Namibia detonator was just a test, says Germany

Friday, November 19, 2010

BERLIN - A suspicious parcel containing a detonator that was found at an airport in Namibia and destined for Germany was a harmless test device, the German government revealed Friday.

However, the country remains on a heightened state of alert due to possible terrorist attacks, authorities said.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the suitcase - found in Windhoek airport containing batteries cabled up to a detonator and an active clock - was a dummy that contained no explosives. Such devices are used to spot loopholes in security arrangements.

At no time would the device have presented a danger to passengers, de Maiziere added.

The suitcase triggered a security alert when it was found Wednesday, amongst luggage destined for an Air Berlin flight to Munich. German security experts travelled to Windhoek, where they recognised it as a fake device.

However investigators were still trying to establish who had planted the so-called Realtest suitcase, manufactured by a company in the US. De Maiziere was unable to rule out that German authorities had done so themselves.

“I belive that is very improbable,” the minister told journalists, but added this was one of the possibilities being investigated.

Air Berlin denied that they had bought the dummy device. “The origin of the suitcase is not known to Air Berlin,” a company spokeswoman told DPA.

The interior minister admitted that there were still many open issues.

“You can assume that I am asking these questions too,” he said. “And I will do everything to answer these questions.”

Earlier this week, de Maiziere said security would be stepped up as the government had received “concrete” indications that Islamist militants planned to target the country in coming weeks.

The danger of attack was greater than ever before, police chief Matthias Seeger told Friday’s edition of daily Bild newspaper.

“On a scale of one - no danger - to 10 - acute danger of attack - we are currently at 9.0,” Seeger said.

There was however no cause for panic, he added.

The ensuing heightened state of alert will remain in place at least through the holiday season, according to the head of the country’s police union.

Experts have warned that traditional Christmas markets, popular with tourists as well as locals, could be targeted.

“The security authorities anticipate that these exceptional circumstances will last until the end of the year at the earliest,” Rainer Wendt told the daily Neue Osnabruecker newspaper.

Authorities in Germany tightened security at airports and railway stations this week in response to the indications of possible terrorist attacks at the end of this month.

One scenario authorities were preparing for was Mumbai-style attacks in public places. More than 160 died in the Indian metropolis when militant Islamists attacked a series of high-profile sites in November 2008.

Filed under: Terrorism

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