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Baggage Blast at Jordanian Airport Kills 1

A Japanese journalist is held after a device in his suitcase believed to be an Iraq souvenir explodes.

May 02, 2003|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

AMMAN, Jordan — A Jordanian security officer was killed and three people were injured Thursday night when an explosive device that authorities believe was a journalist's souvenir from Iraq exploded at Amman's Queen Alia International Airport.

Security officials said baggage screeners at the airport noticed a metal object in an unidentified Japanese journalist's suitcase. When the guard, Sgt. Ali Sirhan, examined it closely, it exploded.

Sirhan died shortly after the blast, and the three others were hospitalized, one in serious condition. The reporter, who told police that he didn't know he had an explosive in his bag, was taken into custody and probably will face charges, officials said.

Information Minister Mohammed Adwan said the metal device could have been a cluster bomb, grenade or mine brought in from Iraq.

"It was some sort of old ammunition piece that he brought from Baghdad as a souvenir," Adwan said. "We have caught several objects with journalists -- old weapons and antiquities and things like that."

The journalist had driven out of Baghdad and arrived in Amman, Jordan's capital, to catch an EgyptAir flight to Cairo and then to Tokyo, said Adwan, who noted that the device could have caused a disaster if it had blown up during the flight.

Adwan was quick to say that the incident, though deadly, was not a terrorist attack. And there was a report that the guard himself might be responsible.

CNN's Web site reported that passengers near the guard said he was holding what appeared to be a grenade that was apparently his own. They said he was twisting the pin while talking on a cell phone.

Jordan's tourism-based economy has been shattered by fears of terrorism, and officials are sensitive to anything that could cause further damage.

Jordanian customs officials at the border with Iraq have seized numerous souvenirs from foreign reporters.

An Italian journalist was recently stopped for bringing in antiquities, and a Belgian television crew was nabbed carrying paintings.

Paraphernalia from Saddam Hussein's palaces along with old firearms, swords and ordnance also have been seized.

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