US firm confirms manufacturing Namibia fake bomb

Friday, November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - The owner of a small firm in California confirmed Friday that he was the manufacturer of a fake suitcase bomb, intended for security training, that was found in a Namibian airport.

Larry Copello, owner and president of Larry Copello Inc, which has a handful of employees in the small Sierra Nevada town of Sonora, east of San Francisco, told DPA that he estimates the case was made four years ago.

He said the cases are sold for security training to US government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees security at US airports. The devices are used to train security screeners to spot bombs, he said.

Other clients include foreign governments, including embassies, and corporate security firms, he said. Copello said his products are distributed through a security firm in San Francisco, which he refused to identify.

“It’s a generic test piece,” he said, adding that it was harmless, and he is not in the business of manufacturing live ammunition.

Copello said said that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) visited with him Thursday and showed him a photo of the case, which allowed him to confirm it as his product.

The suitcase was found at Namibia’s Windhoek airport among other luggage bound for Germany, creating a stir at a time when Germany is already on high alert for a possible terrorist attack. Copello said that he had no idea how his product ended up in Namibia but speculated that it happened in error: “People make mistakes, and they forget things.”

Copello said his company has “very strict” guidelines about who can buy their products, and that he has in the past immediately contacted authorities when approached by would-be buyers who seemed suspicious.

“I’ve never been approached by a terrorist, I don’t believe,” he said.

Copello said he has been overwhelmed by the attention: “It’s not a good way to get publicity.”

Filed under: Terrorism

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