October 24, 2014 / 12:08 PM / 3 years ago

Suspicious powder sent to western consulates in Istanbul: officials

A member of Turkey's disaster management agency (AFAD) disinfects the garden of the German consulate in Istanbul October 24, 2014.Osman Orsal

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Packets of an unidentified yellow powder were sent to five western consulates in Istanbul on Friday, officials said, prompting security alerts following two militant attacks in Canada this week.

Consulates of the United States, Canada, France, Germany and Belgium received suspicious packages, the officials said. It was not immediately clear what the powder was and Turkish officials said results of tests on them were due on Monday.

Sixteen people were hospitalized as a precaution from three different embassies, including 10 from the Canadian consulate, the Turkish Ministry of Health said in a statement. A hospital treating the Canadians said the Consul General was among them.

One Canadian consulate employee came into direct contact with the package and six others had indirect exposure, Turkey's disaster management agency AFAD said in a statement.

German and Belgian consular staff were also being monitored in hospital, the Ministry of Health added.

A U.S. embassy spokesman confirmed the Consulate General had received a "suspicious" envelope containing a powder, but said it was dealt with according to security protocols and the consulate remained open.

Istanbul's governor later confirmed the French consulate had also received a similar package.

Teams decontaminated the Canadian and Belgium consulates and were working on cleaning the German mission, AFAD spokesman Dogan Eskinat said. Other consulates and embassies were reviewing their security arrangements.

"There was a package with some yellow powder, suspicious, that was sent to the Canadian mission in Istanbul, it was sent to a number of other foreign missions," Canada’s foreign affairs minister John Baird said in Ottawa

"Out of an abundance of caution we've closed the mission until we can ensure the safety of all our employees."

Canadian consulates and embassies overseas have been on heightened alert this week after two attacks in Canada.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, a Canadian citizen and convert to Islam, shot and killed a soldier stationed at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday before running into the nearby parliament buildings. He was killed by guards in a flurry of gunfire.

Two days earlier, Martin Rouleau, a 25-year-old convert to Islam, drove over two Canadian soldiers in Quebec, killing one, police said. He also was shot dead by security officers.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay in Istanbul, Jonny Hogg and Yesim Dikmen in Ankara, Writing by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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