Gibraltar airport evacuated over suspect luggage

8th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

Gibraltar airport was evacuated on Sunday and the tiny British territory's border with Spain closed for several hours because of a suspicious piece of luggage on a London-bound plane, police said.

The police were called to the airport in early afternoon after a baggage handler thought he saw smoke coming from a piece of luggage that was being put onto an easyJet flight that was getting ready for departure to London's Gatwick airport, a police spokesman said.

Passengers were taken off the flight, the airport terminal evacuated and the nearby border crossing closed while a military explosives team checked luggage.

The authorities found nothing suspicious and the airport and border crossing reopened two and a half hours after the shutdown.

A British Airways flight from London's Heathrow airport was diverted during the airport closure to Malaga about 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar's airport lies on a narrow isthmus connecting the British territory to Spain and its runway cuts through the only road linking the territory to Spain.

Barriers close the road to traffic every time a plane lands or departs.

The airport handles only a handful of flights each day to destinations in Britain. It moved just over 415,000 passengers last year.

Gibraltar raised its security threat level from "moderate" to "substantial" last month in the wake of the January 7-9 Islamist attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead.

That is the third-highest grading in a five-level list that ranges from "low" to "critical".

The move means armed police teams regularly patrol strategic locations such as the border, as well as places of worship and the territory's main shopping street.

Gibraltar, a self-governing British overseas territory located on Spain's southern tip, measures just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles), and is home to about 30,000 people.

© 2015 AFP

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