Foreign passengers flying into the United States from 14 mostly Muslim countries deemed to have links with terrorism are to face extra security checks at airports from today amid increased nervousness in the US after the failed attempt to blow up a passenger jet on Christmas Day.
The US transportation security administration announced that everyone flying into the US from or through these countries would go through “enhanced screening” at airports.
The list includes Nigeria, home of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed suicide bomber who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger plane using an explosive device hidden in his underpants. It also includes Yemen, where it is claimed he was trained.
The other “countries of interest” are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, and four countries the US regards as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
From today US airports have also been instructed to increase “threat-based” screening of passengers who may be acting in a suspicious manner. The screening will include full body pat-downs, bag searches, full body scanning and scans by explosive detectors.
The introduction of the new measures coincided with a security alert at New Liberty international airport in New Jersey, which was locked down for several hours after a man walked through a security checkpoint without being screened last night.
Planes were grounded for six hours and thousands of passengers had to go through security again while the authorities went through CCTV footage in search of the man. He was eventually tracked down.
The TSA said the ability to enforce the new security measures was the “result of extraordinary co-operation from our global aviation partners”. In a statement it said: “TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world travelling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening.”
Pakistan International Airlines said it had been applying the new approach to US-bound passengers since Saturday.
Yesterday, Gordon Brown confirmed that full body scanners are to be introduced at Britain’s airports.
Just a reminder to those flying the unfriendly skies to America. Enjoy your full body pat down.