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Thursday 14 December 2017

Airport checks are not tough enough to stop attacks -- expert

Eddie Fitzmaurice

A TOP anti-terror expert has called for the re-introduction of stringent security measures used to apprehend an Irish woman who was tricked into carrying explosives onto a plane 23 years ago.

Ann Murphy, now 55, was stopped at Heathrow in April 1986 as she tried to board an El Al flight to Tel Aviv with almost 2kg of Semtex in her hand luggage.

The explosives had been planted by her then-boyfriend Nezar Hindawi, who is now serving a 45-year jail term.

Daniel Pipes, an authority on Islamic terrorism, said disaster was only averted by Israeli security agents using a system of ethnic, racial and religious profiling to identify possible terrorists.

Mr Pipes, head of US think thank the Middle East Forum, claimed that under procedures currently in place at most Western airports, Ms Murphy would have been allowed to board the airliner.

He said: "Had El Al followed the usual Western security procedures, 375 lives would surely have been lost somewhere over Austria.

"The bombing plot came to light through a non-technical intervention, relying on conversation, perception, common sense, and, yes, profiling," My Pipes said.

Ms Murphy, from Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, met Hindawi while working as a chambermaid at a London hotel and believed she was flying to Israel to marry him after falling pregnant.

She successfully passed through the standard Heathrow security inspection with the Semtex concealed in a false compartment in her wheeled suitcase.

But Israeli agents posted at the departure gate became suspicious of a young Irish woman travelling alone at the height of the IRA bombing campaign and decided to quiz her about her travel plans.

A detailed search was ordered and security men discovered she was carrying hardly any cash and had no credit card to support her planned stay at one of Tel Aviv's top hotels.

Mr Piper said similar intervention would have led to the arrest of 23-year-old Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he allegedly attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on its approach to Detroit on Christmas Day.

"In the Murphy case the security agent focused on the passenger, not the weaponry," Mr Piper said.

"Israeli counter-terrorism takes passengers' identities into account; accordingly, Arabs endure an especially tough inspection."

He said such profiling was banned by authorities in the US shortly after 9/11, with a shift toward more sophisticated airport technology such as x-ray machines and body scanners.

Mr Piper, an adviser to Rudolph Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, added: "Because of the current absence of profiling, I semi-jokingly advise women wanting to avoid secondary screening at airport security to wear a hijab."

Ruth Dudley Edwards, Page 23

Sunday Independent

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