Failed Nigerian bomber may not have started trip from Ghana
A Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day may not have begun his journey in Ghana, a Ghanaian airport official said on Saturday.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been thought to have started his journey on December 24, taking a Lagos-Amsterdam flight, but Nigeria said on Thursday he had first flown from Accra to Lagos.
Abdulmutallab, 23, has been charged with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam with almost 300 people on board.
“The fact that he possibly boarded a Virgin Nigeria flight from Accra to Lagos does not mean he began his journey in Ghana as is being claimed by some officials in Nigeria,” said Yaw Kwakwa, deputy managing director of Ghana Airports.
Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili said on Thursday the suspect took a Virgin Nigeria flight from Accra to Lagos before boarding a KLM flight from there to Amsterdam. He began his journey in Ghana and spent less than 30 minutes at Lagos airport, she said.
He changed planes at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and flew to Detroit. Nigerian and Dutch officials have said he passed through the normal security screenings at Lagos and Schiphol airports.
“We realized (he) probably could have been in Ghana … so we heightened our security checks, but that does not mean he began his plans from Ghana,” Kwakwa said.
Ghana tightened security checks at Accra’s Kotoka International Airport the day after Abdulmutallab’s arrest, Kwakwa said, but no decision had been taken on whether to use body scanners. Explosives were found strapped to his leg.
“Body scanners are effective tools, but apart from the cost, there are issues such as the infringement of privacy still around its use, so we want to weigh all the options before deciding whether we should buy it or not,” he said.
Nigeria and the Netherlands have already said they will introduce full body scanners, Italy will use them on passengers boarding some flights, and Britain has said it is reviewing airport security.