19 March 2019
People gather around a memorial in Brussels on Tuesday following the bomb attacks owned by the Islamic State. Photo: Reuters
People gather around a memorial in Brussels on Tuesday following the bomb attacks owned by the Islamic State. Photo: Reuters

Brussels attacks stir debate over airport security

Twin explosions in the departure hall of Brussels Airport prompted several countries worldwide to review or tighten airport security and raised questions about how soon passengers should be screened when entering terminals, Reuters reported.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for bomb attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train which killed at least 30 people.

Prosecutors said the blasts at Zaventem airport, which serves more than 23 million passengers a year, were believed to be caused by suicide bombers.

Authorities responded by stepping up the number of police on patrol at airports in London, Paris and Frankfurt and at other transport hubs as Brussels rail services were also halted, the news agency said.

Airlines scrambled to divert flights as Brussels airport announced it would close through Wednesday, the report said.

In the United States, the country’s largest cities were placed on high alert and the National Guard was called in to increase security at New York City’s two airports.

The Obama administration was expected to announce new measures to tighten US airport security.

A United Nations agency is already due to review airport security following the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt by a makeshift soda-can bomb in October last year.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for smuggling the bomb on board.

Other recent incidents have also raised questions about how planes are protected.

Last month, a bomber brought a device onto an airliner in Somalia and blew a hole in the fuselage.

A year ago, a disturbed pilot deliberately crashed a Germanwings airliner, killing 150 people, exploiting anti-terrorist cockpit defenses to lock himself at the controls.

But there has been less attention focused on how airports themselves are secured, before passengers check in for flights, despite a number of attacks.

In 2011, a suicide bomber struck the arrival hall at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, killing 37 people.

In 2013, a shooter killed a US government Transportation Security Administration officer at Los Angeles international airport. Another gunman killed two there in 2002.

The last major incident at a western European airport was in 2007, when two people tried to drive a jeep packed with propane canisters into the terminal at Glasgow Airport in Scotland. One of the attackers died.

Several airports afterwards stepped up security for cars, but entrances have largely remained open for those on foot.

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