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Asian airports strengthen security after Brussels attacks

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - 14:07

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Airports in Asia, including Tokyo and Seoul, increased security around terminals following the bomb attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels Tuesday.

[TOKYO] Airports in Asia, including Tokyo and Seoul, increased security around terminals following the bomb attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels Tuesday.

Incheon airport, which serves Seoul, will add around 700 more staff for security monitoring and explosive detection, the operator Incheon International Airport Corp. said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. Authorities will now closely check areas such as restrooms and trash cans. Narita Airport, east of Tokyo has also strengthened patrol of any suspicious objects, said Tsuyoshi Ohtake, a spokesman at Narita International Airport Corp.

Asian airports had stepped up scrutiny since the Paris terrorist attacks and a suspected bombing of a Russian aircraft by the Islamic State last year. Much of the security checks at aerodromes have been focused on stopping terrorists from boarding planes, with measures such as full-body scans, shoe checks and ban on everything from liquids to nail clippers.

Airports that don't require people to undergo security checks until they move beyond the departure hall may now be forced to consider a shift to screening at every entrance following Tuesday's bombings.

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"There will be increased surveillance and security the moment you arrive at the airport after the Brussels incident," said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultant Endau Analytics in Malaysia. "You already see the urgency. These are very sensitive issues." Manhunt Belgian police mounted a manhunt hours after the blasts at the airport and a subway station, the deadliest attacks ever on Belgian soil.

Police in Brussels released a still from closed-circuit TV footage showing three men pushing baggage carts whom they suspect were involved in the attack at the airport. The office of Frederic Van Leeuw, Belgium's federal prosecutor, said that two of the men likely carried out suicide attacks, while the third was being sought.

Companies are also taking steps to ensure the safety of its staff. Toyota Motor Corp. has banned employee business trips to Belgium until they can be certain there are no threats, said Itsuki Kurosu, a spokesman for the automaker. The company has its European headquarters in the Belgian capital. Tiremaker Bridgestone Corp said employees can't make business trips to Brussels.

"The threat is large and the threat is growing," said Rohan Gunaratna, who runs the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "Governments need specific counter terrorism intelligence." Asia has had its share of terrorist attacks recently. Indonesia upgraded security at its 192 airports in February, weeks after a deadly bombing and shooting assault by Islamic State militants in downtown Jakarta. A bomb went off in central Bangkok in August last year that killed 20 people.

Incheon airport, which will maintain its "yellow" alert level that was put out after the November Paris attacks, will also step up screening of passengers' carry-on items, checked-in bags and cargo. It will closely check identifications of passengers entering the transit area as well as those who work in the restricted area.

The Airport Authority in Hong Kong has established strict security measures and will keep close contact with government security agencies, according to an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News. If needed, the airport will take additional steps, it said.  Airport security has been heightened across Australia in the wake of the Brussels attacks, the Australian Federal Police said in an e-mailed statement. Measures may include dog and foot patrols, as well as specialist armed-response teams, the police said.

All the country's airports have been asked to carry out response plans to armed attack, Minister for Transport Darren Chester said in an e-mailed statement. Still, he said there's currently "no credible threat" to Australian airports.

Police presence at Haneda airport's domestic terminals have also been increased, Shoko Ono, a spokeswoman at Japan Airport Terminal Co, the operator of the terminals, said Wednesday by telephone.

Security at the airport and metro stations in the Indian capital New Delhi has been heightened since Tuesday's explosions, the Indian Express newspaper reported, citing police. India celebrates Holi, the festival of color, this week when travel demand is among the highest as people travel to join families and friends for the celebrations.

Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the country's second-largest carrier, said it received a "security alert" for five flights from New Delhi Tuesday. All five flights were grounded and checked, Jet said, without specifying the nature of the alert. It's the only Indian airline that flies to Brussels.

"Our security agencies continue to be vigilant against security threats," Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement Tuesday. "Everyone can play a part by staying vigilant and reporting any suspicious persons or activities to the authorities promptly."

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