Tuesday, August 23, 2005

‘Curry explosion' seals off casemates!

An abandoned parcel containing powdered cumin, the spice that gives ‘pinchitos’ their distinctive flavour, sparked a major security alert in Casemates at midday yesterday.

The parcel was left next to a public phone close to Burger King and directly opposite the Main Street entrance to the International Commercial Centre, arousing the suspicions of a police constable and passers by in the area.

As restaurants in Casemates prepared for the lunchtime rush, police officers moved in and cordoned off the entire square, ordering businesses to shut and members of the public to move away to a safe distance.

“Make sure everyone stays away from the windows,” a policeman told staff at the BHS store as he urged people away from the square.

At that time of the day Casemates should have been heaving with people, but within 20 minutes it was completely deserted save for a handful of police officers.

Bomb Disposal Equipment used by No 5131 (BD) Squadron
Just after 12.30pm, the RAF bomb disposal unit sent in a remotely controlled vehicle, known as ‘the wheelbarrow’, to assess the situation.

At 12.54pm, the bomb disposal team used the wheelbarrow to carry out a controlled explosion that disintegrated the package and left the pavement and the wall behind the phone covered in ‘pinchito’ spices.

As the yellow dust settled, a member of the RAF team walked in wearing a protective helmet and clothing. He took some photographs and declared the area safe shortly after.

“What’s happened here?” asked an English tourist as the wider cordons were lifted and policemen sealed the immediate area around the public phone.

“A curry explosion,” replied one of the officers in deadpan voice.

The incident was over in less than an hour and a half, but nonetheless caused significant disruption to restaurants and shops in the area at one of the busiest times of the day.

Senior police officers on the scene said there was no specific intelligence relating to the incident, adding that it appeared someone had simply used the public phone and inadvertently left the package behind.

But the same officers insisted that the precautions taken yesterday, including sealing the area off and calling in bomb disposal experts, were vital to ensure the safety of the public.

There were certainly few complaints from people in the area, who above all else seemed intrigued by what was going on and ready to accept that such measures are inevitable given the global threat of terrorism.

Most concerns centred on why, given what was happening in Casemates square, the Line Wall entrances to the ICC, including to the car park, stayed open throughout, with people allowed to access the building and remain inside if they wished.


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