Security breach at Heathrow airport

Hasan Suroor

Woman gets on board with banned items in hand baggage

LONDON: British authorities were on Friday investigating how a woman managed to beat stringent security at Heathrow airport on Wednesday and carry a number of banned items in her hand luggage on to a Washington-bound flight forcing the pilot to divert it to Boston.

The woman, who was found carrying a screwdriver, matches and vaseline, was identified as Catherine Mayo (59), an American citizen. She had reportedly entered Britain after visiting Pakistan. The plane was diverted after she allegedly created a scene and made comments that the crew interpreted as references to Al-Qaeda and 9/11 attacks.

The incident, which caused deep embarrassment to the security establishment at Heathrow, came as investigations into the alleged airliner plot continued with police claiming that they had found a suitcase containing bomb-making material.

The BBC quoted a police source as saying that the suitcase contained "everything you would need to make an improvised device.'' It was reportedly found in a wood near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, where several people were arrested last week in connection with the alleged plot to blow up American airlines in mid-air using liquid explosives.

Up to 50 business and residential properties have been searched in the High Wycombe area. Addresses in East London, where a number of arrests were made last week, have also been searched.

Meanwhile, the Council of Indian Muslims (U.K.) criticised the media for "jumping to conclusions'' about the alleged involvement of those arrested in connection with the plot.

"We are particularly concerned at the mischievous reporting in some of the press establishing, almost with certainty, that all of the alleged detainees are guilty. We have adopted a policy of wait-and-see until more information is available and would urge the media to do the same,'' its chairman Munaf Zeena said in a statement.

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