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Terror scare was 'not about Peer'

The Auckland Tennis centre was evacuated yesterday after a security scare over an unattended bag, although it was not linked to a protest against the presence of Israeli player Shahar Peer, police said.

The central Auckland venue is hosting the WTA Tour's Auckland Classic and a small group of protesters were outside when the evacuation took place.

A tournament spokesman said the centre was evacuated at about 10.40am (9.40pm GMT) before security and police carried out a search.

"We spoke to the owner of the bag and nothing suspicious was found in it," police officer Kerry Watson said. "It was just a bag that a normal spectator would bring in. The management reacted quickly. There was no threat."

Play had been due to get under way at 11am, but was held up for about 20 minutes.

Tennis Auckland chief executive Greg Bramwell said the evacuation of up to 500 people was standard practice when an unattended bag was discovered and had nothing to do with Peer's involvement.

"We believe we needed to be erring on the side of caution and be responsible in this bag being unattended," he said. "From day one we've put additional security on for this tournament -- it hasn't been because of Shahar Peer."

The unseeded Peer dispatched Slovenia's Polona Hercog 7-5 6-3 in the first match on Court Four. She was due to play a first-round doubles match later on.

Local press reported that about 10 protesters, who are opposed to Israel's treatment of Palestinians and support a boycott of the country, had been outside the venue protesting against Peer's presence in the tournament.