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Fri, Nov 18, 2005

Australian Women Stopped From Boarding Plane In Damascus

Dismantled Gun Found In Carry-On Bags, Child's Toy?

Four Australian woman and a young boy were detained Thursday in Syria -- not a good place for that to happen -- after a dismantled gun was found inside their carry-on items and baggage. The group was attempting to board a Gulf Air flight in Damascus bound for Australia, with a stopover in Bahrain.

"I understand that the pieces of weapon were in hand luggage, but there were bullets in the [baggage] hold," said Gulf Air spokesman David Baker to the AAP news service. "Gulf Air security and the Syrian authorities' security pulled up the group and they were stopped from boarding the plane."

"It was just normal security processes carried out by the Syrian authorities," Baker added.

No names have been released in the incident, although it was confirmed the boy is the son of one of the women. All five were carrying Australian passports, and one source claims parts of the gun were found in a toy the child was carrying onboard the aircraft.

While the intentions of the women weren't immediately known, Syrian officials believe they may have intercepted a terrorist attempt -- something neither Gulf Air nor Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer were ready to speculate on.

"All I know is that they were detained in Syria and were believed to have in their possession a disassembled gun, so they have been detained," Mr. Downer said. "We don't have an embassy in Damascus. The Canadians represent our consular interests there so they're trying to get in touch with the women and find out precisely what's happened."

The aircraft, after being thoroughly searched by officials, was allowed to leave Damascus approximately three hours later.



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