In the month leading up to the bombing, Qantas was targeted. LAX reported a bomb threat that was later deemed a hoax, but was it really? The secrecy has all ready set in and the cover up is well on its way, but the controversy will not go quietly.
-Local bomb probers decry denial of access to Qantas plane-
MANILA, Philippines -- Raising issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction, local bomb experts protested on Saturday what they said were strict restrictions imposed on them in their attempt to investigate the cause of the explosion that ripped a hole in a Qantas flight forced to land in Manila on Friday.
In a talk with the Inquirer, the experts said Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) assistant general manager and security chief Angel Atutubo prevented them from conducting an investigation into the Qantas Boeing 747 that made an emergency landing in Manila.
On the other hand, the experts said Australian authorities and even a team from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were allowed to have a look at the plane.
“We were prevented by General Atutubo to get close to the plane even if it is on Philippine soil. It’s an issue of sovereignty. He (Atutubo) gave us a hard time,” said a bomb expert who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of possible reprisals.
The officer said that if the plane had biohazard materials, local officials would be hard-pressed to quell any outbreak.
“Who would answer for that if something like Anthrax spreads? Can General Atutubo answer for that? Do we still have to ask permission for something as lethal as that?” he said.
Nonetheless, the lack of access, the sources said, had other foreign experts worried. “There should have been an advice given to Atutubo on the protocol until at least the source of the explosion was identified.”
Because of the lack of access to the plane, investigators were only able to give a theory on the cause of the explosion.
“It looked like there was some weakness in the metal rivets and structure aggravated by whatever chemicals were in the baggage section. But we cannot be absolutely sure,” the investigator said.
Another veteran bomb expert recalled that when a Philippine Airlines flight exploded in Japan in 1994, bomb investigators were allowed to inspect the plane by Japanese authorities.
“We asked the permission of Japanese authorities and they agreed. What is wrong if the same access, in the name of courtesy at least, was given to us in the Qantas flight?” he asked.
The bombing turned out to be a test mission of terrorists Ramzi Yousef who had established a terrorist cell in the country and had planned to launch a series of bombing attacks on international flights flying out of Manila. The operation, codenamed Operation Bojinka, was widely seen as the template for the September 11, 2001 attack on World Trade Center in the United States.
“Remember that flight (Friday’s Qantas flight) came from London and there were bombings there in July 7, 2005. So access should have been given in the name of international cooperation against terrorism,” he said.
The Qantas flight from London was on its way to Melbourne after a stop in Hong Kong when it made an emergency landing at the NAIA. Passengers recalled hearing an explosion with the plane descending rapidly afterward. No one was reported hurt in the incident.
[link to newsinfo.inquirer.net