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Exploding USB drive injures journalist in terror attack

We sometimes hear how inserting a mysterious USB drive into a computer carries the risk of infecting the machine with harmful software. But for one journalist in Ecuador, the consequences were even more alarming.

When Lenin Artieda received a package containing a USB drive earlier this week, the journalist felt that connecting it to his computer was worth the risk, after all, it might have contained the details of a good story. But when he did so, the diminutive device exploded.

Artieda, who also works as a presenter on Ecuador’s nationwide Ecuavisa TV network, suffered injuries to his face and one of his hands in the blast, according to a BBC report.

It has since come to light that at least four other letters with similar devices were sent to other media outlets in the country, prompting the attorney-general’s department to launch a terrorism investigation. The other targets escaped injury as they either didn’t open the package or it failed to detonate when inserted into a computer.

Early investigations by the nation’s forensic science unit suggest that the devices were filled with “military-type” explosives.

The specifics of what the perpetrator is trying to achieve with these potentially lethal packages isn’t entirely clear, but officials clearly see the campaign as an attempt to intimidate journalists.

The government was quick to condemn the aggressive act, while insisting that freedom of expression is “a right that must be respected.” It added: “Any attempt to intimidate journalism and freedom of expression is a loathsome action that should be punished with all the rigor of justice.”

The BBC’s report noted that the city of Guayaquil, where three of the explosive-laden drives were sent, has recently suffered a spike in violence as gang-related crime and drug wars spiral out of control.

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Trevor Mogg
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