WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A group calling itself “September 11” sent terror threats to the U.S., Australian and British embassies in New Zealand warning it has 55 pounds of cyanide to use against American interests if Iraq is attacked, police said Thursday.
A squad of anti-terror police is working to find the author of the threat contained in four letters that mentioned the America’s Cup yacht race in Auckland.
One of the letters, which were intercepted by postal workers at the Auckland mail center, contained cyanide crystals, said counterterrorism police chief Assistant Commissioner Jon White said.
Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed Wednesday that a suspect package “containing traces of cyanide” had been sent to the British High Commission in Wellington but said it had no information on the group September 11.
White said all the letters also contained a white powder. Authorities have not identified that substance but have ruled out anthrax, he said.
The identical letters, addressed to the ambassadors of the United States, Australia and Britain and to an Auckland newspaper, said the group aimed “to challenge the actions of the great satan America and resist its imperialist ambitions in the Islamic world.”
White said police knew of an Australian group that called itself September 11. But they were unaware of a group in New Zealand by that name.
Although the group’s name contains a clear reference to the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States by the al-Qaida terrorist network, national police headquarters spokesman John Neilson said police believed the threat came from within New Zealand.
“Certainly there has been no suggestion at this point of any links to any other organization, including international terrorist groups,” he said.
“September 11 waits at the Americas Cup for instruction if Iraq is attacked by the host of satan all interests and there supporters will be attacked by September 11,” the letters said. They were written in English and thick with errors in spelling and punctuation.
“September has stockpiled 25 kilo weapon grade cyanide and will use those against those interests wherever they are,” the threat adds.
White said there were similar features between the letters sent last Friday and one sent to the U.S. Embassy last year.
That letter, which contained enough cyanide to kill 20 people, had threatened the New Zealand Golf Open in which Tiger Woods played in January 2002. Its author has not been found.
Cyanide is widely used in animal pest control, mining and other industries, and is readily available throughout New Zealand.
Police were reviewing security at the America’s Cup, already high before the threat. They recommended people be careful about eating food served in public.
At the America’s Cup venue on Viaduct Harbor in downtown Auckland, restaurant and cafe operators removed open sugar bowls, salt and pepper shakers and self-service water jugs Wednesday.
Wednesday was a scheduled day off at the America’s Cup, which has been stalled for more than a week by uncooperative weather.