Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Slovak police chief resigns over security exercise

Bratislava Airport
Security was being tested at two airports in Slovakia

The Slovak chief of border police, Tibor Mako, has resigned over a botched airport security exercise.

Stefan Gonda, 49, unwittingly carried explosives on a flight to Dublin after officials planted them in his luggage in a bid to test airport security.

Mr Mako said they were detected by a sniffer dog at Poprad-Tatry Airport but a policeman failed to remove them or to inform his supervisor.

Slovak officials claim they informed Dublin Airport of Mr Gonda's arrival.

But Dublin Airport says it had no contact from authorities in Slovakia, with the result that Mr Gonda left the airport unimpeded with the explosives in his bag.

Reports suggest the warning message was faxed from Slovakia to the luggage handling agent Servisair.

Irish authorities say it was not until Tuesday, three days after the flight, when Slovak border police told them to search for the explosives.


It was only then that Mr Gonda was arrested, and police cordoned off his flat near Dublin city centre while bomb experts examined the scene.

He was later released without charge.

Mr Mako's resignation was accepted by the Interior Minister, Robert Kalinak.

"What happened at Poprad airport was a stupid human error," Mr Kalinak told reporters.

"It is clearly an individual error not a system failure. Disciplinary proceedings against the policemen responsible are underway."

A spokesman for Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said it "beggared belief" that the man had been allowed to board the flight, the Irish Independent reported.

Mr Ahern said the security operation was a "bit of a fiasco", but added that the minister had accepted an apology from Slovakia's deputy prime minister and interior minister Robert Kalinak.

Opposition politicians in Slovakia have called for Mr Kalinak to resign as well.

Ivana Herkelova, director of Poprad-Tatry airport in north-east Slovakia, said the plane was on the runway when the error emerged but the pilot decided it was safe to fly.

No complaint

"I think that the foreign police units made a mistake here and the aircraft should have been prohibited from taking off," she told Slovak newspaper SME.

In a statement, the Dublin Airport Authority said it had no contact from the authorities in Slovakia until Tuesday.

Mr Gonda, a Slovakian electrician living in Dublin, was returning from his Christmas holidays.

His wife, Monika Gondova, told Slovak newspaper Pravda that he would not file a complaint against the police.

The explosives were among eight contraband items placed with passengers at Bratislava and Poprad-Tatry airports last weekend.

Slovak authorities were reportedly trying to test screening procedures for checked-in luggage by placing items with unwitting passengers.

Security experts condemned the planting of explosives in the luggage of a passenger, instead of using a police agent.

The Irish Army said passengers had not been put in danger because the explosives were stable and not connected to any essential bomb parts such as a detonator or power supply.

Airport security has been stepped up in many countries following an alleged plot to bomb an airliner over the US city of Detroit on 25 December, though it was not clear if the Slovak test was linked to such efforts.

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