Category Archives: Radical Islam

Moscow Airport Explosion Spotlights Security Challenges

Obviously, we just need someone to be willing to just talk to these people…  If someone would just be able to get Barak Obama to get them on the phone…


The suspected suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Monday that killed dozens of people in the arrivals area and injured many more could prompt security regulators world-wide to limit access to airports, as Russian authorities quickly did. But aviation officials warn that airports will continue to face threats common to all public places, such as train stations and theaters.

The explosion outside Moscow brought to reality a dire scenario that aviation officials have long known about but had seen little practical possibility to prevent: an attack on the public area of a major airport. Airport designers try to keep airplanes a safe distance from any attacks outside the facility, but planners know that as long as people are coming and going from planes, crowds will occasionally occur outside the security perimeter.

“Obviously, it’s always been a concern, but the public area is no different from a shopping mall or a school,” said Art Kosatka, chief executive of TranSecure, a transportation security consulting firm in Leesburg, Va.

In reaction to the attack Monday, Russian authorities ordered 100% security screening of all passengers and visitors entering airports, as well as their baggage, across the country.

Terrorists have struck airports outside their security zones before. In 1985, Palestinian terrorists killed 18 people and injured almost 140 more in public areas of airports in Rome and Vienna. In 2007, terrorists linked to al Qaeda drove a car filled with explosives at the face of Edinburgh Airport in Scotland. Nobody was killed in that attack and the assailants were apprehended.

Airports almost by definition draw crowds. Major hubs employ tens of thousands of people in positions including airline staff, baggage handlers and retail clerks. Large airports can handle more than 50 million passengers annually, with millions more passing through to escort or transport them.

Some airports limit access to public areas by checking identities or allowing only passengers with tickets to enter. Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport uses extreme measures, as part of its overall high level of security: Security officials check documents at a concrete barrier roughly 30 feet from the airport entrance.

In the U.S., law-enforcement officials have occasionally tried to take similar steps through measures such as setting up police checkpoints for cars entering an airport or dropping off passengers. These checks, however, tend to cause traffic jams, so have mainly been used during times of higher security alerts.

Aside from the complaints that checkpoints prompt, they also create a new potential threat. A line of cars or people outside the airport could itself become a target for attack.

One way U.S. authorities have tried to enhance security at the periphery of many airports is to increase law-enforcement presence in front of terminals, both to direct traffic and look for suspicious cars or people.

At Domodedovo on Monday evening, the tightened controls led to long lines at checkpoints at terminal entrances, Interfax reported.

“You wanted total screening,” Domodedovo spokeswoman Elena Galanova told Russia’s Interfax news agency. “Then this is what happens.” She said the airport’s passenger volume of 22.3 million travelers annually, plus people meeting them, means “total security screening is practically impossible. It just leads to a massive crush.”

Adding to the complexity of enforcing security is the financial pressure of running an airport, because many airports over recent years have added retail facilities in public areas to generate revenues. Some cities, including Amsterdam, Singapore and Bangkok, tout their airports as destinations on their own for shopping or recreation.

Airports also increasingly mix high-security aviation with other modes of transportation that get much lower security. Across Europe, most airport hubs have train stations inside or near to terminals.

Partly as a result of these complexities, aviation officials say aviation security overall should be treated as a national-security issue, not a problem local to airports.

Anthony Concil, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, a major airline trade group in Geneva, said that although the facts of the Moscow attack are still not fully clear, it “is just another indication why we need governments to use intelligence effectively to prevent these things from happening.”

Mr. Concil added: “It’s not about scanners—it’s about finding bad people.”

—Richard Boudreaux and Alexander Kolyandr contributed to this article.

Write to Daniel Michaels at and Andy Pasztor at

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