Suspicious device at Namibia airport was part of U.S. security test

November 19th, 2010 - 8:03 pm ICT by BNO News  

BERLIN (BNO NEWS) — A ’suspicious device’ found at an airport in Namibia on Wednesday was in fact a dummy device to test security, according to a German minister.

The ’suspicious’ suitcase was discovered prior to loading at the luggage screening point at Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport, the main international airport of Namibia. It was to go aboard an Air Berlin aircraft, which was scheduled to fly to Munich in Germany.

“During the subsequent fluoroscopy, batteries which were connected by cable to a detonator and a running clock were visible,” Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) initially said in a statement on Thursday. “Whether this is an explosive device can only be determined after the completion of ongoing forensic investigations,” the agency added.

But on Friday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the device was only a test by a U.S. company to test the airport’s security. “This company provides alarm and detection systems and they make these suitcases to test security measures,” he said, without identifying the company.

It was not immediately clear if the Namibian security forces had authorized the test, or if the U.S. government was involved with the test. The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) did not immediately comment.

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) earlier said Air Berlin Flight 7377, which was carrying 296 passengers and 10 crew members, was delayed due to the discovery of the suitcase. “It is upon the discovery of this suspicious parcel and as a precautionary measure, that all passengers and luggage were disembarked and moved to Terminal 1 for further investigation,” a statement from the NAC said on Thursday.

The NAC said Flight 7377, which was initially scheduled to depart for Munich at 8.50 a.m. Namibian time on Wednesday, eventually departed at 2.58 p.m. Namibian time. “However, without its cargo which remained behind, also for further investigation,” the NAC said.

The bomb scare happened on the same day as de Maiziere said that police and other authorities would step up security at airports and railway stations because ‘there is reason for concern, but not hysteria.’

Maiziere said that a tip-off from another, unnamed country had indicated that terrorists are planning to attack the country later this month. “Measures will be taken throughout Germany at points that we believe are particularly worth of protection,” De Maiziere told a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

He added that the BKA has confirmed that people tied to Islamic militants are plotting to attack Germany, possibly in a Mumbai-style attack. “The indications are concrete, but it can’t be a provocation and it can’t push us to completely change our public life,” De Maiziere said.

The scare also came several weeks after two bombs were sent via UPS from Yemen and were addressed to locations in Chicago. One of the bombs was found on a UPS plane that arrived at East Midlands Airport in England on October 29. A printer, containing a printer cartridge with explosives, was removed from the plane and eventually made safe.

Another bomb was discovered at a FedEx facility in Dubai, after it had traveled on two Qatar Airways passenger flights. It was scheduled to continue to the United States on another UPS cargo plane, but was found in time.

British police said earlier this month that the explosive device found in England was set to be activated at 10.30 a.m. UK time (5.30 a.m. EDT). “If the device had not been removed from the aircraft the activation could have occurred over the eastern seaboard of the US,” Scotland Yard said.

Earlier, British officials said that the bomb found in England was powerful enough to bring down the aircraft if it had been detonated during the flight. Other officials had also said that it was likely the intention to cause the aircraft to crash somewhere in the United States.

Last week, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attempted terrorist attack, saying it will continue to strike American interests and the interests of America’s allies.

In addition, the Al Qaeda affiliate also claimed responsibility for the crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai in September. However, local and U.S. authorities have not found any evidence to indicate that the aircraft crashed as a result of a bomb blast. However, the cause remains under investigation.

As a result of the attempted terrorist attacks, the United States recently announced an immediate ban on toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces (453 grams) on passenger aircraft, while extending a Yemeni air cargo ban to Somalia. Other countries have also announced air cargo bans for Yemen.

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