A suspicious white powder that caused the FBI to scramble to hotels near the scene of Sunday’s Super Bowl appears to have been a hoax threat, police said on Friday.
FBI agents and police were called to at least five hotels close to the Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, where 80,000 people are expected to watch the Seattle Seahawks battle the Denver Broncos.
The FBI mobilised its joint terrorism task force and hazard materials units in response to the suspicious letters.
The incident raised fears with US law enforcement officials already on a massive security deployment to protect the event, jittery after bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon last year.
But within hours of police receiving the first phone call from panicked hotel staff, who opened the mail to find the powder, local police in Carlstadt said it appeared to have been a hoax.
Although there would be an analysis for final confirmation, investigators tend “to believe at this time that it was a cornstarch-based substance,” said police detective John Cleary.
Police had secured and left the area, although the FBI will be continuing with the investigation, he told AFP.
“It’s looking like it’s just a hoax,” Cleary said.
Officials were tipped off to at least five letters mailed to five hotels close to the sports stadium in East Rutherford.
Use of powder sent through the mail recalls the 2001 anthrax mailings in Washington, which killed five people and injured 17, days after the September 11 terror attacks.
Massive security preparations have been underway for years to protect Sunday’s Super Bowl from any possible threat.
New York Police Department commissioner William Bratton had said work had been aimed at forestalling “lone wolf” threats, such as the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon in April 2013.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, the Big Apple strengthened its police and security apparatus.
“There is a lot of counter-terrorism experience here,” US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. “I take a lot of comfort from that.”
The NFL has hired more than 4,000 private personnel to work with a massive security contingent representing 100 agencies that have been preparing for three years for Sunday’s game.