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Germans Remain in the Dark About 2 Men Stopped on Runway

September 28, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — Were the guys with the knife and toy pistol attempting to hijack a Lufthansa airliner, or were they undercover police conducting a security test? No one in the German government was willing Friday to say for sure.

Officials revealed that last Saturday morning at the Frankfurt airport, two men appeared on the runway beside a Lufthansa jet bound for Tel Aviv. According to German media, the men attempted to walk up the gangway and into the plane. They flashed airport identity cards and tried to brush past a Lufthansa security guard.

The guard then reportedly stopped and frisked them with a hand-held metal detector. One of the men had what was described as a bowie knife strapped to his leg. The other had a toy pistol in his belt. The men told the guard that they were part of a special airport security team and informed him: "You successfully passed."

The men--described as Arab-looking--hopped into a dark-colored car with airport plates and drove off with two other men. They were not stopped or heard from again.

Frankfurt police said Lufthansa filed a report, but not until four days after the incident.

"It could be a prank, a test or something criminal," said police spokesman Peter Oehm.

"We believe our employee and are taking the matter very seriously," said Lufthansa spokesman Thomas Jachnow.

The Transport Ministry, which is in charge of the airport, said it wasn't sure what happened. "We don't know if this was a test. We assume this," said Juergen Frank, a ministry spokesman. "The matter is under investigation."

Frank added: "All I can say is that it would be unrealistic that these men show police identity cards, get back into the car and disappear if they had wanted to hijack a plane."

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