Alert closes part of Munich airport

Thursday, January 21, 2010

BERLIN -- Part of Munich airport's Terminal 2 was closed Wednesday afternoon as officials searched in vain for a man who left a security checkpoint with a bag containing a laptop after it had triggered an alert for possible explosives.

The incident appeared to have been a false alarm triggered by a man in a hurry to catch his plane and unaware of what had happened.

Hundreds of people were evacuated. The area reopened three hours later.

Police had not been able to find or identify the man by mid-evening, but said they were still working on it.

An airport security instrument alerted officials to possible explosives as the bag with the man's laptop was being scanned, police said. The man quickly left the scene, carrying the computer into the terminal, they said.

Officials had wanted to check the bag again. The impression of officials was that "the passenger likely was in a bit of a hurry, grabbed his luggage and headed off," federal police spokesman Albert Poerschke said.

Although the security instrument flagged the bag, that "doesn't mean that there are explosives inside," and the alert could have been triggered by something else, Poerschke said. He said the machines are set to be very sensitive.

While the man didn't necessarily commit any offense, police still want to question him about why he left the security check.

Munich airport said more than 100 departures were affected by the scare. Air traffic was expected gradually to return to normal during the evening.

There have been comparable security scares this month in the United States.

A man who walked through a restricted door and set off an alarm that led to the evacuation of a terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport has told police that he simply went the wrong way.

At Newark airport in New Jersey, flights were grounded for hours and passengers were rescreened while officials searched for a man who had walked through the exit of a security checkpoint.

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