New Zealand to increase flight security after attempted hijacking

WELLINGTON, New Zealand_New Zealand will introduce wider passenger security screening at its regional airports after a woman attempted to hijack a short-haul domestic flight last week, Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday.

Somali immigrant Asha Ali Abdille, 33, faces several charges including attempted hijacking and the wounding of two pilots and a passenger after she allegedly stabbed them last Friday on a domestic commuter flight. Abdille demanded to be flown to Australia. The plane landed safely in the southern city of Christchurch.

Final recommendations on tighter security measures at regional airports are expected from officials within a week, Clark said.

New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority issued a formal security warning Sunday to airlines and airports in the wake of the attack.

The authority said it was a reminder of the need for continuing security vigilance by all in the aviation industry.

"Some tightening of security is inevitable," Clark said.

Some turboprop passenger planes used on regional routes need to be included in an upgraded airport security screening system, she said.

"We are using planes that are not jets that are carrying substantial numbers of people," Clark said.

The cost of any security upgrade would be borne by airplane passengers.

Clark praised the pilots' courage and skill at landing the plane safely after being injured.

"We are extremely fortunate that the pilots were able to bring that plane down ... while under serious physical attack," she said.

Abdille was ordered held in custody for psychiatric assessment when she appeared in court Saturday. She faces life in prison if convicted.