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Terrorism & Security

Germany says suspicious bag in Namibia airport was security test

Airport police in Namibia discovered a suitcase with batteries, wires, and a ticking clock. It was a security test, German police have discovered, though who planted the suspicious bag is unknown.

By Staff writer / November 18, 2010

Passengers book in their luggage at Windhoek, Namibia's Hosea Kutako International Airport Thursday, Nov. 18. German authorities said an Air Berlin flight from Namibia was delayed Wednesday after police found a suspicious device in baggage in the luggage hall of the airport in the African country's capital Wednesday.

Francois Poolman/AP Photo

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UPDATE: The suspicious bag found Wednesday in a Namibia airport was a security test, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said today.

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Investigators from the German Federal Crime Office (BKA) have determined that the suspicious package was made by an American firm to test airport security measures. It remains unknown who placed the suitcase inside Windhoek airport near a pile of bags bound for Munich.

"BKA officials have examined it and the result is that it is a so-called 'real test suitcase' from a US company," Dr. Maiziere told reporters Friday in Hamburg. "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."

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A suitcase containing batteries, wires, and a ticking clock at an airport: Is it a bomb, a decoy, a test, or merely a traveler's innocent personal belongings?

Namibian police at Windhoek airport on Wednesday discovered just such a suspicious bag as it was passing through security screening. Police believe the bag was headed for a plane to Munich, Germany, hours after the German Interior Ministry warned of "concrete indications" of a pending terror attack plot.

But the suitcase lacked something essential: explosives.

Air Berlin spokeswoman Sabine Teller told the Associated Press that no explosives were found in the bag, nor was it clear to whom the bag belonged or if it was necessarily bound for Germany. It did not have a final destination tag.

Germany's Federal Police Office released a statement (available in German only) saying that a routine police security check found the batteries connected by cable to a detonator and a running clock. The office said it dispatched officers from South Africa to Namibia to investigate the package.

All 296 passengers and 10 crew members, as well as all luggage, underwent subsequent security screenings before Air Berlin Flight 7377 departed. The plane arrived in Munich this morning with six-hour delay.

False alarm?

Reuters suspects it was a test. "One German source said the package may have carried a label indicating it was a security test, though it was not clear who would have been responsible for carrying out this procedure." Namibian police inspector Jay Nangolo would not confirm or deny if it was a test.

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