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Saturday, 26 December 2009


The world is abuzz again with reports of an attempted terror attack on U.S. soil. The fact that the suspect is from Nigeria, almost automatically, means a heightened scrutiny of Africans at all Western transit points.

To appreciate the import of this situation, you have to bear in mind that under normal circumstances, an African is already a magnet of all diabolic suspicions, when travelling abroad.

And if he also happens to have a name denoting a Muslim connection, then the whole human and electrical alarm systems are set to go off at the slightest perceived provocation.

So, whereas security agents have all the legitimacy to pre-empt any terror threats, their thoroughness often translate into a most intrusive generalization of what or who constitutes a potential security scare.

Profile of the terror attacker

Initial reports indicate that the Nigerian terror suspect studied Engineering at the University College London, which almost inevitably will have consequences on Africans studying in London.

That is a frightening scenario for me and my fellow students from Africa in the UK. And probably more so for my brothers and sisters from Nigeria.

It has been difficult to film or take pictures in public places for coursework or assignments, with one always being on the lookout for the police, and prepared to account for one's presence and activities, which can easily get one into official records.

The attempted terror attack across the Atlantic portends even tougher times for Africans studying in London. Any interference with class work or even intrusion into our private affairs will be deemed to be validated and flashing our university identification will further serve to reinforce any suspicions.

Wider implications of the attempted terror attack

It is being reported that the Nigerian man at the centre of the latest Al Qaeda terror threat on U.S. interests was on an American intelligence watch-list.

That he was able to acquire a US Visa speaks volumes and how he managed to travel from Lagos, to Amsterdam and being cleared to go to Detroit, also puts into question the efficiency of screening procedures at international airports.

And as a result, body searches have made a comeback, new hand luggage restrictions are in place and other check-in procedures might now contribute to a significant delay before boarding a flight.

But perhaps more importantly to the traveller and student of African origin or adherent of Islam, you are, for now, a constant blink in security radars.

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