Photo: Herzel Yosef
A religious Israeli tourist sparked a bomb scare on a New Zealand ferry when he strapped boxes to himself as part of a Jewish prayer ritual, reports said Monday.
Armed counter-terrorism police met the ferry at Picton, on the South Island, and forced the man and his travelling companion to the ground before taking them away for questioning, the Dominion Post newspaper reported.
It said the incident Sunday occurred when the man began carrying out a Jewish ritual where small leather boxes called tefillin, containing religious verses, are strapped to the arm and forehead.
Ferry operator Kiwirail said staff on the vessel, which had 750 passengers aboard, were concerned about a possible bomb threat and contacted police before it docked.
"One individual had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead... there were what seemed to be wires attached to them," Kiwirail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw told national news agency NZPA.
New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said the armed response was unfortunate and showed "an exaggerated fear of terrorism" in the country.
"It's just a reminder we ought to pause and think before we jump to conclusions," he told the Dominion Post.
Police confirmed a man was questioned after reports he was acting suspiciously on the ferry and later released.
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