28 Dec 2009

NZ travellers face extra checks after bomb attempt

3:02 pm on 28 December 2009

Tough new airport security measures are in force in New Zealand for travellers flying to the United States, after an attempt to blow up a passenger jet bound for Detroit.

Airports across the world have tightened security at the request of the United States.

In New Zealand, passengers bound for the US will will undergo more intensive scrutiny than other international passengers, including baggage checks and body searches.

Aviation Security Service chief executive Mark Everitt says planes were not delayed by the extra security measures on Saturday.

Qantas and other airlines have confirmed that passengers will be confined to their seats an hour before flights arrive in the United States.

The British Airways website said travellers to the US would only be allowed one piece of hand luggage.

The new security measures were introduced on Saturday night after the United States regulator, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), amended the security rules for all flights into the US.

The move is in response to an alleged attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to the US city of Detroit on Christmas Day.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, has been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft with a high explosive and with placing a destructive device on a plane.

Obama orders security review

US President Barack Obama has ordered a review of air security measures.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said the president wanted to know how a man carrying the dangerous substance pentaerythritol (PETN) had managed to board a flight in Amsterdam.

He said the system of watch-lists would also be examined after it emerged the man was listed and known to officials, the BBC reports.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been entered onto a database of suspected terrorists last month.

However, a US official says there was not enough negative information about him to put him on a 'no-fly' list.

There are 550,000 individuals in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment repository, where a record of the 23-year-old was created, but fewer than 4,000 of these are on a no-fly list.

US authorities charged Mr Abdulmutallab on Saturday at a hospital where he is being treated for burns.

The FBI's preliminary analysis shows he had a device attached to his body that contained the highly explosive PETN, the US Justice Department says. He tried to ignite the explosive and fellow passengers said his clothing and the plane wall caught fire.

He was overpowered by passengers and crew as the flight neared Detroit.

Son of Nigerian banker

Mr Abdulmutallab's father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, is a prominent banker well-connected in Nigeria's political world, the BBC reports.

In recent months the family had become gravely concerned about their son, a former engineering student at University College London.

His political views alarmed his family and his father especially, and Mr Mutallab had reportedly approached the US embassy in Abuja in November, as well as Nigerian security officials, to voice concerns about his son.

British police have searched a house in London where the 23-year-old is believed to have lived, the BBC reports.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mr Abdulmutallab said he'd received instructions and training from al-Qaeda operatives based in Yemen before boarding the flight.

However, according to NBC News, US counter-terrorism officials say there has so far been no solid evidence of any direct or indirect ties to al-Qaeda.

Passengers took action

One of the passengers who tackled Mr Abdulmutallab says the suspect remained calm and didn't say a word during the entire incident.

Jasper Schuringa was sitting across the aisle from the Nigerian man when he heard a popping noise and smelt smoke.

"I took some kind of object, that was already melting and smoking ... and I tried to put out the fire," he was quoted on the ABC as saying.

"When I did that I was also restraining the suspect, and then the fire started beneath his seat."