By Constantinos Psillides
THE five tonnes of ammonium nitrate found in a Larnaca home last week were transported to an undisclosed location for temporary storage and disposal, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said on Friday as the suspect in the case, a Lebanese-Canadian man was given a second eight-day detention.
Angelides refused to specify where the chemical, a potential explosive, would be stored. Citing unidentified police sources, the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported that the substance was transported to the warehouses of a private company.
Reuters cited an unnamed security source saying that an additional 10 tonnes of icepacks were retrieved from the scene. Ammonium nitrate is an ingredient used in icepacks.
“We are looking into how long it was there,” said the source, adding it could have been many months or even a couple of years. The authorities have established how it arrived in Cyprus, the source said, declining to elaborate.
It also quoted security sources saying authorities were looking into a possible link with Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a claim also made by Israel, but the suspect denies any connection with the group or the hoard of chemicals.
He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and illegally keeping and transporting explosives.
“He denies all connection with Hezbollah,” his lawyer, Andreas Mathikolonis, said.
Mathikolonis said the man had happened to be at the property because his family was considering renting or buying the property. He claims that he got the keys to inspect the house and that he happened to be there when the police raided the house. The owner of the house, also Lebanese, has a French passport and lives abroad. Police are expected to issue an international warrant for his arrest.
CNA also reported that police were looking into information that the suspect lived in Canada until he turned 18 and then moved to Lebanon to study marketing and business administration.
The Larnaca court ordered that the man, who has not been publicly identified, remain in custody for a further eight days. The case was heard in camera, with authorities citing national security to prevent media leaks.
Under Cyprus anti-terrorism laws, anything that can be used potentially as an explosive, with probable cause, is an offence.
Cyprus has said little about the case, but Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, citing information he said he received from Cyprus, said the fertiliser had been intended for bombs.
“These were apparently meant to be ready for attacks on us,” he told reporters on Monday, referring to Israelis or Jews in Cyprus or elsewhere in Europe. He said the explosives might also have been intended for attacks against Western targets.
Cyprus is a popular holiday destination for Israelis, and hosts two British military bases.
The last major security incident on the island was a botched attack on the Israeli embassy in 1988, which killed three people.
(Reuters contributed to this report)