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MOTC vows to strengthen railway security after bomb scare

2013/04/15 18:02:08

A Taiwan High Speed Rail train

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) The government will step up security in the country's railway systems through measures such as installing surveillance cameras on trains and possibly introducing passenger security checks, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih said Monday.

Yeh made the comment during a legislative question- and-answer session that focused on an incident last Friday in which homemade bombs were found in suitcases in a restroom on a Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) train.

About three hours after the two suitcases containing explosive devices and gasoline were discovered on the train, two similar bombs were found in front of the office of ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lu Chia-chen in New Taipei City.

Lu said it was the most serious security incident in Taiwan's transportation history.

According to opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Kun-tse, it could cost about 1,000 lives if an explosion occurred on a train travelling at a speed of almost 300 kilometers an hour with a full load of 898 passengers.

He suggested that the government strengthen police patrols, improve and increase surveillance and monitoring systems, and hold regular security drills.

In response, Yeh said the police force does not have sufficient manpower, therefore, more security guards will be employed to strength security at THSR and Taiwan Railway stations.

Since Taiwan's subway systems fall under the jurisdiction of local governments, the MOTC will also coordinate with local governments to increase the number of security personnel in the subway system within a month, Yeh added.

On the issue of passenger security checks, Yeh noted that China is the only country in the world that employs this measure.

However, "we could consider doing the same," Yeh said, adding that his ministry will study the feasibility of installing X-ray scanners at every station along the railway lines and will come up with a report in a month's time.

The Bureau of High Speed Rail is considering whether to install surveillance systems in its trains' luggage areas and at its stations' entrances and exits, according to its director-general Chu Shu.

However, it is unlikely that surveillance systems will be installed in train cars, in consideration of personal privacy and the fact that the new surveillance systems are not compatible with the old train cars, he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan said that police have obtained personal information about the two people suspected of placing the bombs on the high-speed train that was bound for the capital Taipei. The police are looking into whether there were other accomplices, Lee said.

However, the two main suspects have fled Taiwan, Lee said, adding that the police are still trying to find accomplices in the crime and cannot give any further details.

Lee also said he expected other arrests will be made soon.

Police on Sunday questioned two brothers surnamed Lai over their alleged involvement in the attempted bombings of the train and the legislator's office.

The brothers were released early Monday morning after they provided alibis during questioning, proving that they were at work when the incidents took place.

A police officer, who asked not to be named, said the pair had been ruled out as possible suspects.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang, Hsiao Pao-hsiang, Chen Pei-huang and Y.L. Kao)
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