View Full Version : Saudi Police Foil Airliner Attack

28th Dec 2003, 13:39

Saudi Police Foil Airliner Attack

Saturday, December 27, 2003
By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi security forces have seized light planes packed with explosives near Riyadh's King Khalid airport, foiling a plot by suicide pilots to blow up a Western airliner on the runway, a British newspaper said on Sunday.

Two pilots apparently intended to crash their light planes into a Western jet as it taxied slowly on the tarmac, the Mail on Sunday quoted Patrick Mercer, homeland security policy chief for Britain's opposition Conservative Party as saying.

"My understanding is that (the light planes) were found on the flight line and that the plan was to fly them into a passenger jet either about to land or take off," Mercer told the paper.

The two pilots were among several people arrested after the planes were discovered some time in the past few weeks, the paper said.

It said British Airways was believed to be the most likely target, although several other European carriers also use the airport.

A BA spokesman said the airline had no knowledge of the incident described in the paper.

"We are in regular contact with the Saudi authorities and the British government and we wouldn't fly unless it was completely safe to do so," a spokesman said. "We haven't changed our flights to or from Saudi Arabia."

BA suspended flights to the oil-rich Gulf kingdom in August citing a security threat, but the airline resumed flying the following month after a review.

Mercer was not available to elaborate on his remarks and the British Foreign Office said it was not aware of the incident.

Britain and the United States have both warned of possible threats to Western aviation targets in Saudi Arabia over the past few months.

Saudi Arabia, birthplace of suspected September 11, 2001, mastermind Osama bin Laden, has seen a wave of strikes by militants this year, including major suicide bombings at housing compounds in May and November that killed more than 50 people.

Police and militants have had frequent shootouts. The government has rounded up hundreds of suspects and says it has seized massive caches of explosives and weapons.


Agence France-Presse

SAUDI Arabia has arrested two Islamic suicide pilots who were preparing to fly two light aircraft into a packed British Airways jet, a British Sunday newspaper has reported.

The suspected suicide pilots were arrested in the last few weeks after they were found red-handed with aircraft loaded with explosives near Saudi Arabia's main airport in the capital Riyadh, The Mail on Sunday said.

It cited a senior opposition politician.

"My understanding is that they were found on the flight line and that the plan was to fly them into a passenger jet either about to land or take off," said Patrick Mercer, the Conservative spokesman for Homeland Security, according to the newspaper.

Mercer, who said he had been informed of the plot by an "unimpeachable" source, intended to raise the matter at the House of Commons immediately after MPs returned from their Christmas break on January 5, the newspaper reported.

Mercer claimed that the Saudi authorities tried to cover up the incident near King Khalid International Airport and withheld information from authorities abroad.

"These terrorists are potent and inventive and I very much hope the British government will take note of these developments," he was quoted as saying.

"They must defend our airspace and issue timely, accurate and meaningful warnings to both airlines and passengers."

Both BA and the Foreign Office, which said it had checked with "relevant agencies", were unable to confirm the arrests today.

"We never comment on security matters," a BA spokesman said.

Agence France-Presse