By: CHRIS GRAEME
LISBON’S PSP had to deal with a suspect parcel bomb found in a metro railway carriage at Telheiras station on the Green Line on Tuesday morning.
The Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) closed off the station and called in their bomb and mine squad, which dealt with the suspicious package in a controlled explosion. Afterwards, a police spokesman said the package, left on the train, had either been “innocently forgotten or was a joke in extremely bad taste”.
It was at 11am when a member of the Lisbon Metro cleaning staff found the package on the train which had reached the end of its trajectory at one of Lisbon Metro’s newer Green Line (Linha Verde) extension stations.
The situation put the transport system and authorities on high alert following news in recent days that the Spanish secret services had issued a warning to the Portuguese authorities that Portugal could be the target of an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack.
The Metro was immediately evacuated and all services between Cais do Sodré and Alvalade on the Green Line were cancelled and streets surrounding Telheiras station were closed off to the public, namely Fernando Fonseca, Vieira de Almeida and Gentil Martins. Metro passengers on the station platforms and in the carriages cooperated with the authorities by not getting into a panic.
The bomb squad came to the conclusion that the package was simply an electrical item with wires which had been left by a passenger. “It was a CD music player with various wires attached to it,” said PSP Commissioner Paula Monteiro at a press conference.
The event follows the detention in Barcelona of a group of 10 Pakistani and Indian Muslims by the Spanish authorities on Saturday. They were from a group of 15 people, 13 Pakistanis and two Indians, who last year made a pilgrimage to Portugal organised by the Islamic group Tabligh Janat, which is neither a terrorist nor Al-Qaeda group.
The pilgrimage occurred in May when the detained suspects formed part of a larger group of 100 people arriving in Portugal from Barcelona, which has a Pakistani community of around 15,000, by coach.
The Tabligh Janat visit had nothing to do with an earlier trip to Portugal by two members of the group that were being closely watched by the Portuguese authorities after a tip-off from the Spanish.
Saturday’s detentions in Barcelona as part of Operation Pantata at the Centro Nacional de Investigação, CNI, follow concerns about the radicalisation of the group which days before also included the arrival of young Pakistanis from France known to have links to radical Islamic groups.
A quantity of material that could be used for explosives was also found, although in insufficient amounts to warrant an immediate threat.
The Spanish detentions and Portuguese alert come in the wider context of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Europe.
The Spanish CNI services alerted the Belgian, French, British and Portuguese authorities.
The Portuguese Minister for Internal Affairs, Rui Pereira, said Portugal would remain “on medium alert” but said there was no proven “operational connection” between events in Spain and the cancelling of the Lisbon-Dakar Rally.
Rui Pereira had said on Friday that the Portuguese authorities would be stepping up security at airports and border posts following information passed on to them by the Spanish of a possible terrorist attack in Portugal by Islamic extremists.
Do you have a view on this story? Email: [email protected]