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Brussels attacks: Airport security under the spotlight again

Passengers at airport

Global airport security is again under the spotlight following the attacks in Brussels. Is it ever possible to prevent a suicide bomber entering an airport to kill and maim?

In 2003, the British government ordered the military to use tanks to protect London's Heathrow Airport, after receiving what it claimed was a credible and "chilling" threat against airport passengers.

The following month, tour operators said it had been a "public relations disaster". American travellers thought Britain had declared martial law and bookings plummeted.

Three years later, a ban on liquids in the air was introduced, resulting in long queues, and forcing airports to redesign their security procedures.

The rule remains in place, disrupting the positive experience of air travel for passengers.

Increasing security always has an impact and as the maxim goes, if we have to change our lives, the terrorists have won.

As a result, secure air travel is always a compromise.

Airports are generally designed around a clear security "line" - the central check-point where passengers' documentation is checked, they are scanned for concealed items and sometimes swabbed for explosives.

They then pass into

Brussels explosions: UK Foreign Office warns against travel to Brussels

Armed police at Stansted Airport, EssexImage copyright PA Image caption Officers are carrying out high-visibility patrols at UK airports among other places

The Foreign Office is warning against travel to Brussels after more than 30 people are believed to have been killed in attacks on the airport and metro.

Two British nationals were among the injured, a spokesman confirmed.

Security at ports, airports, Tube and major railway stations in the UK has been stepped up.

David Cameron condemned the attacks, which have been claimed by so-called Islamic State, and warned of "a very real terror threat" across Europe.

Twin blasts hit Zaventem airport at about 07:00 GMT, with 11 people reported killed. Another explosion at Maelbeek metro station near EU headquarters an hour later left about 20 people dead.

Brussels police have issued a wanted notice for a man seen pushing a luggage trolley through the airport.

Specialist police from the UK have been sent to Brussels to help with the investigation. The prime minister will chair a second Cobra security meeting to determine the UK's response to the attacks on Wednesday morning.

CCTV grab of suspectsImage copyright AFP Image caption Police are hunting for the man pictured in the far right of this CCTV image of three suspected attackers

The Foreign Office said embassy staff were "providing consular assistance to two injured Britons and are ready to support any further British nationals that have been affected".

Britons in Brussels were told "to remain alert and vigilant, and stay away from crowded places".

An emergency number for those worried a relative may have been affected has been issued - 020 7008 0000.

It is also advising British nationals to follow the guidance of the Belgian security authorities, which are advising against travel to the capital.


More about the attacks

Latest updates on Brussels attacks

What we know so far

In pictures: Brussels explosions

Why was Brussels attacked?