Airport security loophole fears after Australia plane terror plot

This article is more than 12 months old

SYDNEY New details have emerged about how Australian terrorists nearly succeeded in bringing down what is believed to have been a Sydney to Dubai flight.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that an improvised device reached Sydney Airport's international terminal after a passenger packed it inside a piece of luggage.

The passenger was queried about the weight of the luggage at the check-in counter and learnt it was too heavy. As a result, the bag didn't make it on to the plane, the newspaper said.

Multiple sources have confirmed the earlier attempt, the paper said.

But it added that the sources said even if the device did make it past the airline check-in, it might have been detected in a security screening.

Despite this close call, major security gaps persist at Australian airports despite authorities' efforts to tighten screenings after thwarting an alleged terror plot to blow up a plane, the pilots' union has warned.

Four men were arrested in Sydney on Saturday, accused of planning an attack using an improvised explosive device, prompting authorities to tighten security at airports across the nation. Two men were charged yesterday.

But pilots, who have to be screened alongside air crew, retail workers and passengers, said similar requirements were not in place for ground staff, who are instead issued with security cards and can access aircraft on the tarmac.

The concerns came as Sydney's Daily Telegraph cited sources alleging the plot involved using an unwitting passenger to carry a bomb onboard, with Etihad Airways confirming this week it was helping the investigation.

Aviation experts have also warned about loopholes, such as the use of private-sector security guards instead of government employees at airports, and no photo ID checks for passengers at domestic terminals.

Australian Airline Pilots Association president Murray Butt said Australia needed to emulate the US requirement for photo ID checks for passengers, while a former Sydney Airport security chief said security databases should be linked to booking systems.

Transport Minister Darren Chester yesterday defended the current measures, saying workers with access to large passenger planes must hold a security card issued only after thorough checks.- WIRE SERVICES

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