And Now Take off your Shoes Please! | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.12.2001
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And Now Take off your Shoes Please!

The terror is far from over. The latest incident of a man trying to ignite his shoes aboard an American Airlines flight on Saturday has heightened the unease of air travellers. Airports world-wide beef up security.


Barefoot at the conveyor belt

Airports around the world are in a state of high alert today and have stepped up their security checks. The latest measure being taken is to thoroughly check passengers’ footwear. As Saturday’s incident showed, it’s easy to sail by X-ray machines with explosives stuffed into your shoes.

At Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, where the suspected shoe-bomber boarded the flight, sniffer dogs that weren’t on duty on the ill-fated day, are now working round the clock. They're being used to detect plastic explosives in baggage, which aren’t picked up by the electronic security systems.

Same procedure at German airports

All passengers on US airlines taking off from Germany are also required to remove their shoes to have them put through extra explosives checks starting on Tuesday, said Rainer Lingental, spokesman for the German Interior Ministry in Berlin.

"The passengers will be required to take their shoes off," he said. "The shoes will be inspected for any unusual changes and then be X-rayed as well."

US airports heavily guarded

At US airport security checkpoints, screeners kneel to inspect passengers' shoes, waving metal detectors over them and asking them to remove them and put them through X-ray machines.

At Miami International Airport, inspectors scrutinise the shoes of passengers, which set off metal detector alarms.

And passengers at most airports across the United States are confronted with a chilling sight - soldiers with combat rifles patrolling concourses.

Who is the shoe-bomber?

But mystery still surrounds the motives of the man who supposedly tried to blow up the American Airlines plane bound for Miami.

Officials in Britain, France and the United States are still trying to figure out how British passport-holder, 28-year-old Richard Reid, boarded the American Airlines flight with wires sticking out of his shoes.

They are also checking out whether the failed bombing was part of a wider plot. So far there's no evidence that the suspect belonged to the Al Qaeda terrorist group.

He was overpowered by flight attendants and passengers while trying to ignite the explosives hidden in his shoes. He had been barred from boarding a flight the day before, because he appeared to be agitated and had no luggage.

Formal charges

On Monday, a U.S. judge in Boston formally charged Reid. He ordered the man, to be held in jail, pending a detention hearing on the incident aboard American Airlines Flight 163.

Richard Reid spent just 10 minutes at the Boston court. The 28 year-old, believed to be of Sri Lankan origin, is set to return to court on Friday, when prosecutors will have to show why he should remain behind bars. They are working hard to make a case against him.

Mike Sullivan, US Attorney says, "Preliminary results from the FBI lab have concluded that there were functional improvised explosive devices in both of Reid's sneakers."

French police say the explosives were capable of causing a large explosion in the cabin. But they say the blast would not have been enough to bring down the plane.

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