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Chaos in Sussex as 'bat monitor' mistaken for bomb
al-Qaeda jugular strike against A23 feared
Twitchy coppers brought paralysis to the roads and evacuated villagers from their homes after a piece of bat-detecting equipment was mistaken for a deadly terrorist bomb.
Presumably fearing that al-Qaeda had cunningly switched focus from central London to rural Sussex - perhaps in a bold attempt to lay Crawley under the heel of jihadi justice - local plods closed both lanes of the A23 at Pease Pottage and the A272 at Bolney for several hours, according to a report in The Argus. The Horsham Road at Handcross was also shut and traffic diversions set up. Drivers were advised to avoid the area because of traffic gridlock, and dozens of local residents had to take sanctuary in the parish hall.
Apparently the security operation was triggered by "a well-intentioned call by a member of the public," who had seen a suspicious package concealed under a bridge over the A23. An Army bomb-disposal unit was tasked in support of the police, and according to the Argus "blew up the package." However, Sussex police are quoted as saying that the soldiers had merely disrupted it, which does seem more plausible. It is routine for suspicious items to be shot with waterjet disruptors if robot cameras can't positively identify them as harmless.
It seems that this one really was harmless, however. The Highways Agency confirmed that it was "a bat box placed on the bridge as part of an ecological survey in advance of a roads scheme," rather than an infernal machine deployed by dark forces.
"We are working on ways to improve identification of our property to avoid a repeat of today's incident."
Sheila Wright, the secretary of Sussex Bat Group*, said: "We believe it was a bat detector and positive monitoring system."
Apparently the monitoring device was intended to check up on microchiroptera hanging around the bridge by monitoring their calls. It was worth £1,000 according to the Argus.
In keeping the good citizens of Sussex safe from a disabling terrorist infrastructure strike, the security forces seem to have temporarily disabled the local infrastructure to some degree: but that's normal. More seriously, the county's defences against the winged-bloodsucker threat have been seriously undermined.®
*Of course there's a Sussex Bat Group.