GRENADE-SHAPED LIGHTER IGNITES NAIA SCARE

NAIA, PASAY CITY, March 28, 2003  -- A supposed chemical bomb earlier found
stashed inside a postal bag in a flight bound for Japan turned out to be a
grenade-shaped lighter.

"It turned out to be a lighter," Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)
general manager Edgar Manda told reporters a few hours after the supposed
"chemical bomb" was found yesterday afternoon.

Authorities earlier announced they found the explosive device inside the
sack while being X-rayed at a bonded warehouse near NAIA. The discovery
caused quite a scare at the airport.

An X-ray revealed the image of a grenade with wires, Manda said.

Gen. Jesus Versoza, head of the Philippine National Police Aviation
Security Group, said the "bomb" can be triggered by a hand grenade with
electrical wiring connected to a still undetermined chemical stuffed inside
one of the four containers, each of them about the size of a shoebox.

The boxes, all weighing 18 kilos, were placed inside an orange-colored
postal mailbag of Thai Airways International.

"This grenade is attached to a device that will trigger the explosion once
the plane reaches a certain altitude," Versoza said.

Journalists who photographed the "grenade" at close range said it resembled
a novelty cigarette lighter.

The bomb scare caused the delay of Thai Airways flight TG 620 which was due
to fly to Osaka with 156 passengers.

Authorities delayed the flight for 20 minutes as bomb disposal experts
managed to destroy the novelty cigarette lighter in a "controlled explosion."

In Bangkok, Thai Airways spokeswoman Sunathee Isrvarphornchai also said
there was no grenade or any explosives found.

"The object believed to be a grenade was not a grenade but a suspected
chemical container," she said.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) assistant general manager
Miguel Hinlo said the discovery of the explosive did not affect airport
operations.

Hinlo earlier suspected what was found was an explosive device. "It is a
grenade with wiring that airport security men found on the X-ray," Hinlo said.

The discovery of the grenade shaped lighter came just two days after
President Arroyo blasted the chief of Manila's airport for lax security.

A visibly angry Arroyo, making a surprise inspection three weeks after a
bomb killed 22 people in Davao airport, did not like the way vehicles and
people were being checked in and around the public parking lots.

"There is no security," she told Manda in front of journalists, her aides
and passengers. "What if something explodes?"

Several years back, a pipe bomb went off inside a Philippine Airlines plane
bound for Narita, Japan, causing minor damage while at the Cebu
International Airport.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier warned the public on the possibility of chemical
attacks by local terror groups sympathetic to Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Even Mrs. Arroyo herself became a victim of bomb scare in Cebu where she
convened a command conference on anti-terror plans.

At the end of the conference, Mrs. Arroyo told reporters that she was
informed by local police officials about a "successful detonation" of a
bomb supposedly found inside a fastfood restaurant in Lapu-Lapu City.

But when journalists rushed to the scene, they were later told by policeman
the "bomb" turned out to be a bagful of documents left unattended. (By
Sandy Araneta, Star)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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