US requires enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey

US requires enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey

WASHINGTON
US requires enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said on Sept. 7 that it is issuing a new security directive requiring enhanced screening of cargo from Turkey.

The change was "to adequately address emerging threats to cargo and raise the baseline for global aviation security," TSA spokesman Michael England said. 

The directive mandates voluntary measures already in use by Turkey and will ensure "cargo flying to the United States is screened and secured in accordance with the Air Cargo Advance Screening Program," he said.

Officials said the decision to impose the security directive and an emergency amendment was made after an incident in Australia and came in response to intelligence reports.

In July, an Australian man sent his unsuspecting brother to the Sydney airport to catch an Etihad Airways flight carrying a home-made bomb disguised as a meat mincer built at the direction of a senior Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) commander, police said.

Detailing one of Australia's "most sophisticated" militant plots, police said two men, who have been charged with terror-related offences, also planned to build a device to release poisonous gas in a public area.

High-grade military explosives used to build the bomb were sent by air cargo from Turkey as part of a plot "inspired and directed" by ISIL, police Deputy Commissioner National Security Michael Phelan said in August.

The plot targeted an Etihad Airways flight on July 15, but the bomb never made it past airport security, he said.  

Meanwhile, a senate committee has approved a measure that would block U.S. tax dollars from supporting the sale of weapons to security forces protecting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

An amendment approved on Sept. 7 by the Senate Appropriations Committee is part of a continuing U.S. response to an incident when 11 people were hurt in the brawl during Erdoğan’s visit to Washington, which the city’s police chief described as a brutal attack on peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.

Turkey has told U.S. officials that security outside the ambassador’s home was negligent and did not ensure the safety of Erdoğan’s entourage amid protests from sympathizers of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), it claimed.

A total of 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, have been indicted on felony charges in the incident, which has complicated already tense relations between the U.S. and Turkey.

Erdoğan had called the decision to arrest the security guards “scandalous.”

Also on Sept. 7, two men videotaped taking part in the incident pleaded innocent to assault charges.

The two, Turkish-Americans Sinan Narin and Eyüp Yıldırım, are among 19 members of a Erdoğan’s security detail. They are the only two arrested in the case. The other 17, two Turkish Canadians and 15 Turkish citizens remain at large.