Britain, Germany tighten air security after bomb plot

1st November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain and Germany tightened air security measures on Monday amid growing fears about the safety of cargo after two US-bound parcel bombs were sent from Yemen in an alleged Al-Qaeda plot.

London announced that it was suspending all unaccompanied air cargo from war-torn Somalia, extending a ban on freight from Yemen imposed after the devices were found on planes last week in England and Dubai.

Berlin meanwhile announced that it had extended a ban on air freight from Yemen to also cover passenger flights originating in the Arabian peninsula country. The bomb discovered in England passed through Cologne, Germany.

British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to work with partners in the Middle East to "cut out the terrorist cancer that lurks in the Arabian Peninsula.

"The fact that the device was being carried from Yemen to the UAE to Germany to Britain en route to America shows the interest of the whole world in coming together to deal with this," Cameron told parliament.

After a meeting of the COBRA emergency committee, British interior minister Theresa May announced the ban on freight from Somalia pending a full review of all aspects of air freight.

"From midnight tonight we will extend the suspension of unaccompanied air freight to this country not just from Yemen but also Somalia," May, the Home Secretary, told parliament.

She said the decision was "based on possible contact between Al-Qaeda in Yemen and terrorist groups in Somalia, as well as concerns about airport security in Mogadishu."

May said Britain would also ban passengers from carrying toner cartridges larger than 500 grammes in their hand luggage. Toner cartridges would also be banned from air cargo unless they come from a "regular shipper".

The two bombs contained 300 (11 ounces) and 400 grammes of the high explosive PETN hidden inside toner cartridges, a German official said.

In Berlin, a transport ministry spokesman said Germany had stepped up its emergency measures when it emerged that one of the parcel bombs had been routed via the western German city of Cologne.

Germany is the first country to announce a ban on all flights from Yemen.

"All Yemeni air companies that fly to Germany have received a flight ban," the ministry spokesman said.

"The German air authorities have orders to turn back all direct and indirect flights from Yemen. That means that for the time being, there will be no flights to, or over German territory allowed."

The German government said Saturday that it would ban all cargo from Yemen indefinitely. A spokesman said Monday that Berlin was now weighing whether to ban freight from other countries amid a major security review.

Yemen announced earlier on Monday a crackdown on cargo shipments and a general tightening of security at Yemeni airports.

Qatar Airways said on Sunday that a package containing explosives was flown from Sanaa to Doha and then on to Dubai on one of its aircraft. A source said on condition of anonymity that the plane was a passenger flight.

Elsewhere, the BBC reported that the source of the tip-off which led to the discovery of the parcel bombs was Jabr al-Faifi, a former Al-Qaeda member based in Yemen who turned himself in to Saudi authorities two weeks ago.

Faifi was a former Guantanamo detainee who was returned to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation in 2006 but later escaped to Yemen and rejoined Al-Qaeda.

© 2010 AFP

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