Suspicious packages sent to up to 14 diplomatic missions in Australia

Hazmat and fire crews are seen outside the Indian and French Consulates on St Kilda Road in Melbourne, Australia, January 9, 2019. Staff have been evacuated as emergency crews respond to a number of incidents involving foreign consulates in Melbourne.
PHOTO: Reuters

SYDNEY - Police in Australia said on Wednesday (Jan 9) they are investigating several suspicious packages sent to embassies and consulates, which media reports and other officials said included the US and British missions, in the cities of Melbourne and Canberra.

The packages were being examined and the circumstances around the incidents investigated, police said without providing further details.

Police did not identify any of the embassies or consulates involved, although the Australian newspaper reported that missions affected included the United Kingdom, New Zealand, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Germany, Greece, Spain, Seychelles, Switzerland, Croatia and Egypt.

Images taken by 9News showed firefighters and paramedics attending the Indian and US missions in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. There were no immediate reports of any harm to staff.

Officials at the US and British consulates separately confirmed suspicious packages had been received.

"We are liaising closely with the (Australian Federal Police) and the local authorities regarding the situation. All our staff are safe and accounted for," said a British High Commission spokesperson.

The US consulate in the city said it also received a "suspicious" package, which a spokesperson said was handled in coordination with the Melbourne Fire Brigade and the Australian Federal Police, who were "investigating the incident".

Vic Emergency, a government response agency, reported several instances of hazardous materials being found across the city on Wednesday, including near the Spanish, Japanese, Egyptian, Indian and Pakistani consulates.

"The circumstances surrounding the incidents are being investigated," said the Australian Federal Police.

This story is developing.