London's Gatwick airport reopens again, police make two arrests

Saturday, 2018-12-22 09:57:43
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Passengers wait in the queue for check-in in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport, after the airport reopened to flights following its forced closure because of drone activity, in Gatwick, Britain, December 21, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
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London's Gatwick Airport reopened on Friday (December 21) after a mystery saboteur wrought 36 hours of travel chaos for more than 100,000 Christmas travellers by using drones to play cat-and-mouse with police snipers and the army.

Sussex police made two arrests late on Friday in connection with the disruption and urged the public and passengers around the airport to remain vigilant.

After the biggest disruption at Gatwick since an Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in 2010, the airport had said around 700 planes would take off on Friday, although there would still be delays and cancellations.

Gatwick, Britain's second busiest airport, briefly closed again on Friday to investigate a new drone sighting but was soon operating as normal.

"Flights have resumed," a spokeswoman said. "The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with reassurance necessary to re-open our airfield."

Britain deployed unidentified military technology to guard the airport against what transport minister Chris Grayling said were thought to be several drones. "This kind of incident is unprecedented anywhere in the world," he said.

The motivation of the drone operator, or operators, was unclear. Police said there was nothing to suggest the crippling of one of Europe's busiest airports was a terrorist attack.

Gatwick's drone nightmare is thought to be the most disruptive yet at a major airport and indicates a new vulnerability that will be scrutinised by security forces and airport operators across the world.

The army and police snipers were called in to hunt down the drones, thought to be industrial-style craft, which flew near the airport every time authorities tried to reopen it on December 20.

No group has claimed responsibility publicly and police said there was no evidence another state was involved.

Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry said they were keeping an open mind about who was responsible.

"In terms of the motivation, there's a whole spectrum of possibilities, from the really high-end criminal behaviour that we've seen, all the way down to potentially, just individuals trying to be malicious, trying to disrupt the airport," he said.

Reuters