Bomb squad drama at city mall

2013-06-19 00:00

TWO suspicious suitcases, feared to be explosive devices, caused such a stir at Liberty Midlands Mall yesterday that they were blown up by the bomb squad.

The two suitcases had been left unattended in the mall’s underground park-ing.

The Pietermaritzburg Bomb Squad were deployed to the scene and blew them up in a controlled explosion.

It turned out that the red and black suitcases contained nothing more sinister than weight loss machines.

They were found abandoned next to the stairs by security officials. The officials quickly alerted the security control room who in turn called the police.

For some time, the police cautiously tried to find out what the suitcases contained.

At one point, one of the senior officers at the scene raised concern about the safety of shoppers, who were oblivious to the possible danger, and were walking past the cordoned-off area, just metres away from the suspicious cases.

The mall’s security guards moved quickly to control the shoppers’ movements; they closed off and cleared the underground parking; cars parked outside the underground parking, but which would have been in the vicinity of the blast, were moved.

Warrant Officer Wayne Peters of the bomb squad was the lead man; he had to be fitted with a heavy protective suit, which resembled an astronaut’s space gear and made it hard for him to walk.

He gingerly approached and inspected the suitcases.

The bomb squad resorted to blasting the suitcases after a camera they put in for a “sneak and peek” revealed that one of them contained wiring and a battery.

“We have checked the suitcases and are concerned about the brown [sic] suitcase because the cameras show that it has a battery and wires,” said one official at the scene before the cases were exploded.

After the suitcases had been blown open, Peters was the first one to check inside the case to see if the controlled explosion had disabled the suspected explosive device inside.

Centre manager Umi Khan said, “As a precautionary measure, upon being notified by mall security, centre management immediately alerted the SAPS, the bomb squad and the SAPS dog unit who responded to the scene and confirmed that the parcels were safe.”

“The relevant tests were carried out by the bomb squad and the dog unit on the scene and confirmation was given by both units that the contents of the bags did not pose any danger to the public.”

Police were unable to trace the owners of the suitcases by late yesterday.

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