Dodgy bag may have been used to test Namibian airport security

2010-11-19 07:41

Berlin – An Air Berlin flight from Windhoek to Munich was delayed after police found a suspicious bag in the luggage hall of the airport.

Germany sent federal police experts stationed in South Africa to help with the investigation amid heightened concerns of terrorist threats against Germany. However, it appears later that the bag may have been part of an airport security test.

The bag was found early on Wednesday at Windhoek’s airport near baggage that was to be loaded on to the Air Berlin flight to Munich, said Air Berlin spokesperson Sabine Teller.

A scan showed batteries attached by wires to a fuse and a clock, said Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office.

Security test

Later, German authorities said they could not rule out the possibility that the bag could have contained a fake device meant to test the airport’s security measures.

“There are indications that it could be a test,” German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere told broadcaster ZDF, adding that close expert scrutiny would soon reveal the true nature of the bag.

Teller said the airline had been told that no explosives were found in the bag, but Namibia’s Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga said the bag “needs to be tested in the lab to find out whether it was an explosive or just a decoy”.

The bag was on its own, “wrapped in plastic without a tag”, which raised suspicion, Ndeitunga said.

The incident came after De Maiziere raised the country’s terrorist threat level on Wednesday, saying intelligence services had received a tip from an unspecified country about a suspected attack planned for the end of November.

Concern about the possibility of international flights being targeted by terrorists rose last month when two mail bombs were discovered while being sent on cargo planes from Yemen to the US. One of them went through a German airport before being found in Britain.

After the suspect bag was found, the Air Berlin flight’s luggage was rechecked as a precaution and all passengers on the flight had to identify their bags, and none was found without an owner, Teller said.

Teller said she did not know whether Namibian police had determined who owned the suspicious bag or what flight it was intended for.

Namibian police said no arrests had been made.

The Namibia Airports Company indicated that the bag might have been intended as cargo on the plane.

The airport operator in Namibia confirmed that a “suspicious parcel” had been discovered, causing the delay of the Air Berlin flight, but that once security authorities had “satisfied themselves with the safety and security of passengers and their baggage”, it was allowed to continue, without its cargo.

The plane arrived safely with its 300 passengers in Munich early yesterday morning, Teller said.

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