Military shamed over explosive snafu

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It was safe to assume that Norwegian defense department officials were both embarrassed and ashamed on Wednesday, after they set off a major bomb scare at the airport in Bergen on Tuesday. A full evacuation of the airport occurred when alert security officials detected a bomb-like device in military baggage.

“We, more than anyone else in Norway, know that exactly this type of material should never be sent on civilian aircraft,” Naval Commander Per Arne Bakkeli told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday.

Bakkeli was in despair on behalf of the military and especially a mine-clearing unit he heads (Minedykkerkommando), over the consequences of a major blunder that led to the check-in at Bergen’s Flesland Airport of a suitcase containing a so-called “training bomb” to be used during annual exercises in Trondheim.

The training bomb resembles the real thing, so airport security officials sounded the alarms. The airport was emptied, special bomb crews from Oslo were sent to Bergen, airline departures and landings were suspended and the travel plans of thousands of passengers were disrupted.

It all started, apparently, when the military specialists who themselves stand ready to clear mines and deactivate bombs needed the training material from the Haakonsevern naval base in Bergen for the major exercises called Flotex being held at Ørland outside Trondheim.

The material was supposed to be sent by car, but wound up in baggage in another car bound for the airport. That baggage was intended to follow military personnel on board a scheduled flight from Bergen to Trondheim.

The bag’s “owner” was already in Trondheim. When his bag didn’t turn up and he heard news of the airport closing in Bergen, he called police.

“The bag should never have been sent to the airport,” said Bakkeli, who signaled a full investigation into the embarrassing incident and said “routines” would be sharpened.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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