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
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.