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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Switzerland Eases Ban on Knives on Planes

January 04, 2002|From Associated Press

GENEVA — A ban on airline passengers carrying knives on board flights from Switzerland has been relaxed, aviation officials said Thursday.

Geneva airport spokesman Philippe Roy said passengers can take knives in their carry-on baggage if the blade is shorter than 2.36 inches and cannot be locked open.

But at Zurich airport, spokesman Joern Wagenbach said security officers would continue to confiscate any knives they find.

Bans were imposed worldwide in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when the hijackers who crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are believed to have used knives or box cutters to take control of the aircraft.

Credit card records showed that Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the hijacking teams, bought two knives while he spent several hours in the Zurich airport on his way from Miami to Madrid last July.

Swiss army pocketknives with multiple short blades and tools are a popular souvenir, often found on sale in Switzerland's airport shops.

"You have to do the maximum to ensure security in a plane, but you should avoid total paranoia," said Roy, who said the ban was relaxed after Swiss authorities consulted the aviation industry.

Daniel Goering, a spokesman for the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation, said: "Every time something happens--like Sept. 11--security measures are reviewed, and if there is a need for a long-term change, then that change will be made."

Airports were free to apply stricter standards if they wished, he said.

A ban remains on longer-bladed knives, which were forbidden long before the terrorist attacks in the United States, Roy said.

"Our staff confiscated 250 long knives in August," he said. "After the ban in September, we confiscated more than 5,000 objects--not only knives but scissors and so on.

"Even now I would still advise anyone who wants to carry even a Swiss army knife to put it in their hold baggage, just to avoid any security delays."

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