German Interior Minister warns of `serious` terrorist attacks
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Last Updated: Sunday, November 07, 2010, 22:53
Berlin: German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Sunday warned of further terrorist attacks following the foiled air cargo bomb plot from Yemen over a week ago and the discovery of a parcel bomb in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office a few days later.

There are strong indications that terrorists are planning new attacks in Europe and in the United States, he said in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.

However, the authorities still do not have a concrete trail.

De Maiziere, who until now was very reserved in issuing warnings about terrorist threats, said he is taking this step for the first time because the threats of a terrorist attack are "very serious".

He called upon the people to be extremely vigilant and report to the police if they come across anything suspicious.

The minister said he intended to propose a five-point plan at the meeting of the interior ministers of the European Union in Brussels tomorrow to tighten the security for air cargo to prevent future terrorist attacks.

They include a speedy and coordinated implementation of jointly-agreed EU measures for more stringent control of air cargo within the 27-nation bloc and preparing a black list of airports outside the EU which do not meet the international safety standards for air freight.

He also wants the EU to force air freight companies to provide the security authorities a list of their consignments on every flight so that any suspected package can be traced and taken out.

De Maiziere said German security authorities have not inspected the two packages from Yemen seized in Britain and in Dubai on October 29 and therefore it is difficult to reach a conclusion whether they were intended to explode in mid-air, in transit or at the addressee.

However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the bomb plot was not a dry run, but "a serious terrorist attempt to carry out an attack".

The two air freight packages from Yemen, which were addressed to two synagogues in Chicago, contained powerful plastic explosive PETN hidden inside printer toner cartridges.

One of them was intercepted at the East Midlands airport in Britain after it changed United Parcel Service (UPS) flights at the Cologne airport on its way from the Yemeni capital Sanaa to the United States.

The second package was seized by the UAE authorities in Dubai after being flown on board two passenger aircraft.

De Maiziere said until now security authorities were under the impression that cargo flights were less vulnerable to attacks than passenger aircraft because terrorists could not find out on which aircraft or on which route their cargo will be travelling and when it will arrive at its destination.

Air cargo companies now "take pride in supplying their customers information about the current location of their consignment," he said. This is a "grave mistake" as far as air cargo security is concerned and it must be stopped immediately, the minister said.

He also wants the EU to raise the standards of security control for air cargo flown by passenger aircraft to the same level of inspection for passenger luggage.

There have been reports that only about 30 per cent of the air cargo carried by passenger aircraft are subjected to security control.

De Maiziere said the parcel bomb addressed personally to Chancellor Merkel had passed x-ray screening in Athens before it was flown to Germany by an air cargo company while a second package containing a similar explosive device was transported to Germany by another company even though it was destined for another country.

They speak for the quality of present air cargo security check, he said.


First Published: Sunday, November 07, 2010, 22:53

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