BERLIN – Berlin police said Tuesday officers found three improvised pipe bombs on the sidelines of a huge leftist protest march in an incident that a prominent lawmaker called an act of terrorism.
The devices of about 16-inches each were filled with an explosive but were not detonated, police spokesman Stefan Redlich said. An explosion of the aluminum pipes could have caused serious or deadly injuries within a perimeter of 49 feet, he added.
Experts are still investigating the explosive substance and do not yet know whether it would have burst the pipes into pieces, effectively creating a shrapnel bomb, Redlich added.
The bombs were found on sidewalks during a rally of up to ten thousand leftists on May Day, but police officers initially thought they were just large fireworks and picked them up to have them checked by experts.
The substance in the pipes was made of chlorate and sugar, but experts have not determined how powerful the explosive mixture was, Redlich said.
Police had no immediate information on who left the bombs in Berlin's western Kreuzberg neighborhood or what their motive may have been.
Redlich said no hypothesis could be ruled out -- it might have been a leftist attempt to attack police securing the rally or an attack targeting the protesters.
"That is a typical course of action used by terrorists, but one we have never seen at a May 1 demonstration," the head of Parliament's top security committee, Wolfgang Bosbach, told daily Berliner Morgenpost. He was quoted as saying the incident has to be taken very seriously "because the perpetrators still live among us, and there's no guarantee they will limit their actions to May 1."
Berlin traditionally sees huge leftist protest rallies on May Day and clashes with police are frequent. But over the past years, violence has decreased as the number of police officers has risen. Some 7,000 were on the streets this year to keep the protests in check. A total of 123 demonstrators were arrested and 124 officers injured during this year's protests.
Police Union GdP's Berlin chief, Klaus Eisenreich, told local radio RBB-Inforadio the bombs represent a new dimension. "We think they weren't only targeting police officers. This is terrorism," he was quoted as saying.
Germany's Federal Prosecutors' Office -- responsible for all major terrorism investigations -- said Tuesday its experts will decide whether the case is serious enough for them to take it over from local prosecutors