EU seeks explosives crackdown after airline plot


  • World
  • Thursday, 17 Aug 2006

By Katherine Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Shocked by a suspected Islamist plot to blow up airliners, Europe will seek closer police cooperation and better ways to detect explosives while moving to combat Muslim radicalisation, ministers said on Wednesday. 

Intelligence officials will increase the exchange of passenger information and find the means to censor Internet sites that teach bomb-making, they promised. 

Britain's Home Secretary John Reid gestures during a press conference at the Home Office after a meeting on terrorism with other EU Ministers in central London August 16, 2006. (REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Ministers from six European Union nations agreed the counter-terrorism push almost a week after British police said they had foiled a suicide bomb plot using liquid explosives disguised as drinks on up to 10 U.S.-bound aircraft. 

"We face a persistent and very real threat across Europe," British interior minister John Reid told a news conference. 

"This is an enduring threat and it will require ... an enduring response," he said after meeting ministers from EU countries that will hold the bloc's rotating presidency for the next 2-1/2 years. 

EU intelligence agencies plan to meet towards the end of this month. 

Research and cooperation between EU officials will focus on liquid explosives, said EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini. 

He said he would make proposals in coming days on "the detection of explosives, on the traceability of commercial detonators and particularly on liquid explosives". 

EU experts will meet next month to consider whether a ban imposed by some countries on liquids on planes should be extended across the 25-nation bloc, a European Commission spokesman said. 

The measures have dried up duty free sales of wines, spirits and perfumes in some airport terminals. 

SUSPECTS HELD 

British police are holding 24 suspects -- at least 23 of them UK-born Muslims -- following raids last week in connection with the alleged plot. Police said the plan was to cause "mass murder on an unimaginable scale". 

A British court on Wednesday gave police more time to question 23 of the suspects. 

A police statement said the warrants for 21 of the suspects were extended until Aug. 23 and for two others until Aug. 21. 

Police had detained one more person on Tuesday in connection with last week's alleged plot. 

Frattini said ministers will seek to train imams at an EU level to fight Muslim radicalisation. Imams at some European mosques have been accused of spreading extremist views. 

"We do want a European Islam and that is very important not only to show to the Muslim communities that we fully respect other religions ... but we also want (them to) respect national laws, European laws and fundamental rights -- first of all the right to life," he said. 

The EU would also seek to extend to flights between EU countries a passenger information exchange scheme it has in place with the United States, Canada and Australia, he said. 

EU countries will seek to use biometric identifiers at borders and airports to accelerate the identification of passengers by their fingerprints or iris, Frattini added. 

The bloc will look into a suggestion by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to set up counter-terrorism expert teams at EU level ready to help countries if needed, he said. 

(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft) 

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