Thursday, August 10, 2006

Air terror threat creates chaos for thousands

Britain’s threat level increased to ‘CRITICAL’ in the early hours of Thursday morning followed shortly thereafter by an order to all UK airports to ban all hand luggage. Only a few items are allowed to be carried on board aircraft and an alert was sent to all major carriers. The prohibited items were cited as pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc, but not handbags), travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets), prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic. Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases, are allowed as are contact lens holders, but without bottles of solution. For those traveling with an infant, baby food and milk are allowed but the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger. Any sanitary items taken must not exceed the quantity sufficient and essential for the flight. This would include nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags. Female sanitary items are also allowed to be brought on board but again only in quantities sufficient and essential for the flight. They must also be unboxed as too should any tissues and handkerchiefs. Keys were also exempt but electrical key fobs are prohibited [Prohibited Items List].
The threat has been described as a threat to blow up airliners with a significant loss of life. Planes heading to the US were said to be at the highest risk from bombs made from ‘liquid explosives”. The threat comes only six weeks after Usama bin Laden called on followers to attack British and US interests [BBC].
On arrival at Green Bay in Wisconsin, USA, President Bush thanked the Blair government for “busting this plot” and he praised his own security services. He said the country was safer than before 9/11. As a result of steps taken he said travelers would be inconvenienced and thanked the British Government for their cooperation. He added that it was a “stark reminder that America was at war with Islamic fascists who would use any methods to destroy freedom” [BBC]. Tony Blair for his part released a written statement earlier this afternoon in which he praised the British security services. At least twenty people [BBC] have been arrested throughout the UK said to be involved in the plot [BBC].
After the warnings were issued it wasn’t long before chaos hit Britain’s airports [BBC]. Flights were cancelled, others delayed and crowds filled airport terminal. Many travelers were initially confused as to what was occurring and the holidays of thousands were severely disrupted. One person whose holiday was not disrupted was that of Prime Minister Tony Blair who is to remain in Barbados throughout this crisis. Some are calling into question his decision to go on holiday besides having talked to security services and even the US President in recent weeks about the terror plot.
Information flowed throughout the day on 24 hour news channels, Sky News, BBC 24 and CNN. But for those at or making their way to airports, information was difficult or impossible to obtain. Leaflets explaining the new restrictions were handed to passengers at some airports and the few announcements on the public address systems were often only in English. The restrictions also confused some with special needs. Watches, hearing aids, pace-makers and prosthetic limbs are not on the prohibited list but have the same potential of being disguised as an explosive device. There is also the concern of financial security. The risk of damage or theft of laptops, camera equipment and other electronic devices may not only worry some travelers but also create a drop in passengers over the long term. The effects have already been seen on the financial markets with oil stocks being sold off [BBC]. And there is one unsettling thought that the effort to make airlines safe increased the danger for those in the departures lounge, a perfect target for a suicide bomber. Hundreds of tired and weary travellers crammed into a confined area surrounded by suitcases! No-one was checking cases as they entered the terminal. So the question on many people’s minds is ‘have the terrorists already won?’ and ‘who is really being terrorised?’ Posted by Picasa

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