikely that the pharmacist himself was the target or that the move was motivated by terrorism.
They also revealed that a similar package had been found in the eastern city of Frankfurt / Oder last month. Authorities believe it is "possible, even probable" that perpetrators send more explosive devices as a means to put pressure on DHL, which delivers millions of packages per day.
According to the police, such packages may not be clear, absent or little known information about who sent it, misspellings, outgoing cables or stains in the container. They warned people, especially small business owners, not to open suspicious shipments and call the police.
This story was originally published on DW.com. Its contents are separated from USA TODAY.
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