Authorities in Uruguay detonated what turned out to be a fake bomb found near Israel’s embassy in Montevideo, officials said Thursday.
Officials closed down streets near the Israeli embassy, located in the World Trade Center office complex in an upscale section of downtown Montevideo, after discovering the device.
The convincing-looking fake — complete with fuse, detonator and other elements found in a real bomb — was detected some 70 meters (230 feet) from the building by bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling the area with their Republican Guard handlers.
After destroying the device, bomb brigade lieutenant colonel Alfredo Larramendi told reporters at a press conference that it “never posed any danger.”
It was not immediately clear who planted the device, or to what end.
“It might have been put there to see the response time” of responders, or to size up the quality of the security of Israel’s embassy,” Larramendi said.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it would not comment on security matters at its embassies.
Uruguay is home to nearly 20,000 Jews.
In December, Uruguay elected a president who has twice traveled to Israel and maintains an open dialogue with his country’s Jewish community.
Dr. Tabare Vazquez, 74, was elected president for the second time. During his first administration, 2005 to 2010, he made an official three-day visit as a guest of then-President Shimon Peres, during which he visited the Weizmann Institute, Schneider Children’s Hospital and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
Vazquez, an oncologist, also traveled to Israel in 1982, representing Uruguay in an international seminar about cancer research.
His predecessor, Jose Alberto Mujica, said during Israel’s 50-day operation in Gaza over the summer that Israel was committing “genocide” against the Palestinians, as did Foreign Minister Luis Almagro. They also said “Gaza is a big concentration camp.”
Vazquez, who is from the same party as Mujica, when asked if he agreed with the president, said that Israel “was not committing genocide.”