Germany suspends cargo flights from Yemen
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Last Updated: Monday, November 01, 2010, 15:45
  
Berlin: Germany has joined the US, Britain and France in suspending indefinitely all cargo flights from Yemen following the interception of two airfreight packages containing explosive materials from that country.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told journalists yesterday that airlines, cargo firms and parcel services have been ordered to closely examine their complete cargo from Yemen in their warehouses as well as those still arriving despite the ban.

This applies to all consignments from Yemen which are either passing through or reloaded in this country as well as the cargo transported within this country by road or by rail, he said.

De Maiziere also confirmed that one of the two parcels from Yemen containing explosives found onboard a US-bound cargo aircraft was transhipped at the German city of Cologne, where the United Parcel Service (UPS) has its largest European hub.

The package containing an explosive device intercepted at East Midlands, in the United Kingdom had arrived at the Cologne airport onboard a cargo aircraft from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and it was put on another cargo aircraft to East Midlands en route to New York via Philadelphia.

The German domestic intelligence service BND had received a tip off from a friendly intelligence service on Friday about a suspected package from Yemen and the security officials at the Cologne airport were immediately alerted, but it was too late to stop the lethal consignment.

Subsequently, the UK intelligence service was informed and this led to the interception of the package at the East Midlands airport, de Maiziere said.

A second package containing explosive materials sent through the US cargo company FedEx from Yemen, was reportedly flown on board Qatar Airways passenger planes from Sanaa to Doha, Qatar and from there to Dubai, where it was intercepted by the UAE authorities.

de Maiziere said the unsuccessful attempts to blow up aircraft in mid-air or to explode the devices at their destinations "exposes a dangerous gap in global counter-terrorism efforts".

Until now, international counter-terrorism measures focused on controlling airline passengers and beefing up the security for passenger aircraft.

But, very little was done to tighten the security for cargo flights and "al Qaeda has discovered this loophole".

"We take this incident very seriously even though it seems Germany was not the target," de Maiziere said.

Germany's security agencies are already on a high alert.

He cancelled a planned visit to Israel starting yesterday to take necessary measures to tighten the control for cargo flights at Germany's airports and to respond to the on-going investigation into the unsuccessful bomb plot. It raised fears of a new terror offensive by al Qaeda in Europe and in the United States.

Wolfgang Bosbach, chairman of the home affairs committee of the Bundestag, lower house of parliament, said the failed bomb plot is a strong evidence that "Germany as before is in the viewfinder of al Qaeda".

He called upon the authorities to evaluate their security concept and to make necessary improvements.

"Like the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Yemen too has become a staging point for al Qaeda

IANS


First Published: Monday, November 01, 2010, 15:45


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