- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 30, 2002

Federal security agencies have warned U.S. airlines and airports to be alert for attacks from portable anti-aircraft missiles after an Israeli airliner was fired at this week in Kenya.
"We have taken the steps we need to take to make sure everyone's in the loop on this incident and reminding them of the approach to this issue," said Robert Johnson, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.
"We are engaged in responding to this issue, and we have been since earlier this year."
Two missiles were fired from the ground at an Israeli jet that took off from Mombasa, Kenya, on Thursday. The missiles narrowly missed hitting the Arkia Airlines Boeing 757 with 261 passengers and 10 crew members. Passengers reported seeing the trail of the missiles pass the aircraft.
The aircraft landed safely in Tel Aviv with no casualties, and Israeli and American authorities immediately cast suspicion on al Qaeda or its allies. Kenyan authorities yesterday said they had arrested six Pakistanis, four Somalis, an American and a Spaniard.
Mr. Johnson said the TSA on Thursday alerted security officials at airports of steps being taking to prevent portable missile attacks, but he declined to provide details.
"This is not out of the ordinary," he said of the warnings to airports. "The only thing that made it of interest to the media was the situation in Kenya."
The TSA has authority for security within the perimeters of airports. Portable missiles would probably be fired near areas outside airport landing strips. Most shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles have a range of between 1 mile and 3 miles and are most effective against targets at altitudes from 10,000 to 15,000 feet.
Television reports from Kenya showed one of the expended missile launchers, which experts said appeared to be a Russian-made SA-7 system, which uses an infrared-guidance system.
A second U.S. official said an attack against a U.S. airliner using a shoulder-fired portable missile is a danger.
"It's an issue that concerns us," the official said.
One solution is ordering airlines to install missile warning and countermeasure systems on commercial jets, the official said.
Currently, U.S. military aircraft are equipped with missile sensors that sound an alarm when a ground-fired missile approaches. The system includes firing flares or metallic chaff from the back of the aircraft to thwart the tracking system of anti-aircraft missiles.
The cost of equipping U.S. jets would be very expensive and would have to be paid by the airlines, the officials said.
In May, the U.S. government alerted airlines and law enforcement agencies about intelligence reports indicating that Islamic terrorists have smuggled shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles into the United States.
It came after the discovery that terrorists in Saudi Arabia recently targeted U.S. military forces in the kingdom.
The missiles are thought to be Russian-made SA-7s or U.S.-made Stingers obtained in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
Saudi security police have also found an empty SA-7 launcher around Prince Sultan Air Base, a desert base near Riyadh that U.S. air forces in Saudi Arabia use.
Mr. Johnson said the TSA met with airline officials and airline-industry security officials several weeks ago to talk about the danger posed by missile attacks on commercial jets.
"This is something we do on an as-needed basis with industry," Mr. Johnson said. "What is shared at those meetings is classified," he said, noting that the threat of surface-to-air missile attacks "was one of the topics on the agenda of this meeting."


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