Germany says Namibia package was security test dummy<1>

Added 27/11/2010

A suspect package intercepted at a Namibian airport was a dummy used to test security, German officials say.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said officials had established that it was a so-called "real-test suitcase".

He said no explosives were discovered in the case, which was found near luggage about to be loaded on to a Munich-bound flight.

It is not known who left the case at Windhoek airport on Wednesday, triggering an international alarm.

But Namibian police said they would deal "severely" with anyone involved.

"The Namibian police force wants to send out a stern warning to people with ill intentions that it will not allow Namibia to be used as a testing ground by anyone," The force's inspector general, Sebastian Haitota Ndeitunga, said in a statement.

He added that neither the US, German nor Nambian governments were aware of the package.

Examination

 

The incident came just hours after Germany had raised its terrorist threat level, saying it had received a tip-off from an unspecified country about a suspected attack planned for the end of November.

Mr de Maiziere told a news conference in the northern city of Hamburg on Friday that experts from the German federal police had flown to Windhoek to examine the suitcase.

"The outcome is that the luggage turned out to be a so-called real-test suitcase made by a company in the United States.

"This company is a manufacturer of alarm and detection systems and these real-test suitcases are built to test security measures," he said.

Mr de Maiziere did not say who had left the suitcase, but said German agents were still involved in the investigation.

'Raises questions'

 

Asked if it could have been a German security test, he said that was "unlikely but part of the investigation".

He added: "The most important thing is that there were no explosives in the bag and there was never any danger to the passengers at any time."

The BBC correspondent in Berlin, Steve Evans, says the minister's statement raises a number of questions, such as, if it was a test done by local officials, why wasn't the true nature of the device revealed immediately?

And, if it was done by a foreign security agency, why didn't they inform the Namibian authorities?

The suitcase was placed alongside baggage about to be loaded on to an Air Berlin plane at the airport near the Namibian capital.

It was seized by Namibian police and an X-ray inspection revealed batteries that were attached with wires to a "detonator" and a ticking clock.

The Air Berlin plane, with around 300 passengers and crew on board, was delayed for six hours before being cleared for take-off to Munich, where it arrived on Thursday morning.

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Elton John Naples gig gets organisers into hot water

Added 27/11/2010

stage the event.

The 720,000 euros (613,000) came from the European Union as part of a fund to enhance regional development in the Campania region.

Sir Elton was the headline act at a festival in Naples last year.

The European Commission only recently discovered that some of its funds had been used to stage the gig by one of the biggest names in music.

The affair was brought to light by Mario Borghezio, an Italian MEP from the Northern League party, who said using EU cash in this way was "shameful".

Outside the remit

 

After looking into the allegations, the commission this week sent a letter to the Italian government and the Campania regional authorities asking them to reimburse the money.

Commission spokesman Ton Van Lierop said this concert fell outside the remit of the funding programme.

"Cultural events, culture in general, can fall under the scope of operational programmes, but they have to be aimed at structural long-term investments," he said.

The pop star appeared at the Piedigrotta festival in September 2009, performing in Naples' Piazza del Plebiscito in a concert that drew an audience of 100,000 and was broadcast live on state TV.

Dario Scalabrini, the festival's artistic director, told Associated Press the event was meant to promote the Naples area and the concert had done just that.

Deduction from payments

 

The rest of the EU fund, thought to total around 2.25m euros ($3m; 2m), is not at stake, although the investigation is part of a broader audit of EU-funded projects in Campania.

Sir Elton is not accused of doing anything wrong.

Our Europe Correspondent Matthew Price says it is the local Italian officials who decided to use the funding in this way who find themselves in hot water.

Mr Van Lierop said the money would be repaid "by deducting from the next (EU) payments."

Development funding for the EU's poorest regions is the second largest item in the EU budget after farm spending.

 

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