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New US flight checks 'discriminate against Nigeria'

Nigeria, home of the failed US plane bomber, Monday branded new security measures for passengers flying to the United States unfair and said they amounted to discrimination against its 150 million people.

The US government announced that travellers from 14 countries, including Nigeria, are to be subjected to extra checks including body pat-downs after a young Nigerian was accused of trying to blow up a US jet on Christmas Day.

But Nigeria's Information Minister Dora Akunyili said that Africa's most populous nation did not have a history of terrorism and such a move could not be justified.

"It is unfair to include Nigeria on the US list for tighter screening because Nigerians do not have terrorist tendencies," Akunyili told journalists.

"It is unfair to discriminate against over 150 million people because of the behaviour of one person," said the minister.

A 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been accused of trying to trigger an explosion on the Northwest Airlines plane with chemicals which had been stitched into his underwear.

"Abdulmutallab's behaviour is not reflective of Nigerians and should therefore not be used as a yardstick to judge all Nigerians," said Akunyili.

"He was not influenced in Nigeria. He was not recruited or trained in Nigeria. He was not supported whatsoever in Nigeria."

Prosecutors say that Abdulmutallab tried to carry out the attack after undergoing training by a Yemen-based Al-Qaeda cell which said it was behind the plot.

Nigeria's angry response is the first from the 14 countries on the US list, which include Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, designated state sponsors of terrorism by Washington.

The new measures would apply to all passengers travelling from or via a total of 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as Nigeria, where Abdulmutallab's family lives.

The New York Times and Washington Post quoted government officials as saying the other four countries were Algeria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Akunyili said the incident involving Abdulmutallab was a "one-off thing".

His "behaviour is not reflective of Nigerians and should therefore not be used as a yardstick to judge all Nigerians."

"Abdulmutallab was a well-behaved child, from a responsible family, who developed the ugly tendency to do what he tried to do because of his exposure outside the shores of Nigeria," the minister said.

Washington said Monday stricter measures will be compulsory on flights from the 14 nations while random "enhanced" checks will be carried out on all planes landing at a US airport.

"Every individual flying into the US from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening," the Transport Security Administration said.

All travellers from the targeted countries would be subjected to extra body pat-downs and advanced screening of baggage, a US official said. Imaging and explosive detection technology might also be used.

Source: AFP

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