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European flights are cancelled due to volcanic ash

Volcanic ash from Iceland caused widespread disruption at airports in Britain and other parts of northern Europe on Monday, delaying or grounding hundreds of flights.

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Volcanic ash: Airline losses climb over $1 bn

Airline losses from the volcanic ash cloud climbed above $1 billion on Monday, and the industry demanded compensation from the European Union as officials agreed to let flights resume on a limited basis.

Airlines are losing as much as $300 million per day, with European companies like British Airways suffering the most. An umbrella group for the airline industry criticized European leaders’ handling of the disruption, which has grounded thousands of flights to and from Europe for the past five days.

Wife tells CIA nigerian christmas bomber saw US as enemy

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – The wife of the suspected Jordanian double agent who killed seven CIA workers in Afghanistan said Wednesday her husband regard the United States as an adversary.

Defne Bayrak, the Turkish wife of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, told Turkish media by telephone she was shocked at the news that her husband blew himself up at a base in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, killing himself and the officers.

Passengers stopped Nigerian terrorist from hijacking plane

An attempted terrorist attack on a Christmas Day flight began with a pop and a puff of smoke — sending passengers scrambling to subdue a Nigerian man who claimed to be acting on orders from al-Qaeda to blow up the airliner, officials and travelers said.

The commotion began as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying 278 passengers and 11 crewmembers from Amsterdam, prepared to land in Detroit just before noon Friday.

“It sounded like a firecracker in a pillowcase,” said Peter Smith, a passenger from the Netherlands. “First there was a pop, and then (there) was smoke.”

Smith said one passenger climbed over other people, went across the aisle and tried to restrain the man, who officials say was trying to ignite an explosive device. The heroic passenger appeared to have been burned.

Afterward, the suspect was taken to a front-row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned. Multiple law enforcement officials also said the man appeared badly burned on his legs, indicating the explosive was strapped there. The components were apparently mixed in-flight and included a powdery substance, multiple law enforcement and counterterrorism officials said.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel. The incident was reminiscent of Richard Reid, who tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes, but was subdued by other passengers.

Multiple law enforcement officials identified the suspect in Friday’s attempted attack as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. He was described as Nigerian.

One law enforcement official said the man claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaeda to detonate the plane over U.S. soil, but other law enforcement officials cautioned that such claims could not be verified immediately, and said the man may have been acting independently — inspired but not specifically trained or ordered by terror groups.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

The man was being questioned Friday evening. An intelligence official said he was being held and treated in an Ann Arbor, Mich., hospital. The hospital said one passenger from the flight was taken to the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, but referred all inquiries to the FBI.

Melinda Dennis, who was seated in the front row of the plane, said the man involved was brought to the front row and seated near her. She said his legs appeared to be badly burned and his pants were cut off. She said he was taken off the plane handcuffed to a stretcher.

One law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mutallab’s name had surfaced earlier on at least one U.S. intelligence database, but he was not on a watch list or a no-fly list.

The suspect boarded in Nigeria and went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit, Peter King, the ranking Republican member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN. A spokeswoman for police at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam declined comment about the case or about security procedures at the airport for Flight 253.

Dutch airline KLM says the connection in Amsterdam from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit involves a change in carrier and a change in aircraft.

Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest with a heavy load of transit passengers from Africa and Asia to North America, strictly enforces European security regulations including only allowing small amounts of liquid in hand luggage that must be placed inside clear plastic bags. After the attempted attack, passengers to the U.S. were being frisked at the gate as an added security measure, said airport spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang.

A spokesman for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Akin Olukunle, said all passengers and their luggage are screened before boarding international flights. He also said the airport in Lagos cleared a U.S. Transportation Security Administration audit in November.

“We had a pass mark,” Olukunle said. “We actually are up to standards in all senses.”

Delta Air Lines Inc., which acquired Northwest last year, said a passenger caused a disturbance, was subdued, and the crew requested that law enforcement officials meet the flight.

Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane’s descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”

“Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic,” he said.

Federal officials said there would be heightened security for both domestic and international flights at airports across the country, but the intensified levels would likely be “layered,” differing from location to location depending on alerts, security concerns and other factors.

Passengers can expect to see heightened screening, more bomb-sniffing dog and officer units and behavioral-detection specialists at some airports, but there will also be unspecified less visible precautions as well, officials said.

The FBI and the Homeland Security Department issued an intelligence note on Nov. 20 about the threat picture for the holiday season, which was obtained by The Associated Press. At the time, officials said they had no specific information about attack plans by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

President Obama was notified of the incident and discussed it with security officials, the White House said. Officials said he is monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates from his vacation spot in Hawaii.

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