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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Mass arrest of US airport employees
A sniffer dog checks baggage at Washinton's Reagan National Airport
Workers and passengers face greater checks
US authorities have arrested more than 100 people at the capital's three main airports in a continuing crackdown on security breaches.

The employees - construction workers, cleaners, food workers and at least two baggage screeners - were accused of lying on applications to get security passes.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft
John Ashcroft said the arrests "should be a wake-up call for every airport"
They worked at Dulles - from where a flight was seized and crashed into the Pentagon on 11 September - as well as Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International airports.

A nationwide operation by law enforcement and transportation authorities has netted about 350 people since the attacks on Washington and New York when four domestic flights were hijacked and crashed deliberately, killing thousands.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said: "There will be zero tolerance of security breaches at our nation's airports."

But the government said there was no evidence that the people arrested were linked to any terrorist group or that any had compromised aviation security.

Gun convictions

Most of the people arrested - US citizens as well as foreigners and illegal immigrants - have been charged with lying on security applications, using false Social Security information and immigration offences.

Some had criminal records including drugs and weapons charges and others were fugitives wanted in other states, authorities said.

The Pentagon on fire after being attacked on 11 September
A plane from Dulles was crashed into the Pentagon on 11 September
Mr Ashcroft said: "What this investigation uncovered should be a wake-up call for every airport in America."

But Mr Ashcroft said jobs that allowed workers access to sensitive parts of airports and onto planes were positions of trust and that law officials would continue to crack down on violations.

The latest arrests involved 68 workers at Dulles, 26 at Reagan National and six at Baltimore-Washington International.

Dozens more people have been indicted and are expected to be arrested in the operation, codenamed "Fly Trap".

See also:

07 Nov 01 | Americas
US airport security 'in crisis'
02 Nov 01 | Americas
Congress tackles airport security
13 Sep 01 | Americas
US eyes armed guards for planes
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