In Land of Unlocked Doors, Hijacking Forces Security Debate
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ The ease of a Norwegian hijacking sparked criticism Friday of airline security across Scandinavia, where people leave cars unlocked and stroll unchecked onto planes.
The 25-year-old hijacker, Haris Kec, walked onto SAS Flight No. 347 in northern Norway on Thursday without undergoing a security check. So did 122 other passengers.
Kec, a refugee from Bosnia, allegedly pushed his way into the cockpit and claimed he had grenades under his shirt. For the next seven hours, he held police at bay and transfixed the nation as he begged the world to help stop the suffering in his homeland. He turned out to be unarmed.
While admitting that even the tightest security may not have stopped Kec, pilots, airlines and aviation officials said security must be increased on domestic flights in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
Crime and terrorism are rare in Scandinavia, leading people neither to expect nor demand tighter security. Swedish officials said fewer than 2 million out of 7 million domestic passengers last year were checked, the news agency TT reported.
Even the pilot of Flight No. 347, Willy Orbaek, called it ″unthinkable that a hijacking could happen in Norway.″
That started to change Friday.
SAS, the Scandinavian Airline System, said all domestic flights should be checked.
″Authorities should have the same security standard on domestic flights as on international flights,″ said SAS operations chief Otto Lagarhus.
Authorities in Sweden and Denmark planned to meet within the next week to discuss strengthening the rules, according to news media.
″It is unacceptable if passengers can walk on board and put other people’s lives at risk,″ said Stefan Rasmussen, a Conservative opposition leader in Denmark. ″We must get away from (the current rules). The situation in Europe is not the most stable.″
By law, every international flight is checked thoroughly. But with hijackings occurring more frequently on domestic routes, Nordic authorities said they must consider changing the rules.
However, a spokesman for Norway’s aviation authority said the country’s airport security already was in line with international standards.
″We ... base domestic security on spot checks. Whether that is good enough is a different matter. Our security is based on the extent of the threat perceived,″ said spokesman Simen Revold.
In northern Denmark, the chief of Aalborg airport, William Blume, said the risks in his region ″are very small. And it’s also a matter of economics. ... It’s a political decision.″
Either way, most officials agreed there was little way to stop Thursday’s hijacking, since the man never had a weapon that might have been discovered by a metal detector or body search.
″It’s up to the pilot in command to make a decision when somebody says there’s a hijacking,″ said Nils Jevne, head of security at Norway’s civil aviation administration. ″The pilot in command has to think about the passengers before anything else.″