Monday 23 April 2018

UAE's Etihad Airways assisting Australian police in plane terror plot probe

Etihad Airways confirmed its involvement in the probe in a brief statement (Kamran Jebreili/AP)
Etihad Airways confirmed its involvement in the probe in a brief statement (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

The national airline of the United Arab Emirates has said it is working with Australian police in their investigation into an attempted plane attack, suggesting it may have been a potential target.

Australian authorities have said they thwarted a credible terrorist plot to down a plane by smuggling a device onboard.

They have provided few details, including the precise nature of the threat or any airlines involved.

Etihad Airways, the smallest of three long-haul Gulf carriers that fly to Australia, confirmed its involvement in the probe in a brief statement.

"The Etihad Airways aviation security (AVSEC) team is assisting the Australian Federal Police (AFP) with its investigation and the matter is ongoing," it said.

"Etihad is complying fully with the enhanced security measures at airports in Australia and monitoring the situation closely. Safety is the airline's number one priority."

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier refused to elaborate on its role in the probe or confirm whether one of its planes was targeted.

Etihad operates direct flights to four Australian cities: Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

The airline has built strong ties to the country, buying a stake in alliance partner Virgin Australia, featuring stars including actress Nicole Kidman in advertising campaigns and sponsoring Melbourne's football team and its home stadium.

Australian media outlets have reported that the conspirators wanted to target a flight to the Middle East, possibly the Emirati city of Dubai, but they failed to get the device onboard so changed their focus to an Australian domestic airline.

Etihad's hub in Abu Dhabi is 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Dubai's main airport, the world's busiest for international flights.

Dubai-based Emirates, the largest Middle East carrier, has not responded to requests for comment on the investigation.

Police arrested four men in raids in Sydney late on Saturday - two Lebanese-Australian fathers and their sons - in connection with the investigation.

Australia's Nine Network television reported that one of the suspects had tried to check in on an international flight, and that might have been a test run to see if they could get a meat grinder on board as carry-on luggage.

Officials have refused to comment on media reports that the plot was to conceal explosives or chemicals that would emit toxic gas inside a piece of kitchen equipment.


Press Association

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