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African Countries Step Up Airport Security Measures

  • Scott Bobb

Several countries in Africa say they are increasing security at their airports following the Christmas Day bombing attempt on a US airliner by a Nigerian man. Other countries say they have no plans for upgrades, but are monitoring the situation.

Reaction to the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day has been mixed among the six African nations with direct air links to the United States.

Ghana has announced it will install full-body scanners at Accra's international airport by next month. Nigeria has also announced it will install the scanners at Lagos international airport.

Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab departed from Accra and transited through Lagos and Amsterdam. He subsequently attempted to set off a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight traveling to Detroit.

Abdulmutallab successfully passed through metal detectors and hand luggage searches at both airports, allegedly by concealing powdered explosives under his clothes.

The full-body scanners are more powerful than metal detectors that are standard at most airports. They can detect non-metallic materials hidden on the human body.

But some rights groups consider the scanners an invasion of privacy, because they show private physical characteristics in detail.

South Africa, whose airports handle the largest number of travelers flying directly between Africa and the United States, says it does not intend to install the scanners at this time.

A spokesperson for the South African company that manages its major airports, Nicky Knapp, said it has responded appropriately, but would not give details.

"At this point in time we do believe the measures and plan we have in place are adequate to address the threat as we see it for our country," she said.

She added that stricter measures would be implemented if ordered by the country's civil aviation authority.

Passengers traveling to the United States from Johannesburg several days after the incident said they had not noticed any new measures inside the airport. But they noted new restrictions were in force inside the aircraft as it approached its destination.

Senegal, another major destination for travelers from the United States, said it did not plan to install the scanners.

Egypt and Morocco, the two North African nations with direct air links to America, have not announced any changes to their airport security procedures either.