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Thu 4 Nov 2010 01:42 PM

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Gulf airlines tighten security after cargo bomb threat

Bans on Yemen cargo in place. Gov't efforts to counter terrorism in Arab state failing

Gulf airlines tighten security after cargo bomb threat
Etihad Airways has suspended cargo from Yemen and Somalia
Gulf airlines tighten security after cargo bomb threat
An Emirates Airline Airbus A380 jet taxis upon arriving at JFK International Airport in New York
Gulf airlines tighten security after cargo bomb threat
Cargo bomb headlines

Gulf airlines have ramped up security measures on flights and cargo from Yemen following the interception of two parcel bombs sent from the Arab state on planes bound for the United States.

A number of Middle Eastern airlines operate flights to Yemen, including Egypt Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Etihad Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia.

James Hogan, Etihad CEO, told Arabian Business on Thursday the UAE flag carrier is currently not taking cargo from Yemen and Somalia.

“One of my first priorities is running a safe airline. And we work very closely with the authorities, not only here in the UAE but worldwide. At certain times throughout the year, if we believe there is a risk, we will enhance the security. But that is all I can say about security,” he said.

“We are not taking at the moment cargo from Yemen or Somalia. In the outstations, whether it be in India, whether it be in Southeast Asia, we ensure that the cargo is screened to the standard that we believe is appropriate. If we need to break down pallets, because we believe it needs to be done, we will. We will not leave anything to risk,” Hogan said.

In an emailed statement, Emirates said it had stepped up restrictions on cargo shipments from Yemen to the US and some European countries.

“We currently fly to Sana'a Yemen daily. Emirates has placed a cargo embargo on all shipments from Yemen bound for the US, UK, France and Germany. Cargo from those destinations can however, still go into Yemen. Emirates is providing full cooperation to the relevant authorities,” the statement said.

The Dubai-based airline said it was unable to comment on specific details relating to airline security.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways has tightened security on all its flights, including imposing additional restrictions on cargo shipments to any global destination, the Peninsula reported on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the airline was not immediately available for comment.

Qatar Airways confirmed on Sunday that the explosive package intercepted in Dubai was carried on board one of its airplanes from Yemen via Doha airport.

The other package was discovered by British officials at East Midlands airport, hidden in a printer cartridge that had been posted in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a following a tip off from authorities in the emirate.

UAE logistics firm Aramex said Wednesday it had suspended shipments from Yemen as a security precaution, while Germany banned all flights from Yemen on Monday, following action from Canada and Britain to restrict cargo shipments.

HE Saif Mohammad Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said that all efforts were being made by the agency to prevent any future threat.

 All possible measures… are being considered internally, in coordination with concerned stakeholders, to ensure the safety of passenger as well as cargo flights operating to and from the UAE,” he said in an emailed statement.

The agency is “constantly monitoring the security situation at our airports and is equipped to take necessary action as deemed necessary,” he said.

A Middle Eastern analyst told Arabian Business that international efforts to counter terrorism in Yemen had to date had little success in containing the threat.

“Yemen is conducive to training, recruitment and also carrying out attacks. At the moment, it provides a security and legal vacuum that allows them to operate relatively freely. Furthermore, Yemen faces a number of other domestic issues which challenge the government and its control over the country at large,” said Marie Bos, Middle East Analyst at Control Risks Middle East.

“Even though suspected extremist bases have been bombed and a number of militants have been killed it seems that it retains great freedom of operation and movement and the group has shown considerable resilience,” she said.

“The US faces difficulty taking proactive action because of the risk that a more visible military presence would backfire. As such, even though international counter-terrorism efforts are ancillary to domestic dynamics, they tend to increase opposition to the government and attract more foreign militants to the country,” she said.

At the time of writing, Air Arabia, Egypt Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, and Gulf Air were unavailable to comment.

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