Port of Miami bomb scare was false alarm

  • World
  • Tuesday, 09 Jan 2007

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - A police bomb squad blew up a suspicious box of equipment bound for a cruise ship at the Port of Miami on Monday but said it was a false alarm and no explosives were found. 

The box contained fire sprinkler parts with a chemical that set off an alarm as it was put through a security scanner, Miami-Dade County Police Detective Robert Williams said. 

Police officers inspect a suspicious device after it was detonated in the Port of Miami, Florida January 8, 2007. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

"Something used on the sprinkler parts had a sort of chemical similar to, but was not, an explosive. The machine, I guess, couldn't differentiate," Williams said. 

The incident was the second security scare at the port in two days. 

In Monday's incident, the Coast Guard initially reported tests had found traces of C-4, a putty-like explosive used for demolition and military purposes, on a pallet of boxes. 

That report was incorrect "and they're absolutely relieved," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson. 

The box was to be loaded on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Majesty of the Seas, a 2,744-passenger vessel that sails from Miami to the Bahamas and the Florida Keys during winter months. 

The bomb squad took the box to a remote area and detonated it as a precaution. Passenger boarding of the ship was delayed until police gave the all-clear to resume normal operations at the busy cruise and cargo port. 

Royal Caribbean said in a news release that it screens all luggage, provisions and people boarding its ships with X-ray machines, metal detectors, sniffer dogs and various other methods. 

On Sunday, police detained a truck driver and two passengers who tried to enter the port without the proper identification. 

An anti-terrorism task force made up of federal and local police agencies was alerted but investigators determined that neither the men nor their cargo of automotive electronics posed a threat. 

The driver and his brother, both Iraqi nationals, and the other passenger, a Lebanese citizen, were held for questioning and jailed on charges of trespass and resisting arrest without violence. But the charges were later dropped. 

Police blamed the incident on "miscommunication" between the driver and seaport guards. 

(Additional reporting by Michael Christie) 

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