The German government has banned all flights from Yemen and ordered a review of air freight security after two US-bound parcel bombs were dispatched from Yemen,aboard cargo planes.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere yesterday inspected security measures for air cargo handling at the Cologne airport,where one of the two parcel bombs from Yemen changed flights en route to the US.
He told reporters at the airport that the interception of the two packages revealed a new nightmare for counter-terrorism authorities because the powerful plastic explosive PETN hidden inside printer toner cartridges could not be detected by X-ray screenings in Yemen and Dubai.
Therefore,it is extremely important to strengthen international cooperation and tighten the control of air cargo at their points of origin to combat the threat from parcel bombs,the minister said.
At the same time,the supply chain for air cargo in their countries of origin and destinations also must be strengthened to make sure that they are secure.
The explosive device sent from the Yemeni capital Sanaa to Chicago via Cologne was seized on last Friday following a tip-off from the Saudi intelligence service to the German domestic intelligence service BND.
But the warning came too late to stop the package in Cologne and subsequently the British authorities were alerted and they intercepted it at the East Midlands airport,the minister said.
The second package was flown on board a passenger aircraft from Sanaa to Doha and from there to Dubai,where it was intercepted by the UAE authorities. Both were addressed to two synagogues in Chicago.
The minister said he will be pressing for a joint EU initiative to strengthen air freight security measures at next week’s meeting of the EU interior ministers.
The EU should also take the initiative to work out global cooperation to combat this kind of terrorist offensive in future without disrupting international air cargo traffic,he suggested.
Meanwhile,the German Transport Ministry announced that it was extending Sunday’s indefinite suspension of cargo flights from Yemen to all passenger flights from that country.
This applies to all direct and indirect flights,including the services of the Yemeni national carrier Yemenia,a spokesman for the ministry said.
The airline flies once a week from Sanaa to Frankfurt via Rome.
The German government yesterday set up a working group of specialists from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Ministry of Transport and Security Services to examine ways to tighten air freight security and reform the present system of supervision of passenger and air cargo traffic.
At present,passenger traffic is under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry while the Transport Ministry looks after the air freight.
The working group will also make its recommendations on whether passenger and cargo flights from any other countries should be suspended,a government spokesman said.