Malaysia Airlines jet drama fuels airport security concerns

Concerns are mounting around police handling of the bomb scare aboard a Malaysia Airlines flight from Melbourne last week, with a renowned security expert describing it as “dithering and ineffective”.

Security and counter-terrorism specialist Roger Henning told The Australian that he was stunned by the incident, in which around 330 people were trapped inside flight MH128 for 90 minutes after Manodh Marks allegedly threatened to blow up the plane shortly after takeoff, forcing it to return to Melbourne.

While Mr Marks was restrained by several passengers, and the so-called “bomb” turned out to be a music player, many have spoken out about the terrifying experience of waiting 90 minutes for police to board the plane.

Mr Henning, who has been involved in the aftermath of mass casualty bombings in India, the UK and The Philippines, said that the Prime Minister’s National Security Committee needed to look into the matter, “if it hasn’t already”.

He said the saga, combined with a violent incident at the Gold Coast Airport earlier in the week, in which security officers were criticised for taking more than 5 minutes to respond, was evidence that airport security across the country needed to be improved.

“What I saw was dithering and ineffective policing,” Mr Henning said.

“To leave terrified passengers on a grounded plane for 90 minutes is totally unacceptable. Not good enough.”

The Australian reported earlier that police failed to call in the bomb squad as part of its response to the incident on confirmation from Victoria Police’s media unit.

However, police have since released a clarification.

“Yesterday the Victoria Police Media Unit provided advice to The Australian that the Bomb Response Unit did not attend the MH128 incident at Melbourne Airport,” said senior sergeant Melissa Seach in a statement.

“This was incorrect.

“The BRU did attend on Wednesday night as part of our tactical response team. They boarded the plane and did their job to ensure the plane, passengers flight crew and ground staff were safe.”

A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police declined to confirm whether the AFP bomb squad attended when asked why it was not named in the official list of police division responders that has been released. The Victorian bomb response unit was also not named on the list.

While the AFP has primary responsibility for the airport security role across the country, Mr Henning said all airport staff needed to be trained in how to detect security risks and report and respond to incidents.

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Source: The Australian