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By Arie Egozi

“In a state where one can purchase almost any type of weapon just as you buy a hamburger, it has been reasonable to expect that weapons would not be allowed at a passenger aircraft baggage hold, ready to use for a terrorist attack right after landing”, an Israeli expert on aviation security said yesterday.

According to this expert, he and his colleagues had cautioned the US security authorities time and again about this danger, but the regulations were not changed.

This evaluation came after it has become clear that the young 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, who had shot to death five people at a Florida airport, had actually used a weapon that was kept in his luggage – the luggage that had passed strict checkups. He arrived in Florida from Alaska, and right after receiving his suitcase at the terminal he drew his gun from the suitcase and started shooting.  

According to the investigation, Santiago received the weapon when he collected his luggage at the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale international airport after the flight. He loaded the gun at the bathroom, and then went out and started shooting towards the passengers.  

In the US, as it is all over the world, it is prohibited to carry weapons inside the airliner’s passengers cabin, but it is legal to put it in the luggage loaded into the aircraft’s baggage hold, if the weapons are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container that can be opened only by the weapon’s owner.

This procedure prevents the hijacking of aircraft using firearms, but, as indicated, it makes it possible to perpetrate a massacre at the destination airport, just as it happened Friday.

In the US it was mentioned that it was not the first time that armed assailants use weapons kept in their suitcase upon receiving their baggage, and the previous such event occurred in Israel in 1972. Then, three armed members of the Japanese Red Army took out guns and grenades from their luggage after landing at the Lod (Ben Gurion) airport, assassinating 24 people and injuring dozens. Eight of the killed were Israeli and the rest were pilgrims from Puerto Rico. The terrorists perpetrated the attack on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Lessons were learned in Israel and in most of the world. But not in the US. “The strange thing is that all the security experts cautioned the American security authorities regarding this significant breach, but nothing has been done”, according to the Israeli expert.

During the last years, huge amounts of money were invested in modern equipment for identifying weapons and explosives in US airports. However, the experts claim, no one thought to close this huge breach. “I hope that the last attack would bring about some change”, said the expert.