A second scare: No explosives were found in package at Port of Miami
Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 11:50 p.m.
MIAMI — The Port of Miami had its second terrorism scare in two days Monday, but both cases turned out to be false alarms. The latest involved a package that gave an initial positive reading for plastic explosives before it was to be loaded onto a cruise ship.
A Miami-Dade County police bomb squad destroyed the box and then checked it, said Zach Mann, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman. The box held sprinkler parts, which contained a substance that "closely resembles" the military-grade explosive known as C4, said police spokesman Bobby Williams.
The package for the Royal Caribbean International ship was initially tested six times by explosives detection equipment and each time it came back positive for C4, said Coast Guard Petty Officer James Judge. Television footage showed just a puff of white smoke when the package was destroyed.
Williams said the explosives detection instruments sometimes give out a false positive.
"We still need to check it out," Williams said.
The package was on a pallet of provisions that were to be loaded aboard the Majesty of the Seas, Royal Caribbean said. Explosives detection instruments got the positive reading around 2 p.m. EST, the cruise line said. The Coast Guard briefly set up a security perimeter around the ship.
The package investigation came a day after three Middle Eastern men in a cargo truck sparked a brief and unfounded terrorism scare at the port.
Officials initially said the permanent U.S. residents from Iraq and Lebanon were caught trying to slip past a checkpoint in a cargo truck at the port's entrance Sunday. After a bomb squad search, authorities determined their freight of automotive parts was harmless and the incident stemmed from a simple miscommunication.
Still, local police charged truck driver Amar Al Hadad, 28, on Monday with resisting an officer without violence. His passengers were a relative, Hussain Al Hadad, 24, and Hassan El Sayed, 20, police said. Both were charged with trespass, and Hussain Al Hadad also faced the resisting charge. All are from Dearborn, Mich.
But court records showed the charges were dismissed by a judge later Monday and the men were released from jail. Miami-Dade police declined to comment on the judge's decision. Authorities said no federal charges were expected.
Sunday's confusion began when a security officer became suspicious when Amar Al Hadad could not produce proper identification in a routine inspection to enter the port about 8 a.m.
The driver also indicated he was alone in the truck, but after a search, security officers found the two other men in the cab, police said.
The port's cargo area was shut down and a bomb squad isolated the truck to scan it for radioactive materials. Nothing unusual was found, and the truck's contents — electrical automotive parts in a 40-foot container — matched the driver's cargo manifest, police said.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were called to the scene, along with federal and local law enforcers, "in an abundance of caution," Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Nancy Goldberg said.
"Due to a miscommunication between the gate security personnel and the truck driver, we believe there was a discrepancy in the number of people in the vehicle," Goldberg said. "This, and the fact that one of the individuals did not have any form of ID, raised our level of concern."
The three men do not appear on any terrorist watch list, said Barbara Gonzalez, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman.
The Port of Miami is among the nation's busiest. More than 3.6 million cruise ship passengers traveled through in 2005, making it the world's top terminal for cruise vacationers. Its seaport services more than 30 ocean carriers, which delivered more than 1 million cargo containers there in 2005.
James Maes, assistant port director of safety and security, said the two threats showed the port takes all security issues seriously.
"It's a different world that we live in now after 9-11," Maes said.
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