Greek Police Official Acknowledges Security Could Be Better at Athens Airport With AM-Hijack,
Greek Police Official Acknowledges Security Could Be Better at Athens Airport With AM-Hijack, Bjt
ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ A senior police officer said Saturday that security is ″not what it should be″ at Athens airport, where hijackers carrying grenades and a pistol boarded a TWA airliner they later commandeered.
Nikos Kokkinakis, director of the Athens Security police, said passengers entering the ground floor transit area at Athens international terminal did ″not go through proper passport controls.″
″Security is not what it should be in the transit area at the airport. There are no proper passport controls for passengers who don’t actually enter Greece but arrive and go into the transit lounge,″ Kokkinakis said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
According to security officials, the three men who plotted the hijacking of a TWA Boeing 727 on a flight from Athens to Rome on Friday arrived Thursday afternoon on a Middle East Airlines flight from Beirut, traveling on forged Lebanese passports.
Two boarded the plane with tickets for a one-way trip. The third failed to get a seat and was picked up for questioning in the transit area after the hijacking.
The hijackers later shot a passenger to death and dumped his body on the runway at Beirut.
″It seems they had no trouble bringing their weapons into the transit area. But the surprising thing is how they managed to deceive the X-ray machines, especially TWA’s sophisticated security check,″ Kokkinakis said.
The hijacker left behind, identified as Ali Atwa, told Greek police the hijackers smuggled two grenades and a pistol through two security checks.
″They went through one check with a metal detector and an X-ray machine that was operated by Greek police, and another one operated by TWA using their own staff and equipment before boarding the bus for the plane,″ Kokkinakis said.
Athens airport has a reputation for slipshod security among passengers and airline crews.
The International Airline Passengers Association, based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on Saturday accused the Greek government of ″inability to introduce appropriate safety procedures and enforce them.″
″It’s easy at Athens airport for a well-dressed foreigner to slip into an area where he shouldn’t be without being challenged,″ said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition he not be identified.
In the 1976 hijacking of an Air France jet that was taken to Entebbe airport in Uganda, the hijackers smuggled their weapons onto the aircraft at Athens.
In April, an Arab gunman got close enough to the runways to fire a rocket from a shoulder-held launcher at a Jordanian passenger jet as it prepared to take off. The missile hit the plane but failed to explode.
Security has been tightened since then, with regular patrols around the perimeter fence.
Government officials reject charges they are lax and have noted that Friday’s TWA hijacking was the first to originate in Athens since 1983, when a a Romanian Airlines jetliner was hijacked after leaving Athens for Rome.
″We have many fewer incidents here than in other West European countries,″ said Costas Tsimas in a recent interview.
Tsimas, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Order which handles security affairs, said, ″We also cooperate actively with our European Common Market partners in countering terrorism.″