Lisbon airport “safety at risk”, court hears

A bizarre case over an alleged terrorist who used a tree to ‘invade’ Lisbon runway has heard that security lapses that failed to detect him over a year ago are just as evident today as they were then.

Gima Calunga has been in custody since being found last year with a knife in his hand next to an Angolan plane ready for take-off. His trial has been listening to evidence for some weeks, and has seen him described as a “time-bomb, with no consideration for his own life or that of others”.

Calunga told police shortly after his apprehension that he had converted to Islam and attended a terrorist training camp in Syria before being forcibly returned to Europe.

In Holland, where he lived after the age of 16, he is on a list of suspected jihadi fighters – but the story now has ‘moved on’ a bit from whether or not Calunga will be condemned for his oddball assault with a knife, which a TAAG Angola airline official has told the court “could not have caused serious or irreversible damages” to the plane whatever he was intent on doing with it.

What is more worrying, airport supervisor Paulo Fradique has explained is the fact that “almost nothing” has been done to tackle Portela’s security failings.

Fradique claims CCTV cameras along the perimetre of the central city airport leave a number of areas uncovered, and that there are trees on the busy 2º Circular road that remain “stuck to airport fencing”.

Some of the trees have branches reaching into the restricted area – which is how Calunga managed to scale the fence in the first place and then travel over 2km, without being detected, to the runway.

In fact, the very tree he used is still very much in place, writes Correio da Manhã this morning in a front-page story declaring: “Security failing in Portela airport”.

When Calunga was arrested, a PSP chief told the paper “it is impossible to guarantee 100% safety” at the airport as the “perimeter is enormous and manpower is insignificant. Patrols are haphazard”, he added.

Since then, with Europe now on heightened terrorist alerts, armed PSP officers have been drafted in to strengthen security and are now said to be much more in evidence, backing SEF inspectors who are under strict instructions to monitor all passengers travelling to Portugal from France.

The new ‘controls’ have led to the detention of five Iranians in the last two weeks, reports CM.

[email protected]