Israeli held over airport breach

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2011, 12:00am


An Israeli man was questioned by police last night after he managed to breach a restricted area at Hong Kong International Airport and injure two armed officers from the Airport Security Unit.

The 27-year-old man, who also injured three airport staff, had to be pepper-sprayed by the officers before he could be restrained.

The security breach, in which the man got on the tracks of the airport shuttle train system shortly before 4pm yesterday, is the first of its kind since the facility opened in 1998.

The incident halted train services between two stations in the east and west halls of Terminal One for around four hours, and service resumed at 8pm, according to the Airport Authority.

A spokeswoman said authorities were investigating how the man, whom police identified only as 'Ben', got into the restricted area. Police described him as being 'emotional' and said he injured two armed officers and three airport employees. Security officials used pepper spray on the suspect before he was overpowered and arrested, a spokesman said.

All five injured and the Israeli were treated for minor injuries at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung. The Israeli was arrested on suspicion of assaulting police officers, but had not been charged as of last night. The Airport Security Unit was formed in 1977 and provides security primarily in terrorist incidents at the airport, known as Chek Lap Kok.

Officers routinely carry Glock 17 pistols, Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine guns and expandable batons.

Philip Curlewis, an expert from a security and investigation company, said the man was 'very lucky' not to be shot during the incident, as would have been the case if it had happened at an airport in the United States or Europe.

But he said security at the Hong Kong airport was strong enough, such that cases of this kind were rare.

He said the government and the tourism board took the city's image into consideration when determining security levels.

'It's hard to justify an upgrade in airport security' when the majority of cases involve a low level threat of terrorist attack, Curlewis said.