London airport mulls plans to adopt Israeli 'ring of steel' security regime

Report on new security measures under consideration emerges after a senior Israeli intel official last week pointed to European hubs as potential targets for terrorist attacks.

May 23, 2016 13:38
2 minute read.
heathrow airport london

An armed policeman patrols Heathrow Airport, London. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Amid warnings of a fresh campaign of ISIS terror attacks, Heathrow Airport in London is reportedly considering the implementation of a new security mechanism that is employed at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport.

According to a British Times report Sunday, the initiative - dubbed "ring of steel" - would see the deployment of plainclothes security personnel throughout one of Europe's busiest travel hubs.

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A revised security regime could reportedly comprise of undercover officers stationed in departure and arrival halls along with reinforcement from custodial and maintenance staff. Increased surveillance of baggage handlers was also mentioned as a potential new measure.

The report on the new security measures under consideration emerged after a senior Israeli intelligence official last week pointed to European airports as potential targets for terrorist attacks.

The Times cited the source as warning that the Islamic State group was gearing up to conduct more aviation attacks following a number of heinous strikes in Paris and Brussels over the past year and the deadly bombing of a Russian airline in 2015 in Egypt.

“We know the level of security at every airport in the world,” the source was quoted as saying. “There’s a lot to improve in many airports in Europe.”

The contemplated new security strategy for Heathrow was also reported after it emerged last week that a former McDonald's worker trained by al-Qaida had planned to carry out a devastating suicide attack targeting Israel and American passengers at the London airport. British media cited Muslim convert Minh Pham as the suspect named in FBI papers who now faces a life sentence in jail.

Next month, British aviation and counter-terrorism czars are due to travel to Israel where they were reportedly invited to study certain security procedures at Tel Aviv's international airport.

Ben-Gurion Airport is known for its tough security, including passenger profiling to identify those viewed as suspicious, bomb sniffing devices and questioning of each individual travelers.

The international airport routinely holds security drills where security personnel undergo simulations of security breaches, first and foremost at the checkpoints at the entrance to the airport compound.

Ben-Gurion Airport's security includes various circles, including an initial check of every vehicle entering the public area of the airport. A second security circle includes security agents and technology at the entrances to the terminal while in the third security circle, Israeli airport personnel do passenger profiling to identify suspicious passengers.

The relative openness of public airport areas in Western Europe contrasts with some in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where travelers' documents and belongings are checked before they are allowed to enter the airport building.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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