ISIS threaten to attack commercial aircraft in Nigeria
Article RadarTHIS ARTICLE CONNECT:
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Sinai Province The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Sinai Province,...[+]
- Boko Haram Boko Haram, is jihadist group based in northeastern Nigeria, also active...[+]
Flying has always been one of the safest ways to travel, thanks to its wide-ranging international regulatory frameworks, but aviation incidents have an outsize impact on the public consciousness.
From recent airport attacks in Brussels and Istanbul to the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine, horrifying images are more powerful than reassuring statistics.
Emerging technologies, the changing character of war, a widening cast of actors and growing reliance on cyber are changing the nature of the threats; creating pressure on the industry to make sure it maintains its safety level, with the number of air travellers projected to nearly double in the next 20 years.
In recent time, aviation has remained a high-value target whether between nation states or also involving non-state actors, modern conflicts are increasingly not confined to conventional battlefields – they tend to spill over into civilian domains.
Since the September 9, 2001 attacks, the global aviation security apparatus has expanded, with myriad technologies, processes and layered defenses to ensure terrorists can never again commandeer an airplane and use it as a weapon of mass destruction.
Yet despite hyper-secure airplanes and airports, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) still target the aviation sector.
ISIS, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other groups are dangerous, not just because they can make a bomb, but because they know where to put it to maximise the effect.
For example, AQAP claimed responsibility for the downing of a UPS cargo plane after takeoff from Dubai airport in 2010. Not long after, a bomb disguised as a printer cartridge was slipped into the supply chain and discovered at Britain’s East Midlands Airport.
In both cases, the goal was likely less about trying to kill the small number of crew aboard. Instead, such plots were likely designed to disrupt consumer and business confidence, causing economic harm and pushing nations to invest even more in their aviation security, slowly bleeding the industry blind as it spends billions to detect a simple explosive hidden in, for example, a five-cent soda can.
ISIS recently threatened to attack commercial flights within the Nigerian airspace. This threat is not being taken with levity by security personnel and players in the sector.
For instance, to counter the attempt, the Federal Government beefed up security at the major airports across the country.
The government has also called on security agencies posted to the airports to immediately embark on rigorous vetting of airlines’ personnel and screening of passengers as well as increased vigilance on restricted areas at airports.
A letter, which emanated from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation with the reference number: H.150/S.91/56, dated May 25, 2018 and made available to our correspondent, had ordered the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to beef up security around the nation’s airports.
The letter with the head: ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Threatens to Attack Commercial Flights,’ was signed by one O.M Olaoye for the Secretary of the Government of the Federation.
According to the letter, the Al-Abd al-Faqir Media, a pro-Islamic of ISIS had issued the threat against Nigeria in April.
The letter warned that ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion and death of all 244 passengers aboard the Russian Metrojet flight 9268 shortly after take-off from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in October, 2015 and warned the three agencies not to take the threat with levity.
It added that the warning of April 26 followed a similar warning earlier by ISIS spokesman, Abu Hassan Al-Muhajir, on April 22, 2018, outlining the next stage in the global jihad.
The letter added: “From the foregoing report, rigorous vetting of airline personnel and screening of passengers as well as increased vigilance on restricted areas at airport are advised.”
Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Centurion Aviation commenting on the ISIS threat expressed worry about the warning against the country.
Ojikutu noted that the country’s airports lacked a good security system, but said that such a letter should have emanated from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and not from the Office of the Secretary to the Federation.
He declared that airport security was not the job of the police, stressing that the problem and its solution should be sorted between the airport operators, airlines and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
He added: “The regulator needs to find out where there are breaches and look into them and review the security programme of some of the airport operators. One of the problems is the staff; there should be background check on those who work on the airside and those that have been relieved of their jobs but still have their identity cards.
“These are people that enter the airport and they become insider threat. There should be a regular review of people working in restricted areas of the airport.”
Mr. Ikechi Nwankwo, a security expert, observed that unless changes were made, the monetary and economic costs of the current aviation security system were likely to reach unsustainable levels over the next 15–20 years as the number of air travellers and air cargo continue to grow.
The number of air passengers is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of between 4.2 and 4.7 per cent through to 2033 and approximately 85 per cent of this growth is predicted to occur in 2018 aviation network.
Nwankwo said that by 2030, approximately six billion passengers annually would require security and screening at airports around the world.
He added: “A study requisitioned by the European Commission estimates that in 2002, European total expenditures on aviation security (for 18 member states) otaled €2.8 billion ($2.7 billion US). We estimate that total spending on aviation security by European airports has more than doubled in under 10 years, reaching €5.7 billion ($7.6 billion US) in 2011.”
He also called on the government to improve the security apparatus at all the nation’s airports in order to bolster safety in the system.
He observed that the current security arrangement had not been improved upon before the emergence of the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
He explained further that as presently composed, Aviation Security (AVSEC), a department under FAAN are understaffed while most of those still engaged are not certified for passenger and baggage screening.
He said: “Security challenges at our airports have not changed from what we all know and have been on the good before the insurgency of the homegrown terrorists.
“There are inadequate skilled manpower in aviation security and only few of those available are certified for passenger and baggage screening.”