Botched Slovak police test sparks explosives scare

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern has asked for a full Garda report into how explosives were brought into Ireland following a botched security operation by Slovak police.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ahern said the minister had spoken to the Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak, who apologised for the incident and agreed to co-operate with the Garda inquiry.

In a bizarre security operation, an innocent Slovak national living in Ireland unwittingly carried commercial explosives through Dublin Airport after Slovak border police placed them in his baggage, and that of other innocent passengers, as part of a test.

While sniffer dogs detected the explosives in the other eight cases, they failed to identify the baggage of the man travelling to Ireland.

The authorities then failed to intercept the man’s baggage and he was allowed to board his plane, arriving in Dublin Airport last Saturday afternoon.

And in a further security blunder, the police did not contact gardaí here for three days, although they claimed they had sent a telex.

Their phone call yesterday morning prompted a massive security operation, with gardaí cordoning off a busy road junction in Dublin’s north inner city and evacuating a block of flats, other homes and businesses.

Gardaí raided the man’s apartment on Dorset Street and requested the army’s bomb disposal team to recover the explosives – 90g of commercial explosives, known as RDX, used by military and industry – from the man’s baggage.

It was not primed, was in a stable condition and could not have exploded on its own.

The 49-year-old Slovak electrician was arrested under anti-terrorist legislation. He was released in a couple of hours after gardaí conducted further inquiries.

“He’s completely innocent,” said a Garda source. “He’s lived here for three years and works as a tradesman. He didn’t know what was going on.”

Mr Ahern’s spokeswoman said the minister was very concerned that gardaí were not alerted for three days.

She said Mr Ahern had asked the Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy for a full report on the matter. A spokesman for Mr Murphy said he had appointed a chief superintendent to “establish the full background” to the incident.

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Airport Authority said the airport police were first alerted yesterday morning by phone by police at Bratislava airport. She said they had claimed that they had previously sent a telex, but the DAA said they never got one.

She rejected claims from Fine Gael of a lapse in security at Dublin Airport and said screening of passengers and baggage is done at the departing airport.

The Slovakian embassy declined to comment. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they awaited the Garda report and would, if necessary, pursue the matter with the Slovakian authorities.

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