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Friday, 30 August, 2002, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Swedish airport security praised
Ryanair plane on the ground at Vasteras airport
The man attempted to board a flight to London

Swedish airport authorities have been praised for their security measures after a man was arrested on suspicion of attempted hijacking, when trying to board a plane to London carrying a handgun.

The man was stopped when he was supposed to be stopped - our security works

Gunnar Harmen, Swedish Civil Aviation Authority

The gun was discovered during a routine x-ray check at Vasteras, a small airport 100 km (62 miles) west of Stockholm.

The check is carried out on all hand luggage on both domestic and international flights from Sweden.

Safety requirements are the same at all Swedish airports, regardless of size. Vasteras has only three international departures - Oslo in Norway, Copenhagen in Denmark and Stansted, London.

Tightened security

Like in many other countries, airport security was tightened in Sweden after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Gunnar Harmen, senior advisor on security for the Swedish Civil Aviation Authority, said special security measures were introduced for departures to the UK and the US.

Airport X-Ray machine
Airport security has been beefed up around the world since 11 September

"We now also scan all hold luggage for these flights, meaning x-raying, hand searching or both. Before 11 September hold luggage was only randomly searched."

Mr Harmen said there had been very few previous incidents of weapons found in passengers' hand luggage.

"The last time was in 1998, when we had two incidents. In one case it was a mentally disturbed person.

"The other was an old lady carrying a walking stick containing a concealed gun. She wasn't aware of it being there."

Police criticised

While many of the passengers involved in the incident have praised Swedish airport security, some have criticised the way police operated during the evacuation of the plane.

One of the passengers, Abla Mohamed Ali from Stockholm, said the police aimed their guns at passengers while instructing them to leave the aircraft.

Vasteras airport
Passengers were taken away by bus for questioning

Police spokesman Bjoern Svensson refused to comment on this.

"Swedish police are always armed with pistols, and in certain circumstances they will use automatic weapons.

"The police in Thursday's operation were carrying automatic weapons. I can't comment on whether any of these weapons were aimed at any of the passengers during that operation," he said.

No hijackings

There has never been a hijacking of aircraft originating in Sweden.

On two occasions Sweden has received planes which had been hijacked in other countries, and both times the hijacks were peacefully resolved by Swedish authorities.

Gunnar Harmen of the Swedish Civil Aviation Authority said he saw no need for a tightening of security at Swedish airports.

"The man was stopped when he was supposed to be stopped. Our security works," he said.

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