Airline boss warns Government against more security measures
David Cameron chairs Cobra meeting in wake of the threat
Home Secretary bans unaccompanied freight flights from Somalia
Printer cartridges banned from hand luggage and cargo flights
An airline boss has warned the Government not to make a knee-jerk reaction to the Yemen bomb plot and bring in a raft of new security measures.
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary believes even talcum power could end up on the banned list of items people cannot take on planes.
He said he feared a new 'ludicrous' airport security measures in reaction to the latest terror plot where bombs hidden in printer ink cartridges were found on U.S.-bound planes in the East Midlands and Dubai.
Target: A United Parcel Service cargo plane lands at Cologne yesterday. A bomb found on a U.S.-bound cargo plane at East Midlands Airport was placed on a flight from Cologne after arriving from Yemen
Bomb: Terrorists had tried to conceal a bomb inside this printer, which was intercepted by Dubai police
But today in a statement to the House of Commons Home Secretary announced no obvious tightening to security for commercial passengers.
Instead she broadened the ban on unaccompanied freight flights to include Somalia and restricted the transportation of ink cartridges.
The suspension, which will come into force from midnight, is a 'precautionary measure' based on 'possible contact between Al Qaeda in Yemen and terrorist groups in Somalia, as well as concern about airport security in Mogadishu', Mrs May told MPs.
Toner cartridges larger than 500g (17.6oz) will also 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, she said.
The U.S. Government has also tightened security on cargo planes. One of the U.S.’s most senior counter-terrorism officials said every package sent from Yemen was being treated as a potential danger.
Mrs May was speaking after German officials said the two bombs contained 300 grams and 400 grams of the powerful explosive PETN. Just six grams can punch a hole in an aircraft fuselage.
'Had the device detonated we assess it could have succeeded in bringing down the aircraft,' Mrs May said as she announced a review of all aspects of air freight security.'
'The devices were probably intended to detonate mid-air and to destroy the cargo aircraft on which they were being transported,' she said.
'Our own analysis of the device here - analysis which has to proceed with great care to preserve the evidential value of the recovered material - established by Saturday morning that it was viable: this means not only that it contained explosive material but that it could have detonated.'
Mrs May said there was no information to suggest that another similar attack was imminent, but authorities were working "on the assumption that this organisation will wish to continue to find ways of also attacking targets further afield".
She added: 'We will work closely with the aviation industry, screening equipment manufacturers and others, to devise a sustainable, proportionate, long-term security regime to address the threat.'
Authorities in Yemen said they had seized 26 suspect packages, indicating that the scale of the plot could be far larger than the two devices already found – both of which were powerful enough to down a plane and devastate a city.
But Mr O'Leary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he thought the main impact would be on normal travellers.
'What happens, particularly in the coverage of the Yemeni issues of recent days, is that we have another huge lurch by the securicrats into making travel even more uncomfortable and an even more tedious ordeal for the travelling public,' he said.
'Ludicrous': Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary (left) has warned travellers face even tighter security measures as David Cameron discussed what further measures would protect Britain at the Cobra meeting
'Sadly they always win the day and they lurch around with ludicrous new measures.
'Lord only knows what we'll have now. We will be confiscating white powder at the airports. Talcum powder will probably now be put on a list of banned weapons at airport security.
ARMY CHIEF WARNS 'DON'T LET YEMEN BECOME NEW AFGHANISTAN'
Britain's role is to 'stay close' and offer Yemen assistance rather than send in troops at this stage, the new head of the UK's Armed Forces said.
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards said the military's concentration needed to remain on Afghanistan.
Global attention has once again been focused on Yemen, the country which spawned Al Qaeda, after it emerged as the source of ink cartridge bombs found on aircraft last week.
Asked if an Afghan-style military intervention was the right approach, Gen Richards told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: 'It might be but right now it is not considered to be the case and clearly the Yemeni government does not believe it needs our help and they are extremely on-side, like most Islamic nations are actually.
'Clearly, the primary agency dealing with this are our intelligence and security agencies. But the military are already helping with their training.
'I don't think we want to open up another front there and nor do the Yemenis want us to do that. So we have to find other ways of doing these things and in the meantime making sure Afghanistan doesn't revert to becoming, if you like, a 'second Yemen' - that is the Army's primary duty at the moment.
'Our role is to remain very close to them, to help them where they most need it and in the meanwhile focus our efforts on Afghanistan and assisting Pakistan to ensure they don't become the threat Yemen is beginning to be.
'When people say Yemen is worse than Afghanistan or Pakistan, one reason is that many of Al Qaeda's leaders and operatives spend most of their time thinking about their own security rather than planning how to attack us.'
'The fact is, if you look at most of the terrorist attacks in recent years, they have been on the London Underground, they have been in Madrid on the trains, they haven't been at airports and they haven't been against passenger aircraft. Nor has this one been against passenger aircraft; they were two passenger aircraft.
'So I have no doubt we will have all the securicrats tut-tutting through the remainder of this week about the need for increased security when in actual fact we already have ludicrously over-the-top and, sadly, totally ineffective security measures.
'You have got to be careful with the terminology. It is not yet sure that they have found two bombs on planes; they seem to have found two printer cartridges on planes which falls a long way short of bomb-making material.'
But governments across the globe remain on high alert as fears that a terrorist attack could still take place intensified after a Middle Eastern airline said that one of the bombs, discovered in Dubai, had been onboard two passenger planes before it was found.
Before the Yemeni plot was foiled, British Airways chairman Martin Broughton had called for an easing of airport security measures, an appeal which struck a chord with other aviation bosses.
Mr O'Leary said today that he agreed with Mr Broughton that some security measures were unnecessary.
He added: 'Everyone should calm down. People do need to keep some sort of balance and some sort of realism.'
Mr O'Leary described some existing airport security measures as 'irrelevant nonsense' and said the authorities might now invent 'some awful new nonsense' in the wake of the Yemeni incident.
'You have meetings of Cobra because some people want to be seen to be doing something,' he said.
'It's quite ridiculous to say that we've foiled international terrorism by banning large bottles of liquid from carry-on bags on aircraft.'
But, it appears the UK and U.S. government's don't agree. John Brennan, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said: ‘It would be very imprudent to presume that there are no other packages out there.’
He said forensic analysis indicated the two explosive devices had been made by Yemen-based Al Qaeda bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri.
He was also responsible for the bomb carried by a Nigerian student who tried to blow up a passenger plane with explosives concealed in his underwear as it landed in Detroit on Christmas Day.
Al-Asiri is now one of the world’s most wanted men. Other members of Al Qaeda’s high command in Yemen have been killed by CIA drones.
Mr Brennan said the two bombs had been powerful enough to bring down a plane and were ‘very sophisticated’ in the way they were designed and concealed.
‘They were self-contained. They were able to be detonated at a time of the terrorists’ choosing.
‘It is my understanding that these devices did not need someone to actually physically detonate them.’