Montreal Airport alert as man 'tries to board plane with bomb components'
Investigators bemused as to why a man aged 71 tried to take all of the components, except for explosives, on a Montreal-Los Angeles flight
The contents of a carry-on bag of a man, 71, disrupted flights at Montreal's airport for hours over the weekend and led to a partial evacuation of the man's neighbourhood in the city.
But when the suspect appeared in court on Monday to face criminal charges, it was still unclear why he had tried to take on a Los Angeles-bound flight what the police described as all but one component needed to make a bomb.
The mystery was complicated by reports that the suspect, who was born in Iran and had gone by the Iranian name Houshang Nazemi, legally changed it 27 years ago to the Italian-sounding Antony Piazza, and that under his original name, he had once been sentenced to 10 years in prison for trafficking heroin.
Piazza had arrived early on Sunday at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport for his flight to Los Angeles, the police said. There, a routine security inspection uncovered various objects hidden in the pullout handle of his carry-on bag.
Neither the police nor prosecutors have specifically identified the objects other than to say that they were all the components necessary to make a bomb except the explosive material.
On Monday, Piazza's lawyer, Louis Morena, said the police "were talking about bullets, talking about powder, about wires" and cigarette lighters.
Once the materials were found, security officials shut down a section of the airport for several hours, effectively stopping all flights to the United States.
All other passengers on Piazza's flight were searched to eliminate the possibility of an accomplice in case an attack had been planned.
On Monday the Montreal police said they had found no evidence that Piazza was working with anyone else or on behalf of any organisation. It is unclear what he had intended to do in the US, and who he had planned to meet there.
Later on Sunday, Montreal police also cordoned off part of the LaSalle neighbourhood for three hours as they searched Piazza's home.
"The investigation is still on-going, and it's hard to tell what's going to come out of it right now," Alexandre Gauthier, a prosecuting lawyer, said.
Morena said Piazza had told him he was simply holding the bag for someone else, although he would not reveal that person's identity to the lawyer. "He simply says it belonged to someone else," Morena said.
Several news media reports portrayed Piazza as having been involved in crimes large and small in the past but without any obvious political or religious motivation.
It is unclear how much of his drug-trafficking sentence, which was imposed in 1985, Piazza, then known as Nazemi, served in prison. The newspaper Le Journal de Montrial reported that in 1992 he was sentenced to 20 days in jail and fined US$200 for fraud.
Why the man, who moved to Canada in 1979 and later became a Canadian citizen, adopted the name Antony Piazza also remains a mystery.
Piazza faces charges of possession of an explosive substance, conspiracy to transport an explosive substance on an aircraft and endangering the safety of an airport or aircraft.
He was due to return to court yesterday for a bail hearing.