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Security alert after CAL flight targeted
Under heightened security and an ignited threat-management system in T&T and Guyana, a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight, reportedly targeted by terrorists, yesterday flew from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Guyana, to the JFK Airport, New York, without mishap. CAL corporate communications manager Clint Williams told the T&T Guardian yesterday afternoon that BW 524, a direct flight, left Guyana at 6.05 am and would have almost reached New York by then. He said the flight was successful. Williams said, according to reports, one specific flight, BW524, was targeted over two specific days, yesterday and today. The two countries’ airports will continue on full security alert again today since the same targeted flight is scheduled to leave Guyana for New York early this morning. Another flight, a stopover, BW662/520, is scheduled to depart from Guyana to the Piarco International Airport, Trinidad, at 10.30 am today and then leave for New York.
The US Embassy in Guyana, which received the threat, advised citizens there who had scheduled CAL flights to make alternative travelling arrangements. Williams said there were only 13 cancellations in all three flights and claimed that was normal. The actions taken by CAL to deal with the situation earned it the commendation of National Security Minister Capt Gary Griffith. He spoke to the T&T Guardian after he held a meeting yesterday afternoon with Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz, Trade and Industry Minister Vasant Bharath, members of CAL’s board and the Airports Authority’s security and communications heads. Griffith said: “CAL dealt with this matter in an exceptional manner. No passenger was ever in any remote danger. “However, in keeping with their high standard to ensure the safety of passengers, CAL immediately ignited their standard operation procedure for any alarm or message in regards to any flight, whether legitimate or false. “There was no security concern and flights continue as scheduled.”
Williams said up to yesterday the alleged terrorist threat remained unsubstantiated and was not attributed to any particular individual. “But we do not wait to investigate the validity before protocols are put in place to respond to any potential danger. “Over the past 24 hours our focus has been on ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers across the network, with particular focus on Guyana,” he said. Williams, noting the best security policy is one that is not explained, disclosed that the threat-management system was set in motion, involving the co-ordination of experts across a number of agencies. He added: “Law enforcement agencies from T&T, Guyana and the Airports Authority would have received a briefing and put in place prescribed security arrangements.”
Williams said that was done without the disruption of scheduled flights. “Flights continued to fly at the standard schedule. There were no related delays,” he added. The threat-management system is governed by the International Air Transport Association and starts with determining the strength of the threat. At Piarco Airport yesterday morning, there was not the expected hustle and bustle expected in this Carnival season. Sources pointed out plainclothes police officers mingling with passengers in the waiting area and said: “All of them are here on full alert. The Organised Crime and Narcotics Unit is upstairs. They live here. “Customs officers, dogs from the Canine Unit trained in detecting bombs are here.” He said all flights were being checked.
Passengers waiting for flights said they had no delays and many of them did not know of the terrorist threat. The US Embassy in Guyana did not say what kind of threat it got, reportedly via a telephone call from Barbados, or from whom it may have come. The public affairs unit at the US Embassy in T&T said it had no new information on the matter. Cadiz said everything was going as planned. “We flying,” he added. A CJIA statement from Guyana said security agencies and airport personnel assessed the threat and put in place several measures to prevent any untoward occurrence. The heightened security posture will remain in place until the threat is deemed no longer valid.