Mystery powder sends Islamic group employees to hospital

Employees at a Council on American-Islamic Relations office in Santa Clara were taken to a hospital for evaluation as a precaution Thursday¬†afternoon after they received an envelope containing a suspicious powdery substance, according to the advocacy group’s Bay Area executive director.

Santa Clara police said the incident in the two-story building at 3000 Scott Blvd. was reported at 1:13 p.m. Firefighters responded and evacuated the building, and a hazardous materials team found the suspicious powder inside an envelope, police said.

As of shortly after 6 p.m. the substance remained unidentified and the building was being decontaminated, according to Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Bay Area chapter of CAIR, who said she was not at the office this afternoon.

CAIR workers notified police and the FBI soon after the discovery, she said.

Billoo said there are raised concerns about the suspicious package because of a similar incident that happened at the council’s national office in Washington, D.C.

The national office received a letter containing a “foreign substance” in the mail earlier today, the organization said on Twitter.

Preliminary tests of the substance sent to the Washington office showed it was not dangerous and the FBI now has possession of the letter, which they will continue to test, the organization said on Twitter.

Brice Hamack, CAIR’s Northern California civil rights coordinator, said he was one of three people in the Santa Clara office when they found the substance.

Police said traffic is moving slowly in the area due to the incident and the weather, and drivers are being asked to avoid the area.

Emergency responders are expected to remain on scene for a few more hours this evening, officials said.