SYDNEY (Reuters) - Television comedians, including one dressed as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, penetrated tight security around an Asia-Pacific summit in Sydney on Thursday, driving a fake motorcade unchallenged through two check points.
Members of Australia’s Chaser television comedy programme drove three cars, with motorcycle escorts, through the city centre, where thousands of police and high fences have been installed to protect world leaders.
The cars made it well inside the high security zone and were stopped by police within metres of the hotel where U.S. President George W. Bush is staying during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group forum.
Embarrassed police, who have spent months preparing security for the APEC summit, condemned the stunt.
“Whilst I enjoy like everyone else a good laugh, this isn’t funny” local police Superintendent Dave Owens told reporters. “I‘m very angry that such a stunt like this could be pulled.”
Local television showed pictures of the comedy team being frisked by police, who confiscated a fake beard before detaining two cast members and several of the support crew for questioning.
Another cast member, Chris Taylor, told local television the motorcade had been made to look like it was carrying Canadian delegates.
The APEC forum brings together 21 leaders from around the Asia-Pacific region. The event has prompted is the largest security operation ever staged in Australia, with much of the biggest city of Sydney locked down for the meeting.
In some of the secure zones near the hotels where leaders are staying, outdoor cafes have been told not to set tables with knives and forks, and people have been told not to photograph the temporary security barriers.
The stunt came on one of the busiest days for security, with more than 90 motorcades passing through checkpoints over four hours as world leaders arrived for the summit.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the incident proved the security arrangements had worked.
“They presumably were ... aiming to humiliate a lot of well-known people,” Downer told reporters. “The point is they were in any case arrested.”