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Man charged over ricin letters sent to Obama and others


A man has been charged with threatening President Barack Obama and others after he was arrested yesterday accused of sending letters to the President and a senator that tested positive for deadly ricin and set the US capital on edge a day after the Boston Marathon bombings.

The US Department of Justice said in a news release today that Paul Curtis, 45, faced two federeal charges of threatening the president and others. He will appear in federal court today. If convicted he could face up to 15 years in prison.

Curtis was detained at his flat near the Tennessee state line, east of Memphis yesterday.

Tests today confirmed the presence of ricin in a letter sent to Republican Senator Roger Wicker, though the FBI are yet to report the results of its testing on the material contained in the package sent to Mr Obama.

The letters were intercepted before reaching the White House or Senate, and an FBI intelligence bulletin said they were postmarked Memphis, Tennessee.

Both letters said: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both were signed: "I am KC and I approve this message."

An affidavit says the letters sent to Mr Obama, Mr Wicker and a judge in Mississippi told the recipients: "Maybe I have your attention now even if that means someone must die."

As the authorities hurried to investigate three questionable packages discovered in Senate office buildings, reports of suspicious items also came in from at least three senators' offices in their home states.

The activity came as tensions were high in Washington and across the US following Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170.

But the FBI said there was no indication of a connection between the letters and the bombing. The letters to Mr Obama and Mr Wicker were postmarked April 8, before the marathon.

Mr Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, said mail sent to the White House is screened at a remote site for the safety of the recipients and the general public.

Capitol Police swiftly stepped up security, and politicians and staff were warned away from some parts of the Hill complex.