This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria, Others May Issue Additional Scrutiny for Shoes, Phones At Airports

In response to new inventions of lethal mass killer weapons by the international terror organisations like al Qaeda and its affiliates, Nigeria and other African countries may go along with the US to demand additional scrutiny of shoes and phones for airlines that operate in and out of the country.

Reuters reported that airlines with direct flights to the United States, for example have been told to tighten screening of mobile phones and shoes in response to intelligence reports of increased threats from al Qaeda-affiliated militant groups.

The development is coming on the heels of intelligence reports that al Qaeda may be planning to use shoes, phones and other weapons as bombs to attack US targets and other parts of the world.

Nigerians are known to use smart phones and Androids so it is expected that there would be greater scrutiny for these gadgets at the nation's international gateways and it is also expected that screening of passengers and phones and shoes would continue at the arrival airports in the US.

Aviation security expert and the Chairman of Scope Centre Limited, Adebayo Babatunde, said Nigeria and other African countries are also al Qaeda and affiliates target and expressed the hope that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is taking the matter seriously.

"I know that Uganda has stepped up security at its airports in the face of these threats and I hope Nigeria is also doing the same. FAAN should acquire sophisticated security equipment to secure the airports from attacks and it has to train and retain its aviation security personnel.

"It is not about carrying guns, it is about deploying the most sophisticated technology and intelligence to protect passengers and other airport users," Babatunde said.

US officials singled out smartphones for extra security checks on US-bound direct flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

US security officials said they fear bomb makers from the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have worked out how to turn phones into explosive devices that can avoid detection.

They are also concerned that hard-to-detect bombs could be built into shoes, said the officials, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A US official said that other electronic devices carried by passengers also are likely to receive more intense scrutiny.

Airlines or airport operators that fail to strengthen security could face bans on flights entering the United States, the officials said.

The US Homeland Security Department announced last Wednesday of plans to step up security checks, but they offered few details on how airlines and airports would implement them.

An official familiar with the matter said the United States believes that while it is possible there may be some additional delays at security checkpoints, at most major airports passengers would not be seriously inconvenienced.

The official said most passengers taking long-distance flights arrive well in advance of scheduled departures, leaving time for extra screening.

But he said the United States could not rule out disruptions in countries where airport infrastructure and security procedures are less sophisticated.

US officials say the United States has acquired evidence that Nusra and AQAP operatives have tested new bomb designs in Syria, where Nusra is one of the main Islamist groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

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