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Slovakian police chief quits over Dublin explosives run

Security cock-up 'beggars belief', says Irish minister

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The Slovakian chief of border police, Tibor Mako, has quit following a major security cock-up which saw an unwitting electrician fly from the country's Poprad-Tatry airport to Dublin with 90 grams of RDX plastic explosive in his luggage.

Security services planted eight pieces of contraband in passengers' baggage at Bratislava and Poprad-Tatry airports as part of a security test operation last Saturday. While seven items were recovered, Mako admitted the explosives "were detected by a sniffer dog at Poprad-Tatry Airport but a policeman failed to remove them or to inform his supervisor".

Stefan Gonda, 49, who was making his way back to his Dublin home following the Xmas holidays, duly flew into the capital with the plastic. According to the BBC, the Slovakian authorities claim they sent a warning fax to luggage handling agent Servisair, but Dublin aiport says it received no such notification.

The Dublin Airport Authority insisted in a statement it had "no contact from the authorities in Slovakia until Tuesday", at which point police "immediately raided the man’s flat in an apartment block in central Dublin, the area was sealed off and residents and businesses were evacuated".

Gonda was subsequently released without charge.

Slovakia's interior minister, Robert Kalinak, said: "What happened at Poprad airport was a stupid human error. It is clearly an individual error not a system failure. Disciplinary proceedings against the policemen responsible are underway."

While a spokesman for Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern said it "beggared belief" that Gonda had been allowed to board the flight, and the minister himself described the whole debacle as "a bit of a fiasco", the Irish have now accepted Slovakian apologies over the affair.

Regarding the RDX, 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".

Just as well, because Ivana Herkelova, director of Poprad-Tatry airport, explained that the aircraft bearing the explosives "was on the runway when the error emerged but the pilot decided it was safe to fly". ®

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