Britain and Germany tighten air security

November 2, 2010 12:00 am

, LONDON, Nov 2 – Britain and Germany have tightened air security measures 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 Monday 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.

The Netherlands also on Monday suspended cargo and mail flights originating in Yemen as a "precautionary measure."

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.

It also emerged Monday that US authorities intercepted parcels from Yemen bound for Chicago in mid-September suspected of being a dry run for last week\’s foiled bomb plot, according to a US official. Related article: US bans Yemen air cargo, sends security experts

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 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. Related article: US weights options against Yemen militant threat

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.

Despite the security sanctions, British development minister Alan Duncan said London would seek to help Yemen tackle militancy through aid.

"The lesson from other countries is that if we sit around and analyse a country on the edge of collapse for too long, by the time we decide to do anything about it, it\’s already too late," he said in a speech to the Chatham House think tank in London.

He added: "There are two ways Yemen\’s problems could be approached.

"We can either address the underlying causes of poverty, grievance, joblessness and governance, or the international community could begin to start shouting and wave a big stick."


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