Wednesday 18 January 2017

Garda team will fly to Slovakia in bomb blunder investigation

Tom Brady and Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 07/01/2010 | 05:00

A GARDA team will fly to Slovakia as part of their inquiries into the botched airport security exercise there, resulting in explosives being sent on a flight to Dublin.

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The move to send out the team came as further details emerged of how 96g of the military explosive, RDX, was allowed on to the Dublin-bound flight last Saturday.

Slovak authorities asked a baggage handling company to return explosives that were planted in luggage on a plane to Dublin on the next flight.

In a telex to Servisair -- that was not marked urgent -- they said the "sample" was not dangerous as it was "only used for dog training" and there was no detonator.

The message casually requested that the bombing material be returned by sender. "Pilot in command is informed about this sample," it read.

Communication

"We would like to kindly ask you to return that sample".

Slovakian officials also revealed that they had started their own inquiry into the failure to detect the explosives and also to prevent them being taken onto the Dublin flight.

They said they would also examine why the communication sent by the border police had been issued to Servisair, which was acting as agent here for the flight, rather than the police or Dublin airport authorities (DAA).

This will also be a key issue for the garda investigation, led by Det Chief Supt Martin McLoughlin who along with his team are expected to interview relevant staff at the airport and in Servisair as part of local inquiries before setting out for Slovakia.

Slovak airport authorities had originally claimed yesterday that the message was sent to the DAA.

It has now emerged that the authority was not informed that bombing equipment had been planted on a passenger until Tuesday -- when it contacted gardai.

"None of the three addresses on the telex that was produced by Slovakian authorities today is a DAA address," a DAA spokeswoman said.

The Slovakian authorities have already admitted the blunder and offered an official apology to the Irish Government.

The apology was tendered by Slovakian deputy prime minister and interior minister, Robert Kalinak, who also assured Justice Minister Dermot Ahern that his government would co-operate fully with the garda inquiries.

Slovakian officials have told the Government that it was not their practice to send explosives to other countries and confirmed that the incident had been part of a police exercise.

The explosives had been concealed in luggage belonging to 49-year-old electrician, Stefan Gonda, without his knowledge.

Mr Gonda, who has been working and living here for the past three years, was not aware that he was being used in a security exercise and that the explosives had been concealed in his luggage. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Dublin airport reiterated that they did not become aware of the existence of the explosives until contacted by the Slovakians on Tuesday morning.

The DAA said it had immediately contacted the gardai. This resulted in a big security operation in the centre of Dublin as gardai sealed off the area around Dorset Street where Mr Gonda lived.

Irish Independent

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