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Flight alert: beware of villains toting toothpaste bombs

February 7, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Airlines should be wary of villains trying to sneak explosives hidden in toothpaste tubes onto planes – that’s the word from the US Department of Homeland Security, contained in a warning to airlines flying into Russia for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The warning comes as the largest Australian Winter Olympics team in history settles into its new surroundings at the Sochi Olympic venue.

The Games are due to begin today, 7 February 2014.

US officials believe the explosives might be used during flights or smuggled into the city of Sochi, reports stated yesterday. The agency said it was not aware of any specific danger to the US, the BBC reported. Homeland Security said in a statement that it “regularly shares information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics”. Cordato

The latest threat had not altered existing travel guidelines for Sochi, the White House National Security Council stated.

Australia is sending 60 athletes to represent the country at Sochi 2014. It’s the largest Winter Team in Australian Olympic history and the first time an Australian Olympic Team has had more women (31) than men (29).

Russian authorities, worried after suicide bombers struck recently in Volgograd and killed 30 people, have placed a “ring of steel” (in security terms) around Sochi. They are reportedly hunting in and around the city for a “black widow” – a woman whose militant husband was killed by Russian security forces. They fear one or two such women, supported by Islamist fanatics, may attack the Olympics.

Islamist groups have already issued threats.

Ominously, the US Defence Department announced it will have two ships, plus aircraft, available in the Black Sea in case a terrorist attack requires US officials and athletes to be evacuated from Sochi. American tourists, like Australian tourists, must fend for themselves.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises:

  • There is an ongoing risk of terrorism in Russia. Terrorist attacks have occurred in Russian cities, including Moscow, and are a particular threat in the North Caucasus region, which is close to Sochi. Threats have been made by terrorist groups against the Sochi Olympics. Attacks may also take place in other regions of Russia.
  • Targets have included public transport and transport hubs, and public places frequented by foreigners. In addition, a number of planned attacks have been disrupted by security services in recent years, underscoring the continuing interest of terrorists in attacking Russian locations.
  • Two separate terrorist incidents occurred in the city of Volgograd in late December. On 29 December at least 16 people were killed in an attack on Volgograd railway station and at least ten people were killed following the bombing of a trolleybus on 30 December. 

Islamist fanatics have made two failed attempts in recent years to detonate explosives on airliners.

Richard Reid, a British citizen dubbed “the shoe bomber”, tried to set off a bomb packed in his shoes on a Miami-bound flight in 2001 but was overpowered by brave passengers.

A Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (nicknamed “the underwear bomber”), attempted to trigger explosives hidden in his underpants on a plane to Detroit in 2009. Passengers leapt into action on that flight too. Fortunately, Abdulmutallab’s underpants bomb was a fizzer. He succeeded only in injuring himself in a particularly painful region.

Attention has now swtiched from the feet and groin areas to toothpaste.

You never can be too careful.

Written by : Peter Needham

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