x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Air security reviewed after Yemen plot

Authorities around the world were reviewing aviation security today after US-bound parcel bombs sent by air from Yemen were intercepted in Dubai and Britain.

LONDON // Governments, airlines and aviation authorities around the world were reviewing security today after US-bound parcel bombs sent by air from Yemen were intercepted in Dubai and Britain.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron convened a crisis committee to decide Britain's response after one of the packages was found on a United Parcel Service UPS cargo plane at East Midlands Airport on Friday.

The other bomb was discovered in a computer printer cartridge in a parcel at a FedEx facility in Dubai.

British authorities intervened after a tip-off from Saudi intelligence was passed on by German authorities, a German government source said.

The BBC, citing unidentified British officials, said the information came from an al Qa'eda member who turned himself into Saudi authorities.

The findings disclosed what appeared to be a loophole in air cargo security that put passengers' lives at risk.

"Air freight is still considered to be the soft underbelly of the aviation industry," aviation security expert Chris Yates told BBC television.

Qatar Airways confirmed the Dubai parcel had been transported on its passenger planes from the Yemeni capital Sanaa via Doha.

Nigeria said it would inspect all cargo heading for the United States with scanners for detecting explosives, in addition to its normal X-ray screening procedures.

Mr Cameron said on Saturday that the bomb found in Britain was designed to blow an aircraft out of the sky.

The bomb was hidden in a Hewlett Packard printer and contained 400 grams of explosives, with the Dubai package holding 300 grams, the German government source said.

The plot could fuel calls for the wider use of imaging technology designed to detect explosives, which is not standard, but freight firms are reluctant to bear the full cost.

Tighter international air cargo security rules could deal a blow to trade and the world economy.

Freight firms clashed with US and European politicians last year over calls for 100 per cent scanning of sea containers. Plans to introduce full scanning from 2012 were postponed.

A US official said Saudi bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, believed to be working with al Qa'eda's Yemeni branch, al Qa'eda in the Arabian Peninsula, was a key suspect.

An adviser to the Yemeni prime minister Ali Mohammed Megawar said in London it was disappointing that intelligence information about the bombs not been given directly to Sana'a.

"We feel a little bit let down, because if such information was passed to Yemen I think we might have been able to perhaps catch these people red-handed," Mohammed Qubaty told BBC radio.