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Terrorism & Security

Moscow bombing prompts scrutiny of airport security worldwide

The Moscow bombing Monday that left 35 people dead has prompted calls for tighter airport security measures – but some say better intelligence is the answer to thwarting attacks.

By Correspondent / January 28, 2011

A fire engine and emergency vehicles are seen outside a terminal at Domodedovo Airport, Moscow, Monday, Jan. 24. Airports around the world are taking a look at their security procedures following the bombing at Moscow's busiest airport on Monday that killed 35 people and injured more than 100.

Misha Japaridze/AP

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Airports around the world are taking a look at their security procedures following the airport bombing in Moscow on Monday that killed 35 people and injured more than 100. The blast happened in the arrival hall of one of Russia's busiest airports and has prompted discussion about whether checkpoints should be added to arrival halls.

A number of security officials, however, say that the move would be a step too far and do little to deter future attacks.

Rather than adding in more static security measures in arrival halls and generally ratcheting up airport security, authorities should invest their energy and resources in intelligence efforts that could prevent potential attacks, said Olivier Jankovec, director general of Europe’s Airports Council International, according to Bloomberg. He added that the security procedures currently confronting passengers are already “burdensome” as it is.

“You can really do things more efficiently with better use of intelligence rather than trying to turn the airport into a fortress,” he said. “We need a more efficient system where you’re not controlling every single person in the same way and treating every grandmother as if she was a terrorist.”

In Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev has come down hard on security officials following the attack, accusing security officials of not doing enough. Days after the attack, he sacked the regional head of the Interior Ministry’s transport administration, reports the GlobalPost.

“Those who did not work properly must be punished,” said Mr. Medvedev. “All officials responsible for organizing the [security] process must be brought to their senses."

Officials in the US have largely echoed the sentiments of their European counterparts, saying it is unlikely that they will close nonticketed passengers off from another section of airports, reports NPR. Rather than adding checkpoints, US airports may add increased surveillance efforts and security presence to areas outside security checkpoints. Moving checkpoints further to the edge of the airport would likely not help the situation, say security officials.

“You're just moving the target,” said Portland, Ore., airport’s head of security, Mark Crosby. “Whether it happens in front of the building or in the middle of the building, the headline is still going to say that there's an event at their airport.”

Meanwhile, Russian authorities are coming under scrutiny as to whether they did enough to prevent the bombing. Russian security forces have denied that they were aware of the airport bomb plot, but an article in Time Magazine suggests that police may have ignored key signs, namely a bombing at a “seedy motel” near the airport that took place on New Year’s Eve. “It seems likely that the terrorists … made their presence felt a first time and, despite police being aware of it, the plotters were then still able to proceed,” reports Time.

Russia’s parliament has responded to the airport bombing by pushing forward a proposed law that would create a color-coded terror threat system like the one used in the US since the 9/11 attacks. The parliament has been discussing the creation of such a system since February, reports the Britain's Press Association. The US will give up its color-coded threat warning system at the end of this April.

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