Daily Mail – November 1, 2010
Air travellers face a wave of new security measures in the wake of the Yemen bomb plot.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary warned even talcum power could end up on the banned list of items people cannot take on planes.
He said he feared a new raft of 'ludicrous' airport security measures in reaction to the latest terror plot where bombs hidden in printer ink cartridges were found on U.S.-bound planes in the East Midlands and Dubai.
British and American intelligence services were desperately hunting more Al Qaeda ink bombs today amid fears of a wave of plane attacks.
And later Prime Minister David Cameron is due to chair a meeting of the emergency committee Cobra. Security chiefs are expected to recommend cranking up airport checks even further.
One of the U.S.’s most senior counter-terrorism officials said every package sent from Yemen was being treated as a potential danger – and Britain banned all cargo movements to and from the Gulf country.
Authorities in Yemen said they had seized 26 suspect packages, indicating that the scale of the plot could be far larger than the two devices already found – both of which were powerful enough to down a plane and devastate a city.
But Mr O'Leary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he thought the main impact would be on normal travellers.
'What happens, particularly in the coverage of the Yemeni issues of recent days, is that we have another huge lurch by the securicrats into making travel even more uncomfortable and an even more tedious ordeal for the travelling public,' he said.
'Sadly they always win the day and they lurch around with ludicrous new measures.
'Lord only knows what we'll have now. We will be confiscating white powder at the airports. Talcum powder will probably now be put on a list of banned weapons at airport security.
'The fact is, if you look at most of the terrorist attacks in recent years, they have been on the London Underground, they have been in Madrid on the trains, they haven't been at airports and they haven't been against passenger aircraft. Nor has this one been against passenger aircraft; they were two passenger aircraft.
'So I have no doubt we will have all the securicrats tut-tutting through the remainder of this week about the need for increased security when in actual fact we already have ludicrously over-the- top and, sadly, totally ineffective security measures.
'You have got to be careful with the terminology. It is not yet sure that they have found two bombs on planes; they seem to have found two printer cartridges on planes which falls a long way short of bomb-making material.'
But Government's across the globe remain on high alert as fears that a terrorist spectacular could still take place intensified after a Middle Eastern airline said that one of the bombs, discovered in Dubai, had been on board two passenger planes before it was found.
Qatar Airways said the device hidden in a printer cartridge had flown on a scheduled Airbus 320 flight to Doha before being transferred on to a second passenger plane for the flight to Dubai. Up to 15 per cent of air cargo is flown in the hold of passenger flights.
The other device, also in an ink cartridge, was discovered in a UPS parcels distribution depot at East Midlands Airport on Friday, following a tip-off from a source in Saudi Arabia. John Brennan, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said: ‘It would be very imprudent to presume that there are no other packages out there.’
He said forensic analysis indicated the two explosive devices had been made by Yemen-based Al Qaeda bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.
He was also responsible for the bomb carried by a Nigerian student who tried to blow up a passenger plane with explosives concealed in his underwear as it landed in Detroit on Christmas Day.
Al-Asiri is now one of the world’s most wanted men. Other members of Al Qaeda’s high command in Yemen have been killed by CIA drones targeting them from the sky.
Mr Brennan said the two bombs had been powerful enough to bring down a plane and were ‘very sophisticated’ in the way they were designed and concealed.
‘They were self-contained. They were able to be detonated at a time of the terrorists’ choosing.
‘It is my understanding that these devices did not need someone to actually physically detonate them.’
He added that Al Qaeda ‘are still at war with us and we are very much at war with them. They are going to try to identify vulnerabilities that might exist in the system.’
British and U.S. investigators were flying to Yemen last night to help in the investigation into the plot blamed on the terror group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which both MI6 and MI5 have warned poses a serious threat to the UK.
In Yemen searches of every FedEx and UPS office ended in the 26 packages being seized by authorities. They are expected to be passed to the CIA for examination.
According to a Yemeni security official, at least five suspects have been arrested and interrogated since Saturday over who might be behind the mail bombs and a number of employees of the shipping companies, including two from FedEx, are being investigated.
Yemen is also asking for more information from Saudi Arabia since it was the source of the tip-off.
Yemeni authorities arrested then freed a 22-year-old female student, Hanan al-Samawi, who posted the two packages in Sanaa to synagogues in Chicago, leaving her telephone number and a copy of her identity card which were used to trace her.
A computer science student and daughter of an oil worker, she was arrested together with her 45-year-old mother at the family’s home in the Yemeni capital.
But lawyers said she was an innocent dupe whose identity appeared to have been stolen.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the Government had already acted to ban all unaccompanied freight from Yemen coming to Britain, and was in talks with the industry about further restrictions.
‘We are going to be looking at the security that we adopt in relation to freight. We will be talking to the industry about those measures,’ she said.
Last updated 03/11/2010