'Suspect bag' raises Germany fears

Police in Namibia find suspicious package in luggage meant for an Air Berlin flight to Munich, officials say.

    A suspected explosive device was found in luggage meant for a plane bound for Germany from Namibia, officials have said, one day after Berlin raised its national security level.

    Namibian police found the package in a suitcase at Windhoek airport during the loading of an Air Berlin flight to Munich on Wednesday.

    Germany's Federal Crime Office (BKA) said an x-ray revealed "batteries that were attached with wires to a detonator and a ticking clock".

    "Only the ongoing forensic investigation will show whether this was a live explosive," it said in a statement on Thursday.

    Air Berlin, Germany's second biggest airline, has made clear that the package was not found on its flight from Windhoek but inside the airport terminal.

    'Test' reports

    All 296 passengers and 10 crew were taken off the plane in the Namibian capital following the discovery, but were able to resume their flight following a six-hour delay.

    However, the cargo from the flight has remained in Windhoek pending a police investigation.

    Germany raised security measures in public areas on Wednesday amid fears of an attack [AFP]

    Vilio Hifindaka, Namibia's police deputy inspector general, said the package was found in routine x-ray screening but declined to confirm or deny that it contained explosives.

    The BKA said it dispatched officers in South Africa to Namibia, which is a former German colony, to aid in the investigation and planned to send further experts to examine the suspected bomb.

    Stephen Brown, Reuters' chief Berlin correspondent, told Al Jazeera that some reports suggested the package could have been a "test".

    "Some German sources have told us that there may have been a label on the package just simply saying 'test'. However police in Namibia have said they cannot confirm this.

    "There's absolutely no indication of who would have carried out such a procedure ... we have no more details about that yet."

    The development comes one day after the German government raised security measures at train stations, airports and other public spaces on Wednesday following a tip-off from a "foreign partner" about an attack plot.

    'Mumbai-style threat'

    German authorities said on Thursday that they were on guard against threats of armed attack on civilians of the kind that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

    "What we are basically preparing ourselves for, is that terrorists, coming from abroad, commit an attack soon after arrival, without warning, in a building or public place, knowing that they may not survive," Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, told broadcaster ZDF.

    "In shop talk, we'd call that something similar to what happened in Mumbai."

    Citing security sources, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that the United States had told Berlin that between two and four al-Qaeda operatives were on their way to Germany and Britain to attempt attacks.

    Last month, authorities discovered two US-bound parcel bombs originating from Yemen, one of which went through Cologne airport in western Germany.

    On November 2, an explosive device arrived by post at the office of Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, in what De Maiziere said was likely a suspected attack by Greek radicals.

    Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has nearly 5,000 troops in Afghanistan under Nato command, has never experienced an attack by al-Qaeda-linked operatives on its own soil.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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