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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

FBI in Ghana

..to probe botched US plane attack

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Agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation are in Ghana to find out about the sojourn in the country of a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a US airliner, a Ghanaian minister said Monday.

"The investigation will allow the FBI agents to gather more information on the suspect's stay in Ghana," Deputy Information Minister James Agyenin-Boateng told AFP.

He did not say when the FBI team arrived in Ghana and how long the agents plan to stay in the west African country.

It is Ghana's first known official comment on the allegations by Nigerian authorities that the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, arrived in Lagos on December 24 on a Virgin Nigeria flight from Ghana.

Nigerian Information Minister Dora Akunyili had said on Thursday that the suspect, after arriving from Ghana, spent less than 30 minutes at the Lagos airport before boarding his next flight for Amsterdam.

Abdulmutallab allegedly bought the ticket for the bomb targeted flight in Ghana where his journey began.

The director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Harold Demuren, had explained on December 26 that Abdulmutallab "boarded KLM flight out of Lagos on the 24th December, enroute Detroit, Michigan, USA, via Amsterdam." "The e-ticket was purchased from the KLM airport office in Accra on 16th December 2009," he said.

The suspect personally checked in at 20:35 pm (1935 GMT) and he went "through a normal checking process. His passport was scanned, his US visa was scanned and the APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) returned with no objection," he said.

His multiple US entry visa, issued in London on June 16 last year, was not due to expire until June 12 next year, he added.

Agyenin-Boateng said Ghana was unhappy about not being informed of concerns about Abdulmutallab whose father had reported the young man's radical views to the United States and other foreign security agencies.

"Fighting terrorism is a collective responsibility of every country and it is therefore important that we share security information of this nature if we are to fight terrorism," Agyenin-Boateng said.

"If we have heard this information (given to the US embassy in Nigeria) from our Nigerian counterparts, the suspect would have been subjected to a more thorough screening," he said.

Nigeria and Ghana are both members of the 15-nation regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Agyenin-Boateng also said that Ghana has purchased a full body scanner to be installed at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, the nation's biggest airport, where security has been beefed up.

"The scanner, when installed, would ensure that travellers go through full body scanning and find out if they are carrying any weapons or drugs," he said. US authorities have accused the Nigerian suspect of trying to trigger an explosion on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day with chemicals that had been stitched into his underwear. He is currently being held in a Michigan prison.

Washington said Monday stricter measures will be compulsory on flights from 14 nations, including Nigeria, while random "enhanced" checks will be carried out on all planes landing at a US airport.

All travellers from the targeted countries would be subjected to extra body pat-downs and advanced screening of baggage, a US official said. Imaging and explosive detection technology might also be used.

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