An explosive oversight

PARIS, DEC. 6. A moment's carelessness had humiliating consequences for French bomb squad officers, when they accidentally mislaid an explosive device, hidden for training purposes in an unknown passenger's suitcase, triggering a global terror alert.

Officers training sniffer-dogs at the Roissy airport slipped 150 grams of plastic explosive in the side pocket of a blue bag, selected randomly from luggage waiting to be loaded on to a plane. When they went to find a trainee dog to sniff it out, baggage handlers put the suitcase on a conveyor belt, from where it was dispatched on to a plane. Since the officers had failed to check where the bag was headed for, they had to inform staff on 90 flights heading out of the airport on Friday evening of the possible presence of explosives in the hold. The French police admitted "a momentary lack of surveillance," but in a damage limitation exercise, tried to reassure their colleagues that the small package had no detonator, and would not react to movement, shock or fire, and was therefore "no more dangerous than a bar of chocolate."

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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