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Cyanide Threat to US Embassy and Americas Cup

Diplomat and AMCup Letter Threat

Police are investigating a letter threat to the United States Embassy and the British and Australian High Commissions.

Identical letters were sent to the Embassy and the two High Commissions. A copy was also received by the NZ Herald at its offices in Auckland city. All three letters and the copy were accompanied by powder substances. One of the letters contained a crystalline substance which testing has confirmed as cyanide.

The Assistant Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism, Jon White, said today that the Police investigation into the correspondence was continuing. It was not the Police’s intention to make the specific contents of the letter’s message public, in order to diminish the risk of copy-cat action.

The letter’s message referred to action being taken if Iraq was attacked. There were references in this regard to the America’s Cup.

"At this stage we can’t rule out the possibility that the letter may have been written by the same author who sent a threatening letter accompanied by cyanide to the American Embassy at the time of the New Zealand Golf Open last year," said Mr White.

"As was the case last year, Police encourage the public to maintain their vigilance particularly around public transport and consumption of pre-purchased food.

"Ministry of Health advice includes people making sure they buy food from a reputable source, ensuring packaging of products is intact, contacting the public health service if products look, smell or taste unusual and contacting a medical practitioner immediately in the case of suspected foodborne illness

"Police encourage spectators and participants in the America’s Cup to continue with their normal business but to be observant about anything which might seem out of the ordinary and worthy of reporting to Police. If in doubt please do call the Police so we can make an assessment of the information.

"Security around the Amcup event was recently reviewed and our security approach moved to a higher setting. The current threat is within the approach the higher setting addresses. The situation and our response will be constantly monitored.

Assistant Commissioner White said that similarly security arrangements for British, US and Australian diplomatic representatives in New Zealand are under constant review.

"Given the current global situation New Zealand Police have been working closely with diplomatic missions in New Zealand and this latest threat underscores the value of such work," said Mr White.

The Assistant Commissioner said he wished to thank the NZ Herald for taking an editorial decision of its own accord not to publicise the letter it had received in today’s edition of its paper. This allowed officials to complete testing for cyanide before advising the public.

"I would encourage everyone to take a similarly measured approach to this issue. Terrorism feeds on rumour and speculation.

"NZ Police will inform the New Zealand Public of any developments which might affect on their safety but meantime it really is just a matter of continuing to be vigilant," said Mr White.

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