Terrorist alert at Lisbon airport as four North Africans “invade runway”

Dozens of flights were disrupted last night – with several being diverted to Faro and Porto – after four North Africans arriving at Lisbon’s
Humberto Delgado airport from Algeria tried to storm the runway in a bid to make it out of the complex.

For now, the incident is being treated as a case of attempted illegal immigration.

A fifth Algerian who did not make it onto the runway was due to be deported today (Sunday), while the four that did have all been taken into custody by the counter-terrorism unit of the Judicial Police, writes Diário de Notícias.

The men will be appearing before the central court of criminal instruction tomorrow, though DN suggests investigations are continuing “with contacts made with Algerian counterparts”.

The drama began shortly after 7.30pm when TAP flight TP 1467 touched down in Lisbon from Houari Boumedienne airport in Algiers.

The four men now in custody are understood to have broken through a security door in the disembarkation area and started their sprint across the tarmac.

PSP agents set off in pursuit and are believed to have caught the men within minutes.

Nonetheless, flights in and out of Lisbon were affected as authorities instituted a shutdown.

Hundreds of passengers ready for take-off remained inside their planes, as many more in flights preparing to arrive found themselves circling and then heading off for new destinations.

In all, the airport was closed for 34 minutes.

Initial reports were so confused that national tabloid Correio da Manhã ran with the story today that six men had been involved, and one was “still on the run”.

This would appear to be incorrect as authorities have since stressed that all the men involved have been caught.

It appears that the one who did not break onto the runway is to be deported ahead of the others, but there have been no explanations as to why.

DN reveals that all the men were enroute for Cape Verde, and this is why they had not been asked to show visas for Portugal when they embarked in Algiers.

“The idea would have been to try and escape for Lisbon as soon as they landed”, writes the paper.

But the logic is unclear as the men also did not possess visas for entry into Cape Verde.Thus how they managed to clear embarkation in Algiers is still something of an issue.

One of the runaways had to be treated in hospital for “minor injuries” which DN claimed he sustained during his arrest.

Correio da Manhã has a different story – maintaining the man was carrying a knife with which he inflicted various injuries to his own body “just before he was detained”. CM says this man and all the others have been maintaining “absolute silence” since their arrests.

Bizarrely, both newspaper agree that this has not been the first recent case of attempted runs-for-it from Lisbon airport.

Earlier this month, a similar incident occurred with Moroccan citizens, writes CM.

Saturday’s incident has been picked up by the UK’s Daily Express, which called it “shocking” but also suggested that “there is no evidence so far that the men had terrorist links”.