On February 25, British counterterrorism officers raided a British Airways call center in Newcastle and arrested an employee on suspicions of terrorist fundraising. The suspect, “thought to be from an Asian background and aged 30,” was questioned for six days, after which an extension was granted to keep him locked up. The suspect’s home was also searched.
When the words “terror suspect” and “airline employee” appear in the same sentence, alarm bells inevitably sound. In the case of a worker at a call center, there’s an argument that the suspect’s place of employment could be considered incidental. “Staff can access to details of thousands of flights and are familiar with basic security procedures,” the Daily Telegraph reported. But, as the argument goes, lots of people can become familiar with “basic security procedures” in the far-reaching airline industry
Then, last week, a second British Airways employee who was apparently part of the same plot was taken into police custody. This man worked at Heathrow Airport — one of the busiest international airports in the world. “No specific target has emerged but the airport link is obviously on our minds,” a security official told the Sun. But more arrests may be coming, the official added.
This second man, whose name has not been released, is not the first jihadist to work at an airport. Jawad Akbar, one of the five men convicted in 2007 of plotting to blow up the Ministry of Sound nightclub with fertilizer bombs, worked part-time at Gatwick Airport and had a security clearance “for working airside.” One of the members of the cell that planned August 2006 London plane bombing plot worked at Heathrow Airport with an all-area access pass.