Air travellers face tough new restrictions
Air travellers face tough restrictions after a passenger came within seconds of destroying a transatlantic plane and killing all 289 people on board.
President Obama interrupted his Christmas holiday to order two anti-terrorism reviews as aviation chiefs acted to close loopholes that let Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a known Nigerian extremist, take explosive materials on to an aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.
The foiled attack came four days after a video was posted on extremist websites showing an al-Qaeda militant in Yemen warning: “We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God.”
Mr Abdulmutallab, formerly a student in Britain, was overpowered as he tried to detonate explosives apparently sewn into his underpants. He emerged from the toilet, put a blanket on his lap complaining of an upset stomach, then tried to operate the bomb. Passengers and crew restrained him as flames leapt from his clothing.
Special measures have been taken to make it impossible for a terrorist to repeat the Detroit bombing attempt.
In the final hour before landing in the US, passengers are now banned from standing up, using toilets and holding blankets.
In-flight entertainment is being withdrawn where it includes maps of the plane’s location, for fear bombers will be able to pinpoint targets.
President Obama ordered a review of terrorist suspect lists when it emerged that Mr Abdulmutallab had been placed on a US intelligence database after a tip-off from his father. Officials failed to move him to the “no-fly” list.
The President also demanded a review into how the bomb was allowed on the plane. One security weakness may be transit passengers. The Nigerian suspect appears to have boarded in Lagos where he went through one metal detector and had his bag X-rayed before flying to Amsterdam. It is unclear how heavily he was searched when he changed flights at Schiphol. He managed to get a syringe on board. The bomb also consisted of powder in his underwear.
Fanatical Muslim terrorists have been experimenting to avoid searches. A senior British security source said: “The second novel device to emerge from the Yemen in recent months leads one to wonder if the al-Qaeda R&D department has moved there.”
The video warning “We are carrying a bomb” featured an al-Qaeda activist who was reportedly killed in a Yemeni airstrike on Christmas Eve.
Some reports suggest the Nigerian contacted Anwar Awlaki, the radical cleric in Yemen who was in touch with the mass murderer who opened fire on the Fort Hood US military base in Texas.
MI5 has launched an investigation to discover whether the failed bomber was part of a UK-based terrorist plot.
An al-Qaeda bomber from Yemen blew himself up near a Saudi antiterror minister this year after concealing PETN, the same explosive used in the Detroit attack, in his underpants.
Two days after Mr Abdulmutallab’s attempt, another Nigerian passenger flying on the same route with the same airline was arrested on landing for unruly behaviour.
In a bizarre repetition of aspects of the Christmas Day case, the Northwest Airlines Airbus, this time in Delta markings, was directed to a remote corner of the airport on landing and was surrounded by emergency vehicles while police checked every item of luggage on board with sniffer dogs and arrested the passenger in question. Described as a businessman, he did not pose a threat to other passengers, police decided.
Source: Times On Line