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Mystery Notes, Bombs Threaten U.S. Financial Firms

Pipe bombs sent to U.S. asset management firms in Kansas City and Chicago last week appear linked to an individual known as "The Bishop" who has authored an escalating series of threats to firms over the last 18 months, a corporate counter-terrorism expert said on Thursday.

American Century Investment Management in Kansas City received a threatening letter along with a "functional pipe bomb" on Jan. 31, FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza said. The bomb was dismantled without incident, Lanza said.

A day later, a similar note and bomb were received at the Chicago financial services firm of Perkins, Wolf, McDonnell and Co. The device had originally been mailed to the Janus Capital Group in Denver, but then was forwarded to Perkins, which is a subadviser to Janus, Janus spokeswoman Shelly Peterson said.

"We're taking this very seriously. Obviously the issue for Janus is of the utmost importance," Peterson said.

"It is concerning," said Fred Burton, vice president of counter terrorism for Stratfor, a global private intelligence firm which has had several clients receive similar threats since 2005.

Stratfor warned its clients in an advisory on Wednesday that the threats made to U.S. financial services firms appeared to be escalating.

Unabomber Threat?

"You have an individual that clearly is progressing down a path of violence," Burton said.

The advisory warned that the Bishop "could be on the path to becoming the next Unabomber," a reference to Theodore Kaczynski who killed three people and injured 23 in a 17-year campaign of sending bombs through the mail before his arrest in 1996.

Burton said the letters demanded the companies take action to move specific stocks to a predetermined price, frequently $6.66.

According to Burton, the Bishop's letters were sent from various states in the Midwest, including Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. The letters made threats about kidnappings and killings if the recipients ignored various instructions having to do with stock trading, Burton said.

Calls on Thursday to the U.S. Postal Inspections Service, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and American Century were not immediately returned.

Burton said Stratfor alerted its clients this week about the threats both to warn them and to try to collect more information.

"We're trying to put the pieces together. From a public safety perspective the more people that know about this the better," Burton said.

Janus is working with federal postal inspectors and law enforcement investigators on the case and has tight security measures in place, Peterson said.

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