Drones shut down London’s Gatwick Airport

Tens of thousands of stuck passengers wait at the North Terminal at London Gatwick Airport just days before Christmas. (AFP)
Updated 20 December 2018

Drones shut down London’s Gatwick Airport

  • There have been occasional reports of drones nearly hitting commercial airliners in the London area in recent years
  • Gatwick is a busy airport 27 miles south of central London

LONDON: London’s Gatwick Airport remains shut while police and airport officials investigate reports that drones were flying in the area of the airfield.
Passengers traveling Thursday were advised to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport.
Gatwick first closed Wednesday night at around 9 p.m. (2100 GMT) when drones were sighted. It reopened at around 3 a.m. (0300 GMT) Thursday morning but shut down again in 45 minutes when drones were spotted.

A body that represents British air traffic controllers says regulators have repeatedly ignored its calls for tougher measures against drones near aircraft.
The Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers says it has urged geofencing — the use of software to stop drones flying into restricted airspace — and other counter-drone measures, but its calls "have been repeatedly dismissed by regulatory bodies."
The guild says the disruption at Gatwick Airport on Thursday is unprecedented, but "such an event will continue to be a threat until appropriate measures are taken."
Hundreds of flights have been canceled and more than 100,000 travelers disrupted at the U.K.'s second-busiest airport since drones were spotted over the airfield on Wednesday evening.
Police are scouring the area for the drone operators.
Many incoming flights have been diverted to other destinations in Britain and continental Europe. The disruption is having a ripple effect on air travel as cancelations mount.

The drone sighting came near the height of the busy Christmas travel season.
Gatwick is a busy airport 27 miles south of central London.

British police say they believe the flying of drones over Gatwick Airport is a deliberate act, but there are no signs it is related to terrorism.
Flights in and out of Britain's second-busiest airport have been suspended since Wednesday evening, disrupting the journeys of tens of thousands of passengers.
Supt. Justin Burtenshaw, the airport police commander, said: "We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport. However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related."
Police say the first report of a drone over the airfield was made shortly after 9 p.m. (2100GMT) Wednesday and the last sighting around 8.45am on Thursday.
Police from two forces, backed by a helicopter, are scouring he area around the airport south of London for the drone operators.

British police say they believe the flying of drones over Gatwick Airport is a deliberate act, but there are no signs it is related to terrorism.
Flights in and out of Britain's second-busiest airport have been suspended since Wednesday evening, disrupting the journeys of tens of thousands of passengers.
Supt. Justin Burtenshaw, the airport police commander, said: "We believe this to be a deliberate act to disrupt the airport. However, there are absolutely no indications to suggest this is terror-related."
Police say the first report of a drone over the airfield was made shortly after 9 p.m. (2100GMT) Wednesday and the last sighting around 8.45am on Thursday.
Police from two forces, backed by a helicopter, are scouring he area around the airport south of London for the drone operators. London's Gatwick Airport says it expects disruption caused by drones to continue throughout Thursday and into Friday.
Flights at the major airport south of central London have been suspended since Wednesday night when two drones were reported above the airfield.
The airport statement says its runway remains unavailable because of the drones. It says all airlines have been advised to cancel flights up to at least 1600 GMT (11 a.m. EST).

It says anyone planning to fly Thursday or Friday should check with their airline before going to the airport.
The airport says it is working with airlines on plans to handle the many cancellations and delays once the runway is opened.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the government is considering "further police powers" to deal with the threat from drones to aircraft.
Tens of thousands of passengers have been disrupted in a shutdown of London's Gatwick Airport because drones were spotted over the airfield. Police are searching for the drone operators.
May says using a drone to endanger aircraft is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. She says "we are consulting on further aspects" of legal enforcement, "including further police powers."May told reporters that "I feel for all those passengers whose travel plans have been disrupted." She said the disruption "is particularly difficult for people" as it comes during the holiday season.

 


Afghan president vows to crush Daesh after deadly Kabul wedding strike

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attends a state ceremony for the Afghan Independence Day in Kabul on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 30 min 30 sec ago

Afghan president vows to crush Daesh after deadly Kabul wedding strike

  • ‘We have collapsed from the inside,’ says attack survivor

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani vowed to wipe out Daesh, after a deadly attack on a wedding party in Kabul killed more than 60 people. The suicide bombing also injured 200 others late on Saturday evening.
Ghani, whose government is facing intense criticism for failing to deter attacks by sympathizers of Daesh and the Taliban, also announced the postponement of 100th anniversary celebrations of the country’s independence from Britain that were due to take place.
“We will eliminate Daesh hideouts all around the country … the fight against Daesh will be intensified,” Ghani said during a brief state ceremony to mark independence, even though formal festivities were put on hold.
The government had allocated millions of dollars and set aside two years for planning the event. “We postponed celebrations to honor the victims, but we will take the revenge of our people,” he added.
Daesh claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which happened while guests and family members of the bride and groom were in segregated halls for men and women.
Most of the victims were Shiite and ethnic Hazaras. Daesh considers them to be heretics and has targeted them in recent years.
“I think many of us are merely alive by appearance and physically. Mentally, we are all dead. We have collapsed from the inside,” Zaman Shah, a 25-year-old survivor who lost three brothers in the attack, told Arab News.
The bomber blew himself up in the men’s hall. The groom was with the bride in the women’s section and survived, but both lost at least 25 family members.
Six children from one family perished. Other families lost loved ones too.
“I lost two of my brothers and four nephews, life has no meaning for me anymore,” Ahmad Fawad told reporters. “Postponing the independence anniversary will not cure our grief, this government is weak and useless and cannot protect people.”
Hasmat Hussien, another survivor, lost eight close members of his family and relatives in the attack. “We do not know why this calamity has befallen us. You cannot understand or comprehend our grief, misery and pain. We have not managed to sleep or eat for nearly two days now,” he said.
Amir Mohammad a 50-year-old man whose son died and had two others wounded in the attack, said: “Life has become meaningless for my family. These people who were targeted were poor, ordinary civilians, not government authorities or generals.”
The suicide bombing took place even as the US and the Taliban near a peace deal that could eventually lead to the complete withdrawal of foreign troops and end decades of conflict.
The Taliban, for its part, has pledged not to allow any group to use Afghanistan for attacks against any country.
“The US is making a peace deal with the Taliban, but we fear Daesh will be the next group that will expand its activities and there will be fighting for an uncertain future,” Kabul shopkeeper Rahim Dad said. “There will be peace with one group, but war with another. That means we won’t have peace, even if America and the Taliban make peace,” he added.
Ghani blamed the Taliban for the attack, saying it had given rise to extremist networks such as Daesh.
The Taliban, whose fighters have battled Daesh in some parts of the country, condemned the attack and showed sympathy with the victims.
US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has led the US side in peace talks with the Taliban since last year, tweeted Sunday that it was time to step up efforts to end fighting.
But the peace talks have faltered, mostly because the Taliban refuses to engage with Ghani’s government.
“We condemn Daesh (Daesh) and yesterday’s heinous attack on a Kabul wedding hall that killed scores of innocent Afghan families,” Khalilzad tweeted. “We must accelerate the #AfghanPeaceProcess including intra-Afghan negotiations. Success here will put Afghans in a much stronger position to defeat Daesh.”
There was tight security in major cities as thousands of Afghans poured onto the streets to mark the 100th independence anniversary.
But blasts in the eastern city of Jalalabad disrupted the day. Officials said at least 50 people were wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts in the city, parts of which have been a Daesh bastion.