Hijacking an airplane from Rīga International Airport, where security is not as high as in some Western European facilities, may have been explored two years ago by terrorists intent on striking Heathrow Airport in London, the newspaper The Sunday Times reported Oct. 9.
Citing British intelligence sources, who were responding to a White House list of Al-Qaeda attacks prevented by the United States and its partners, the newspaper reported that terrorists considered hijacking an airplane in Eastern Europe and crashing it into Heathrow, potentially killing hundreds of people.
The paper reported that “an Al-Qaeda cell had been spotted carrying out reconnaissance at an airport in eastern Europe, possibly in Poland, Latvia or Estonia.”
The list of 10 terrorist plots thwarted by the United States and its partners was released by the White House on Oct. 6 following President George W. Bush’s speech on the war on terror. No. 6 on the list refers to the Heathrow Airport plot.
“In 2003 the U.S. and several partners disrupted a plot to attack Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airliners,” according to the list. “The planning for this attack was undertaken by a major 9/11 operational figure.”
British authorities, according to The Sunday Times, considered closing Heathrow in response to the threat. Also suspected was a potential mortar attack against a passenger plane at Heathrow. The attacks were expected in February 2003.
About 712,000 passengers were served at the Rīga airport in 2003, according to the airport’s Web site. That number has almost doubled this year. A total of 19,504 aircraft movements were logged at the airport in 2003.
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