Government launches security review after cargo bomb plot

Passengers could face new security checks after the government launched a review of procedures in response to last week’s al Qaeda bomb plot.

The new terror alert has negated hints from transport minister Philip Hammond that he would consider ‘easing’ some of the security measures at British airports following  widely-reported criticisms from BA chairman Martin Broughton.

Prime minister David Cameron is today chairing a crisis meeting of Cobra, the government’s emergency planning committee, to discuss the plot and what implications it could have on air transport.

It has emerged that one of a number of cargo bombs was carried on a passenger aircraft before being discovered.

Qatar Airways confirmed that a parcel bomb discovered in Dubai was transported on two separate passenger jets before being found by security staff.  Along with another ink cartridge bomb found at East Midlands airport on Friday, it is understood to have contained the powerful explosive material PETN.

Both devices originated in Yemen and were found only after a tip-off from Saudi intelligence.

Friday’s incidents have raised questions over the safety of cargo flights as well as the difficulty of detecting explosive material.

A former head of security at airports operator BAA told the BBC that checks on freight were not as stringent than those on passengers.

Norman Shanks, now an aviation consultant, called for a fundamental review of security.

He said: “We’re looking at introducing the explosive detection systems that we currently use for passengers’ baggage which goes into the hold.

“Now this really can’t be introduced for every package, but it could be used for packages coming from areas where there is a known risk.”

Yemeni police released 22 year old student Hanan al-Samawi on Sunday who was arrested on suspicion of sending the packages. A shipping agent said she was not the same person who signed the shipping documents.

The anti-terror investigation is focusing on Saudi-born bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri as the prime suspect for making the bombs. He is believed to have been responsible for making a device involved in the failed Christmas Day bomb plot over Detroit last year.

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