Terror threat suspect held
-- FBI tracks email to Berbice Internet café, computers seized
Guyana Chronicle
December 5, 2006

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THE man suspected of sending an email threatening a chemical terror attack on airlines flying from here to the United States was arrested late yesterday and is being questioned by the FBI and local investigators, sources said.

Guyana Police and United States FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) agents yesterday morning swooped on the Netsurf.com internet café on Asylum Street, New Amsterdam, Berbice and seized four computers, the Guyana Chronicle understands.

This newspaper has learnt that the terror threat email was sent at 17:03 h Thursday to the U.S. embassy, airlines operating the U.S. routes, and newspapers here.

A description of the man who sent the email from terminal number three of the seven terminals in the internet café emerged after two employees were taken away for questioning and he was held yesterday afternoon in Georgetown, the Guyana Chronicle was told.

The email said that starting last Friday, some American Airlines, North American Airlines and BWIA flights transporting American citizens from the U.S. to Britain, the Caribbean and African destinations and returning flights will be under serious chemical attack from an “independent militant group.”

The email was sent by M. Atayuv from atayuv@yahoo.com.

This triggered a heightened security alert at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and an intensive probe by local Police, the FBI and U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which led them yesterday morning to the internet café in New Amsterdam.

Local Police first went into the Netsurf.com building and asked employees to leave and four FBI and other U.S. agents moved in at about 09:30 h running checks on the computers.

The Guyana Chronicle understands that the FBI agents left with four computers and the two employees were invited for questioning at the Central Police Station in New Amsterdam.

The internet café remained closed until last night when it reopened for business but only for customers to make overseas phone calls. No browsing on the internet was allowed.

Spokesperson at the U.S. embassy here, Mr. Niles Cole told the Guyana Chronicle Saturday that the FBI and the TSA are investigating the terrorist threat.

He yesterday said further details could not be provided “because this is an ongoing investigation”.

“The U.S. government takes threats against American citizens seriously at all times regardless whether or not the threat turns out to be valid or credible”, he said Saturday.

“As a result”, said Mr. Cole, “the FBI and the Transportation Safety Authority are investigating.”

President Bharrat Jagdeo, in a comment to this newspaper Sunday, said the threat is being taken “very seriously”, even though there is a bigger possibility that it could be just a prank.

“We don’t know whether it’s a prank or it’s a real threat, but we took it seriously. We involved everyone, we got in touch with the U.S. agencies involved and our own security forces who are on the alert,” President Jagdeo said.

The Guyanese Head of State said he had been briefed by Transport and Hydraulics Minister Mr. Robeson Benn who was at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport at Timehri that morning (Sunday) and that based on the report he received from the minister, “everything seems ok”.

The President, however, assured that the government is “taking these things seriously and we intend to track this down and to trace the email because this can be done.”

“If it’s a prank, and I would assume it is if nothing happens, then people need to desist from these sorts of things. It just takes up too much of time and efforts from the authorities to be running after pranks rather than focusing on the real work that needs to be done in this country,” Mr. Jagdeo contended.

“We are doing our investigations and we will go right back to the source,” he assured.

Security has been beefed up at the airport following the terrorist threat, and the heightened security alert at the airport continued yesterday.

Among other heightened security measures, passengers are now going through a more stringent and elaborate screening process since the threatened chemical attack, whether it is a prank or not, is being taken very seriously by all stakeholders, officials said.

On Sunday night, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation announced it has activated its contingency plan in response to the threat against civil aviation, following the receipt of the anonymous email Friday.

In a statement, Benn said the Airport Emergency Committee was convened Friday evening in the Emergency Operations Centre and conducted a threat assessment.

The team, which included senior officers from the Guyana Police Force and the Airport Corporation, determined that additional security measures should be implemented in response to the threat, the statement said.

Security representatives from the U.S. Embassy, the FBI and the TSA were present, the statement said.

It reported that during the assessment, the team classified the threat level as ‘Alert Condition 3’ in accordance with the Airport Security Programme.

The airport corporation said Alert Condition 3 requires maximum security measures including:

** Additional screening of passengers
** More stringent access control measures

** Additional security checks of baggage/hand pieces

Mr. Benn met the Emergency Committee at the airport Sunday morning and was briefed on the security arrangements.

The statement said he subsequently toured the airport and observed the flight operations of a number of airlines.

“There was satisfaction expressed that the measures being taken were adequate to ensure the safety and security of the travelling public and the airline and airport assets”, the statement said.

The airport corporation announced that passengers will not be allowed to carry the following items in their hand luggage:

1. Liquids

2. Gels

3. Aerosols and

4. Powders

Passengers are permitted to carry these items in their ‘Checked Baggage’ only.

Benn is appealing to the travelling public for their cooperation during this time of “heightened security” as they are now required to undergo additional security checks at the airport.

Chief Executive Officer of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Corporation, Mr. Ramesh Ghir, told the Guyana Chronicle yesterday that the Emergency Committee is scheduled to meet again today at 09:00 h at the airport “to re-evaluate” the position of the threat.

The threat up to late yesterday had not affected any flights from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport to the U.S., Ghir assured.