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Scots-US Flights Hit


 
Scots-US Flights Hit
Glasgow Daily Record, UK

Feb 2 2004

 
A TERROR alert grounded a Scottish flight for the
first time yesterday.

Continental Airlines cancelled their 12.15 pm from
Glasgow to Newark Airport in New Jersey after
intelligence suggested it could be targeted by
al-Qaeda.

Five other transatlantic flights out of London were
also cancelled.

It's the first time a flight from a UK airport other
than London Heath row has been scrapped amid terror
fears. But last night, experts were at odds over the
extent of threats to flights from other airports.

More than 150 passengers heading for America were left
stranded in Scotland after the Continental flight was
cancelled on Saturday evening.

Staff tried to contact passengers but only managed to
reach less than half of them.

The 8.10 am Flight CO17 from Newark to Glasgow on
Saturday and the scheduled return flight yesterday,
which would have carried on to Los Angeles, were both
cancelled.

A spokesman for the airline said the flight had been
cancelled because they had been ''unable to obtain
security clearance from the Department of Homeland
Security''.

After the alert from US security chiefs, British
Airways cancelled three flights and Air France stopped
two services to Washington.

A spokesman for Glasgow Airport said: ''The terrorist
threat was not against Glasgow Airport, it was against
this specific flight.

''We received the warning at about 5 pm on Saturday
from the security division at the Department of
Transport and there were Continental staff working all
night to try and contact the passengers.''

Yesterday, stranded passengers were put on US-bound
flights from London, Birmingham and Amsterdam.

Passengers spoke of their shock yesterday after
discovering their flight had been scrapped.

Janet Renaud, 67, of Greenock, Renfrewshire, said: ''I
fly to the States quite a lot to visit my family.

''In the past, I've flown from Heath row. But this
time, I decided to get a direct flight from Glasgow
because of the number of flights from Heath row that
are affected by this type of thing.''

Jessica Quinones, 23, on a short break to Scotland
from Denver, added: ''It's just ridiculous to cancel
flights because of these supposed threats. I thought
somewhere a bit smaller like Glasgow would be OK.''

A US Department of Homeland Security spokesman said
the threat had been ''credible''.

He added: ''We remain concerned about al-Qaeda's
desire to target international aviation.

''There was specific, credible threat information that
was shared with some foreign governments, including
the British and French governments, and decisions were
made to cancel flights.''

Dr Mathieu Deflem, an expert in international
counter-terrorism, said: ''It does seem that the
impact of the threat is spreading out from
international centres like Paris and London to smaller
airports.

''There is a strong argument that terrorist incidents
are likely to happen where there is not the same level
of heavy security.

''If a terrorist network want to launch an attack and
they know there will be heavy law enforcement in
London and Paris, then they are more likely to seek
out smaller airports. You attack the weak points.''

Terrorism expert and author Simon Reeve said last
night: ''Some of the intelligence surrounding these
threats is tenuous to say the least.

''But nobody in the intelligence community or airport
security will want to take the chance of sending a
plane into the air if there is even a whisper of a
threat.''

Last month, French police dismissed US claims of a
terrorist threat against six flights between Paris and
Los Angeles.

Detectives in Paris said they had found no evidence of
such a threat after checking the passenger lists on
the cancelled flights.

Last night, as pokes man for Britain's pilots' union
BALPA said: ''The French authorities are raising the
question as to whether the US intelligence services
are jumping at shadows with some of this intelligence.

''We think you can ask questions about whether the
sources prompting these cancellations are reliable.''


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