Namibia terror scare was ‘only security test’

2010-11-19 15:34

Berlin – A suitcase containing a detonator and clock found at Namibia’s main airport during loading of a flight to Munich was intended to test security and contained no explosives, Germany’s interior minister has said.

Namibian police found the bag in routine security checks ahead of the Air Berlin tourist flight, sparking concerns in Germany, which is on heightened security alert.

Analysts say the fact that the suspect device turned out to be a fake used for testing was highly unusual.
The discovery of the package – which German police say contained batteries along with the detonator and clock – caused jitters in Germany a day after German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere issued an unprecedentedly stark warning about possible militant attacks next week.

Today, de Maiziere told a news conference in Hamburg that the package found in Namibia was only a fake.
“BKA (Federal Crime Office) officials have examined it and the result is that it is a so-called ‘real test suitcase’ from a US company,” he said.

“This company produces alarm and detection systems and these test suitcases are made to test security measures.

“No explosives were found in the suitcase and at no time was there any danger to passengers,” de Maiziere added.

A BKA spokesperson could not identify the company concerned.

De Maiziere, who discarded his usual reserve in warning that the country faced a heightened risk of attacks by Islamic militants, admitted he did not know who was behind the security test.

“In case the question arises about whether German security officials might have been behind this (test), I would consider that to be unlikely. But that, too, will obviously be part of the investigation,” de Maiziere said.

Test procedure ‘confusing’
British aviation security consultant Chris Yates said normal international practice was that such checks were made by a local transportation security official who would pass through departure formalities posing as a traveller.

“If the device is detected, all well and good. If it is not, the airport’s head of security is contacted immediately so that the baggage can be identified and the situation explained.”

He described the sequence of events that unfolded yesterday as “highly confusing”.

It would be unusual for the maker of a security test package to actually implement a test, he said, adding that such procedures normally happened only with the agreement of senior transport officials of the airport.

In Namibia, police deputy inspector general Vilio Hifindaka had said the package was found in routine X-ray screening.

Passengers and crew were taken off the plane. They, the luggage and the plane underwent further checks before take-off with a six-hour delay. It arrived safely in Munich.

In a separate scare, police evacuated 230 passengers from a high-speed ICE train in the main rail station of Duesseldorf, Germany, after a suspicious bag was found on board late yesterday. But it contained only clothing, according to German media reports.

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