Copenhagen hotel explosion may have been terror attack, say officials

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An image showing the scene outside the hotel in Copenhagen on Friday. Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen described the incident as "serious", adding that his goverment was closely monitoring developments.

An explosion on Friday in a hotel in Copenhagen could have been a terrorist attack, Danish officials said as the French-speaking suspect was remanded in custody. The suspect protested his innocence. Authorities "slightly" raised the country's terrorist alert level after the explosion. The explosion caused only minor damage to a hotel bathroom, and no-one was killed or suffered serious injuries in the explosion. Only the suspect suffered minor injuries.

The suspect was arrested in a park after being seen running from the hotel. A remote-controlled robot was used to detach a pack from his waist, since authorities were concerned that it could contain explosives. The suspect's identity has not been fully established and he is refusing to cooperate with authorities, according to police. The man reportedly does not remember his name or his age, but speaks fluent English. The man denies initial charges of intending to harm others by an explosion and firearms possession. If he is found guilty, he could face life imprisonment. Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) said that "there are circumstances that point in the direction of a failed terror attack," adding that authorities "cannot exclude that there could be other suspects at large." The agency said that "due to this, we have taken a number of measures to protect potential terror targets and to sharpen the police's attention regarding suspect situations."

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen described the incident as "serious", adding that his government was closely monitoring developments. A retired head of the PET, Hans Joergen Bonnichsen, has said that there is a great deal of "uncertainty" surrounding the case. "The authorities prefer to be better safe than sorry. It can be anything between terror and a mentally unstable man."

The "slightly raised" risk of a terror attack means that authorities will be more alert throughout the country. Police are attempting to determine what kind of explosives caused the explosion. Police have said they have so far found no other explosives in the hotel, although a gun was found. The hotel remains closed as police continue their investigation.