The Federal Bureau of Investigation began inquiries in Egypt today as an eighth letter bomb, bearing an Alexandria, Egypt, postmark like the earlier ones, was discovered at a Federal mail center outside Leavenworth, Kan.
Bureau officials said the latest device, which was intercepted before it could be delivered to the Federal prison in Leavenworth, was similar to the seven, which were discovered on Thursday in Washington and in Leavenworth. So far, no one has been injured by the letter bombs.
The officials described the devices as thick white envelopes that looked as if they might contain Christmas greeting cards but instead held detonators and flattened slabs of plastic explosive, probably a common one known as Semtex, officials said. All appeared to have been mailed on Dec. 21.
Four of the devices intercepted on Thursday were discovered at the Washington bureau of Al Hayat, an Arabic-language daily, in the National Press Building two blocks from the White House, while a fifth was found at a suburban mail center and was addressed to the newspaper.
Two others were discovered at the United States penitentiary in Leavenworth and were addressed to the parole officer. Officials said no such position existed at the penitentiary. All of the devices had the capacity to cause serious injury had they exploded, bureau officials said.
The F.B.I. said an agent attached to the United States Embassy in Cairo had been sent to Alexandria today to begin trying to determine the origin of the letter-bombs.
Susan Lloyd, a bureau spokeswoman, said the five devices found in Washington had been dismantled and were being examined at the bureau’s laboratory.
Ms. Lloyd said the bureau was devoting a wide range of resources to the investigation, although there was no indication yet who sent the letter bombs or why. Other Federal law-enforcement officials said they were trying to determine what factors might link the newspaper and the prison.
Al Hayat has been the forum for extended discussions about the wisdom of terrorist activities directed against the United States. Last year, it published exclusive interviews with at least two Middle Eastern terrorists, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who are serving life sentences in Federal prisons for their roles in assassination plots and the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
Mr. Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric who was described as the inspiration for the plots, complained in a letter to Al Hayat last April that he was being mistreated by the prison authorities and called on his followers to avenge him.
A week later, Al Hayat published a rare interview with Mostapha Hamza, believed by Egyptian intelligence to be the chief military planner for the militant Islamic Group of which Mr. Abdel Rahman was spiritual leader. Mr. Hamza said his group might retaliate against Americans to win the Muslim cleric’s release. Neither the cleric nor Mr. Yousef is being held at Leavenworth, Federal officials said.
But two other members of the same group convicted for their roles in plans to bomb several high-profile targets including the United Nations, Mohammed Saleh and Victor Alvarez, are serving long prison terms at Leavenworth.
Al Hayat, which is published in London, has a circulation of about 200,000 and its principal owner is Khalid bin Sultan, who was the commander of Saudi military forces in the Persian Gulf war in 1991.
Middle Eastern journalists today described the newspaper as having an unusually free rein to publish a wide range of opinion compared with other newspapers in the Arab world. It is read by government and business leaders.
Dana Sandarusi, an American citizen who is one of two journalists at Al-Hayat’s Washington bureau, first noticed a suspicious package at midday Thursday. In an interview, he said he found a wire protruding from the package after he began to open it.
”I have no idea why somebody would send this to us,” Mr. Sandarusi said today. But he said it was not a complete surprise.
”It comes with the territory,” he said. ”It was always in the back of my mind since working here that something like this could happen.”