US imposes Yemen, Somalia air cargo ban in security boost
US officials Monday extended a ban on air cargo from Yemen to include Somalia and slapped new restrictions on passenger goods on US-bound international flights after a foiled parcel bomb plot.
From Monday, "no high risk cargo will be allowed on passenger aircraft," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement, adding that international mail would also be screened individually.
A ban on all cargo flights from Yemen, imposed after last month's plot was narrowly averted, will be extended and imposed on Somalia as well, she said.
"Toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces will be prohibited on passenger aircraft in both carry-on bags and checked bags on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States," Napolitano added.
Two packages addressed to Chicago synagogues containing the hard-to-detect explosive PETN hidden in printer ink cartridges were uncovered in Dubai and Britain's East Midlands Airport on October 28, sparking a global scare.
Al-Qaeda's wing in Yemen on Friday claimed responsibility for the parcel bomb threat, and also said it downed an airliner from the cargo carrier UPS in Dubai in September.
French officials have said one of the bombs was only 17 minutes from exploding, although that account has not been confirmed by other governments.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has ordered airlines to begin implementing the new measures, which also mean that all cargo identified as high risk will be subjected to extra and enhanced screening at airports.
These measures will also effect "inbound international mail packages, which must be screened individually and certified to have come from an established postal shipper," Napolitano added.
"The administration is also working closely with industry and our international partners to expedite the receipt of cargo manifests for international flights to the United States prior to departure in order to identify and screen items based on risk and current intelligence."
TSA head John Pistole visited Yemen last week to discuss with the government how to carry out the security improvements needed before the ban can be lifted.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Kurbi Abu Bakr al-Kurbi told the Abu Dhabi daily The National on Monday that Yemen had imposed measures of its own.
"Yemen has now of course put additional curbs on sending cargo," he said. "For cargo, they used to rely on companies that are in charge of sending this cargo because they are responsible for inspecting them for safety.
"The government has now had to intervene directly to place restrictions."
© 2010 AFP