Bombs prompt new security measures
New security measures affecting the transfer of cargo through the UK have come into force following the attempted detonation of powerful terrorist bombs.
On Monday it emerged that explosives discovered at East Midlands airport and in Dubai were at least 50 times more potent than would be needed to blow a hole in an aircraft fuselage.
It came as Home Secretary Theresa May announced a suspension of flights containing unaccompanied cargo from Somalia amid a review of all air freight security.
The move was a "precautionary measure" based on "possible contact between al Qaida in Yemen and terrorist groups in Somalia, as well as concern about airport security in Mogadishu", Mrs May said. Flights of unaccompanied air freight from Yemen were suspended earlier this year.
Mrs May told MPs both bombs originated in Yemen and were believed to be the work of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap).
"The devices were probably intended to detonate mid-air and to destroy the cargo aircraft on which they were being transported," she said. "Had the device detonated we assess it could have succeeded in bringing down the aircraft."
While there was no information to suggest another attack of a similar type was imminent, the authorities were working "on the assumption that this organisation will wish to continue to find ways of also attacking targets further afield", Mrs May said.
The bomb at East Midlands Airport was removed from a UPS aircraft by Leicestershire police officers shortly after 3.30am on Friday following a tip-off from Saudi intelligence. Disguised as an ink cartridge, it had travelled through a UPS hub at Germany's Cologne airport before being detected in the UK following the tip-off, officials said.
Experts in Germany said the bombs contained at least 300g (10.58oz) of the powerful explosive PETN. It is believed that just 6g of PETN would be enough to punch a hole into a metal plate twice the thickness of an aircraft fuselage.
As part of the new security measures, ink cartridges larger than 500g (17.6oz) will be banned from hand baggage on flights departing from the UK and also on cargo flights unless they originate from a regular shipper with security arrangements approved by the Department for Transport, Mrs May said.