US steps up screen­ing of Mid­dle East flights

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: The United States said it was step­ping up se­cu­rity screen­ings of US-bound flights from some Mid­dle East air­ports as a pre­cau­tion af­ter the crash of a Rus­sian air­liner in Egypt. Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son said the United States also would re­view its as­sess­ments of cer­tain for­eign air­ports and of­fer them help with se­cu­rity, as well as take other mea­sures, “both seen and unseen.”

There is grow­ing ev­i­dence that the plane that crashed Satur­day in the Si­nai, killing all 224 peo­ple, was brought down by an ex­plo­sion. Sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said that in­for­ma­tion from the air­liner’s flight data and voice recorders “strongly fa­vors” the the­ory that a bomb ex­ploded on board the Air­bus A321. Rus­sia halted flights to Egypt, while Bri­tain scram­bled to evac­u­ate pas­sen­gers in the Red Sea re­sort of Sharm El-Sheikh af­ter can­celling flights fol­low­ing the crash.

John­son noted that the facts and cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the crash were still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, al­though US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Thurs­day ac­knowl­edged the “pos­si­bil­ity that there was a bomb on board.” Fewer than 10 air­ports in the re­gion will be af­fected by the mea­sures, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “This is a spe­cific re­ac­tion to the in­for­ma­tion that we have learned about this in­ci­dent in the Si­nai Penin­sula,” Earnest ex­plained, stress­ing there was no spe­cific threat to the US. “But it is the pru­dent ex­er­cise of an abun­dance of cau­tion, given the in­for­ma­tion that US of­fi­cials have learned about this air­line dis­as­ter in the Si­nai Penin­sula.”

John­son de­scribed the US ac­tions as “in­terim, pre­cau­tion­ary en­hance­ments to avi­a­tion se­cu­rity with re­spect to com­mer­cial flights bound to the United States from cer­tain for­eign air­ports in the re­gion.” He said ex­panded screen­ings would be ap­plied to items on air­craft, air­port as­sess­ments would be en­hanced in con­junc­tion with US in­ter­na­tional part­ners, and of­fers of help would be made to beef up avi­a­tion and air­port se­cu­rity. John­son said they were de­signed to pro­vide “an ad­di­tional layer of se­cu­rity for the trav­el­ing pub­lic.” “At this time, th­ese se­cu­rity en­hance­ments are in­tended only for cer­tain for­eign air­ports in the re­gion,” he said in a state­ment.

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