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Mon, Sep 20, 2004

KLM 'Jumbo Jacked'

747 Cargo Flight Robbed In South Africa

The security situation at Johannesburg International Airport appears to be in disarray, after a KLM Boeing 747-400 cargo aircraft was robbed at gunpoint -- on the tarmac.

A cargo of diamonds and gold was reportedly being unloaded from the KLM aircraft when the robbers struck.

There was a shoot-out and three of the officers escorting the cargo were wounded. All were said by South African officials to be in stable condition. The robbers, meantime, fled on foot in several different directions. No arrests were made and an investigation continues. Officials said the bad guys didn't get any of the booty they were willing to kill for.

"The group of armed men struck while freight was being unloaded on the ramp," KLM said in a statement. "The police intervened and shots were exchanged, but neither passengers nor flight and ground personnel sustained any injuries. The gunmen escaped in the ensuing chaos."

Journalists Probe Airport Security

Just hours before the robbery, the Weekend Argus newspaper sent a reporter and a photographer brazenly drove up to the airport's perimeter electric fence. At that particular spot, they said, the fence wasn't charged with electricity. Wearing dark clothes and a balaclava, the photographer was able to pull apart the wires and walk right in to what is supposed to be a highly secure area.

Three hours later, the robbers were on the tarmac.

Just the day before, a policeman was shot at "Charlie Gate" by armed men trying to gain access to the airport. Also last week, according to the Weekend Argus, robbers broke into the British Airways ticket office and robbed a safe. Actually, they took the whole thing, lock stock and content. BA officials didn't know how much money was in the safe.

A Swissport executive at Johannesburg International said his safe was also stolen, although there was nothing of value inside.

Airline Pilots Association of South Africa vice president Harvey Van Rooyen said: "We are extremely concerned about the number of times security has been breached at the airport. We cannot have people shooting at our aircraft, our pilots or at our passengers. These kinds of incidents will also cause the international market to stop doing business with us. This must be dealt with very seriously."

FMI: www.airports.co.za

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