What was apparently meant as a joke about a bomb on board a plane yesterday led to the delay of passengers bound for Gaborone, Botswana on a South African Airline (SAA) flight.
The incident happened at around 07h00. The plane had to remain grounded while police at Hosea Kutako International Airport screened all luggage aboard. Some passengers became panicky and sent text messages to alert relatives, co-workers and acquaintances about their predicament.
According to the police, one of the passengers – a Belgian man – had what appeared to be liquid in his luggage. When the police asked him about the item, he responded by saying it is a bomb.
“This (Belgian) man apparently said ‘I have a bomb’. The police then said, ‘If you have a bomb, we will screen all your luggage’. When he saw it was getting serious, he changed his story to say, ‘I didn’t say I have a bomb. I said I don’t have a bomb’. That brought about a delay, as the passengers had to wait while the police were making sure that all luggage is properly checked and all security clearances done,” Namibian Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga told New Era upon enquiry yesterday.
Health minister Bernhard Haufiku was among the passengers delayed. It was reported that the SAA flight took off several hours later after the police were satisfied that they had conducted all necessary security measures.
However, the Belgium national – who Ndeitunga declined to identify at this stage – had to remain behind, as the police had to take statements from him. “Everything was clear and we were satisfied with the security. Currently he has left Namibia with a warning, but the report will tell us exactly what transpired,” Ndeitunga said.
The police chief assured passengers and visitors alike that the country’s ports are secure and safe. He, however, warned against such bomb scares: “We are warning that if you raise a false alarm, you can be arrested and charged. In the world of terrorism, you cannot play with the security of airlines.”
Marketing officer of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) Dan Kamati confirmed the incident, saying the police had to investigate a false bomb alert that delayed the SA airline en route to Botswana.
“The airport staff are waiting for the senior police investigators to investigate exactly what transpired. So, for now we don’t have much information regarding the incident. We are waiting for the police to give us a report on what happened,” he said.
This is the second bomb scare at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, following the arrest of a Namibian police officer in 2010 over a fake bomb found in luggage, which delayed a flight to Germany. The officer, Nehemia Shafuda, was later identified through CCTV footage. The footage showed the officer handling the parcel that caused the delay. He subsequently faced criminal charges for contravening the Aviation and Explosives Act.