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"Egypt says near meeting Russia's airport security demands"
Monday, February 27, 2017
Egypt says near meeting Russia's airport security demands
By Hamza Hendawi
The Associated Press
CAIRO - Egyptian officials said Sunday they were inching closer to meeting all
demands set by Russia on airport security to resume flights to Egypt, suspended
after militants from a local affiliate of the Islamic State group downed a
Russian airliner 15 months ago over the Sinai Peninsula.
Since the crash, Egypt has spent millions of dollars to upgrade security at its
airports, particularly in Cairo and several destinations popular with foreign
tourists, like Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea.
The officials said work has begun to install 16 finger-print security gates for
employees at two of Cairo airport's main terminals and to raise an existing but
potentially vulnerable, 1-kilometer (0.65-mile) stretch of fence separating the
east Cairo facility from a residential suburb.
The officials said 12 finger-print gates have already been installed at
terminal 2, the airport's newest terminal from which Russian national carrier
Aeroflot was expected to operate when flights resume. The decision to install
similar gates at terminals 1 and 3 was recommended by the Russians.
The finger-print scans were purchased in place of retinal scans that airport
officials had said in October they would tender for the employees' gates but
which proved to be too expensive and more difficult to operate.
Russian airport security experts have visited Egypt on at least six occasions
since the October 2015 crash to assess the effectiveness of new security
measures put in place by the Egyptians to persuade Moscow to resume flights.
The latest Russian inspection took place earlier this year and the Egyptian
officials said Sunday they would invite them back in about two weeks to inspect
the facility one last time before they give the airport their nod of approval.
Russian officials have similarly said that they were close to resuming flights
to Egypt, but they have not set a specific date.
Moscow suspended air links to Egypt after IS militants downed the airliner in
2015, killing all 224 people on board and decimating the country's vital
tourism industry. The aircraft had taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh, in southern
Sinai, before it crashed.
Britain followed Russia's example and suspended all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh
after the crash, dealing an equally serious blow to Egypt's tourism industry
since Britons and Russians accounted for more than half of foreign visitors to
Egypt on the eve of the crash.
The slump in tourism, along with a series of minor but disruptive terror
attacks targeting foreign tourists or touristic sites, has significantly
contributed to Egypt's economic woes, primarily creating an acute foreign
currency shortage that pushed the local currency's value down in the free
Among the measures taken to meet Russian security demands was the installment
of 18 security cameras on the Cairo airport's perimeter fence with a clear
vision range of two kilometers (1.25 miles) along with equipment that allows
the storage of 30 days of footage at any given time. The previous ones stored
up to two days of footage.
Other new security measures in place included sealing off luggage after it is
cleared by X-ray checks, a process that also applies to on-flight food and
beverages. Passengers must also remove their shoes and belts for scanning at
the final security check before boarding. Kiosk-shaped machines designed to
detect traces of explosives have been installed at arrival halls.
Several gates that open to the airport's grounds and used by employees, like
engineering and ground services' personnel, have been sealed shut. Those that
remain open were being upgraded with X-ray machines, finger-print gates and
police dogs, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
they were not authorized to brief the media.
Security related problems at Cairo airport, however, persist.
Airport security officials said a random check on Sunday targeting personnel
working on the facility's grounds nabbed 23 employees with expired access
permits, driving without a license or exceeding the speed limit.
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