Suspicious packages sent to embassies in Australia

Suspicious packages sent to embassies in Australia

A Victoria Police forensic officer carries items to be loaded into a trailer outside the Italian consulate in Melbourne on January 9, 2019. - Australian police are investigating the delivery of suspicious packages sent to foreign embassies and consulates

Australian police were investigating suspicious packages sent to more than a dozen foreign embassies and consulates in Melbourne and Canberra on Wednesday, part of a seemingly orchestrated but scattershot campaign.

Within the space of a few hours after lunchtime, emergency services raced to a string of diplomatic facilities across Melbourne and Australia's capital that had received packages containing suspected hazardous material.

There was no obvious pattern to countries targeted by the packages, with consulates of the United States, China, Italy, India, Japan and New Zealand among those targeted.

Victoria Police said there was no threat to the public: "At this time we believe the matter is targeted and not impacting the general community."

The packages are not believed to be dangerous, but police, fire crews and forensic teams were urged to use breathing apparatus as they documented and double or triple bagged the materials for further testing.

"The packages are being examined by attending emergency services," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

"The circumstances surrounding the incidents are being investigated."

Some of the sites -- which also included locations near the Spanish, Swiss, Egyptian and Pakistani consulates -- were evacuated as a precaution but have since been declared safe.

A British High Commission spokesperson said it had been one of  facilities targeted, but "all our staff are safe and accounted for."

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".