May 30, 2012 / 2:27 AM / 5 years ago

Magazine insert prompts courthouse bomb scare in Idaho

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A magazine embedded with a small electronic musical device prompted a security alert and the evacuation of a federal courthouse in southeastern Idaho on Tuesday when mail screeners mistook the parcel for a possible bomb.

After an X-ray scan of the package revealed wiring and other components that drew suspicions, a police bomb disposal team sent a robot into the Pocatello courthouse to remove the parcel, then detonated it.

The item turned out to be completely harmless, consisting merely of a glossy, popular magazine containing an electronic musical insert, federal and local law enforcement officials said.

The insert, apparently some kind of promotional material, was “like nothing ever seen before” by the courthouse personnel who first examined it, Pocatello police spokeswoman Diane Brush said.

Darrin Lambert, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals Service in Pocatello, said the item was similar to devices found in musical birthday cards, with wires and other parts that security screeners had not encountered before in a mailing.

He said his agency’s strict protocol for such circumstances required an evacuation of the building and immediate vicinity out of “an abundance of caution.”

“It’s our job to safeguard and ensure the well-being of all personnel,” he told Reuters.

Nearly 40 employees were ordered out of the courthouse in the business district of Pocatello, a city of about 58,000 residents that is home to Idaho State University, and a one-block perimeter around the building was cordoned off.

The security alert was lifted about four hours later, once the package proved to be harmless. But the courthouse remained closed for the day.

No one was reported hurt in the incident.

Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Steve Gorman, Cynthia Johnston and Paul Simao

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