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Tue 2 Nov 2010 08:14 AM

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Gulf airport security needs ‘total overhaul’ - experts

Loopholes in cargo security put region at risk of terror attacks, say experts

Gulf airport security needs ‘total overhaul’ - experts
The bombs, which were posted from Yemen, were discovered by staff in Dubai Airport and East Midlands Airport, UK. The bomb intercepted in Dubai had travelled more than 1,000 miles
Gulf airport security needs ‘total overhaul’ - experts
A cargo bomb was taken off a UPS cargo plane at East Midlands airport during a stop en-route from Yemen to Chicago
Gulf airport security needs ‘total overhaul’ - experts
Nicole Stracke, a security analyst at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai, warned that air cargo security measures must be ramped up in the face of terrorism threats

Security analysts have called for an urgent overhaul of security measures at Gulf airports days after an al-Qaeda cargo bomb posted from Yemen was discovered in Dubai, after travelling more than 1,000 miles on two passenger jets.

The bomb, which was hidden in a printer cartridge, left Sanaa, for Doha, in the hold of an aircraft carrying up to 150 people.

It was transferred to a Dubai flight, with up to 500 passengers, on Friday. The device could have exploded at any time.

Dr Theodore Karasik, of the Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis, said the discovery flagged the need for tightened security measures in Gulf airports.

“There needs to be a complete re-examination [of security] because of the fact that the bomb was sent from Yemen went on a passenger plane to and out of Qatar,” he told Arabian Business.

“Sending packages through the mail like this is not something that’s new, what is new is the sophistication of the devices. I know for a fact that Dubai double screens stuff – that needs to be duplicated throughout the region.”

A similar device was taken off a UPS cargo plane at East Midlands airport during a stop en-route from Yemen to Chicago, following a tip-off from the Saudi intelligence services to British and American authorities.

The devices are believed to have contained PETN — pentaerythritol tetranitrate — a powerful, odourless plastic explosive that is difficult to detect via conventional security methods.

Airport security measures in Germany and Qatar failed to detect the explosives.  

Qatar Airways has since confirmed the cargo was not checked in Doha, but emphasised that as the package was in transit, it wasn’t the airline’s responsibility.

“As per Chicago Convention, it is not the responsibility of the country in which the cargo transits to x-ray or inspect the cargo. This responsibility belongs to the country from where the consignment originates,” the Doha-based airline said in a statement.

Nicole Stracke, a security analyst at the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai, warned that air cargo security measures must be ramped up in the face of terrorism threats.

“They [al Qaeda] are becoming more creative in thinking about a security gaps in the system by using an explosive that is not discovered by the scanning system; this has to be readdressed,” she said.

“If it hadn’t been for an intelligence tip off then they wouldn’t have discovered it. It was a human intelligence tip off not security so they have to address this issue.

“Fed Ex and UPS need better screening systems that adapt to reflect this and then technology should be capable [to detect it],” she said.

Yemen’s National Civil Aviation Security Committee on Monday said it had implemented “tight security” in the wake of the incident.

“Every piece of cargo and luggage will go through extensive searching” at all of its airports, the agency said.

Cargo companies such as DHL, FedEx and UPS will be required to make more stringent checks before accepting any package, according to the committee.

The US, Britain, Germany and France have banned all unattended cargo to and from Yemen. “It’s going to get tougher and tougher to send packages originating from Yemen. I would project that they are going to try and send packages from other places,” Karasik said.  

A Saudi bomb maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, has been confirmed by US officials as the prime suspect for constructing the devices.

He is believed to have been responsible for the device in the failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit.

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Hussain 9 years ago

This is a good way to start milking the Arabian Gulf sates by introducing a new high tech security equipment's.
The security of all Arab Gulf states' airports is excellent. I understand that there is a "world wide terrorist threats", but to single out the Arab Gulf countries is unfair. Almost all flights having problems were originated from USA and Europe specifically. creating business oportunities is a great idea, but let's do it the right way.

Dave 9 years ago

Hussain what are you talking about, for the devices to get past the checks the systems of the airports cannot of been that good, its not about creating business opportunities its about giving people peace of mind when they fly no matter what the price is to the airports and which country they are in.

Security Specialist 9 years ago


Actually airport security in the Araba States is appalling, I know this for a fact and as much as you tell them it needs to improve, they ignore you.

John 9 years ago

I work on the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Everyday, I go through security, the metal detector beeps because of my belt and shoes, and security just lets me through without any search...

Security is just not taken seriously here.