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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Saturday, 26 December 2009

Northwest Airlines flight 253 Amsterdam to Detroit Explosives Incident


Northwest Airlines flight 253 Amsterdam to Detroit Explosives Incident


Julian Bray comments: The news that U.S. Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian male, who allegedly tried to “ignite" a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, is deeply disturbing but in itself does not suggest that he was acting in concert with others. But what the incident does suggest is that at peak traffic periods, ground security staff have to be extra vigilant even if this means taking longer to process passengers through check in and border security.


The man claimed to have strapped chemicals in powder form to his legs and used 2 syringes of liquid chemicals to ignite the leg pouches. Other reports say that the suspect simply lit firecrackers. Either way the components did not show up on airport security x-ray monitors or if they did the operator viewing the screens was not sufficiently skilled to spot any concealment.


This is a recurring problem at airports where ground services and the initial passport checks are carried out by sub-contracted staff. During busy holiday period resources are often stretched and many staff encouraged to work extended shift patterns resulting in excessive tiredness and some loss of concentration.


It seems unlikely the suspect would have travelled any distance with the ‘leg pouches’ in place, meaning he would probably have used a toilet cubicle to attach the explosive substance to his legs. The chemicals used by the suspect were probably widely available agricultural chemicals as used in Afghanistan IED incidents.


The man has however claimed he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over the U.S.A. but US officials are maintaining an open mind over his claims


The suspect identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who is said to be an engineering student at University College of London. Although the Delta Airlines flight was direct from Amsterdam to the USA and did not stop over in London.


He was flying from Nigeria to the United States for a religious seminar, according to his entry visa, which was issued June 16, 2008 and was valid until June 12, 2010.


US authorities on instructions from The White House have raised the threat level, a federal government source said. The threat level has remained constant at "code orange" since 2006.


The suspect had been flagged in a law enforcement-intelligence database but was not on the government's no-fly list, according to a law enforcement official.


"The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used," a newly released federal situational awareness bulletin stated.


Delta spokeswoman Susan Chana Elliott said that "as the plane was getting ready to land" in Detroit "a passenger caused a disturbance" by trying to ignite what was initially reported to be firecrackers.


The man was "subdued immediately," Elliott said. Northwest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta.


"There was one guy, who sat on the other side, the right side of the wing because this was on the left side of the wing, and he jumped over the other people and he took care of it," said passenger Peter Smith.


The suspect reportedly admitted to authorities that he had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion. This is of concern due to the method of mixing thought to be consistent with terror techniques.


Northwest Airlines flight 253 -- operated on a code share Delta airplane -- landed safely in Detroit at 11:53 a.m. The man, who flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then Detroit, was taken into custody at the Detroit airport and was interviewed by authorities there. He was then taken to an area hospital to be treated for burns.


end


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