US warns of ‘unconfirmed threat’ to CAL flights

-gov’t assures ‘highest security posture’, airline to operate as normal

Citing unconfirmed threat information, the US Em-bassy yesterday advised its citizens here to avoid CAL flights over the next few days and government officials last night said the “highest security posture” in in place while the regional airline said its service will go ahead as scheduled.

The US embassy advisory posted on its website was unprecedented here post 9/11 and fuelled questions as to what sort of security threat existed, its credibility and source. Security officials were tightlipped about this yesterday.

The Trinidad Express reported that the threat emanated from a telephone call from Barbados.

“The Embassy has received unconfirmed threat information relating to Caribbean Airlines flights destined for the United States departing on Monday, February 10, 2014,” the embassy stated on its website.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy advises all U.S. Citizens in Guyana traveling on Carib-bean Airlines (CAL) to the United States from Mon-day, February 10 through Wednesday, February 12, 2014, to make alternate travel arrangements,” the statement added.

The first CAL flight today, BW 484  is due to leave at 5.35 this morning. BW 524 is set to leave at 6.05 am, BW 527 at 8.35 am, BW 662 at 10.15 am and BW 424 at 2.40 pm.

Minister of Transport Robeson Benn told Stabroek News yesterday that his ministry was aware of the threat and the respective agencies were briefed. To this end Benn said that a “high level security meeting” was held on Saturday with security stakeholders to discuss implementation of heightened security measures and to implement additional systems to prevent any untoward occurrence and allay the fears of travellers and the public.  “We have upped the ante…we are working to ensure the safety of passengers and airline and airport personnel,” Benn said.

Further, he informed that  Caribbean Airlines personnel in Trinidad and Barbados have also  been notified .

The Ministry of Public Works in a press statement last night echoed Benn’s stance and assured that the “highest security posture” was in place to ensure smooth and safe operations at the airport.

It said that the heightened security posture will remain in place over a number of days until such time as the threat is no longer deemed valid.

The ministry is asking airport users to be on the lookout for any suspicious activities and occurrences and to immediately report same to an airport security official.

Stabroek News understands that the threat was received about two weeks ago and was specific to the February 10th flight which had at least one US embassy official scheduled to travel.

When contacted by telephone yesterday,  Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee informed that he was in a meeting. He could not be contacted later.

An official from the Disciplined Services told Stabroek News that both the police and army were on alert and both had discussions with the Home Affairs Ministry.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Airlines has said that while stringent security measures have been upped its flights remain uninterrupted.

“Caribbean Airlines will like to advise the travelling public that we are working closely with all authorities to ensure that security protocols are followed. All Caribbean Airlines flights will operate as scheduled and we thank the travelling public for their understanding for any inconvenience at this time and special security measure will be put in place at this period”, CAL’s Head of Corporate Communications, Clint Williams said in a statement to the Trinidad Express.

CAL’s Country Manager Carl Stuart told Stabroek News that he could not get into the details of security arrangements lest it compromises the company’s plans. However, he said that both CAL and government were prompt in establishing security protocols as it pertains to the  threats.

The US embassy’s statement strongly recommended that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Guyana enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). “STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy,” the statement said.

It also advises that citizens regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where they can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Travelers can also refer  to “A Safe Trip Abroad” on the State Department’s website for further information.

They can also contact the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date information on travel restrictions by  calling  1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). During regular business hours the embassy can be reached at 225-4900/9 Ext. 4222. U.S. citizens in need of urgent assistance may use the embassy’s 623-1992 number.

Citizens can also follow the embassy on social media sites such as  Twitter and Facebook, and download their  free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips.

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