Woman on terrorist-targeted plane calls for better on-board security

MONTREAL — A Montreal woman who was on a Northwest Airlines jet that was involved in an attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day is calling for better security aboard aircraft.

Montreal resident Shama Chopra is shown at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Wednesday. Chopra

Montreal resident Shama Chopra is shown at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Wednesday. Chopra

MONTREAL — A Montreal woman who was on a Northwest Airlines jet that was involved in an attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day is calling for better security aboard aircraft.

Shama Chopra says she’s comfortable with the new body scanners which will be installed in Canadian airports, but she still does not feel secure in the air.

“I could have been dead on that plane and I’m a bit concerned about security measures,” she said in an interview on Wednesday.

Chopra, 54, said that while flight attendants are trained to provide good service, she feels they also need to be trained to deal with potential suicide bombers.

She also called for better on-board security and for more air marshals on passenger aircraft — especially on international flights.

“We were on the plane when the incident happened, we had no marshal, we had no strong people to control this situation,” she recalled.

The mother of two also says that airport security guards should pay more attention to body language.

“When I took this flight from Amsterdam, I saw this guy a few times, shaking his head and I noticed from his body language that something was wrong,” Chopra said.

She didn’t mention the man to security officials because she was feeling ill at the time.

Chopra also suggested that security at the airport was not up to its usual standards because the alleged terrorist was able to board the plane.

She said she was almost the last person to board the flight to Detroit.

“When I went through the security check, they told me to remove my shoes and I removed my shoes, but a few people in front of me and a few people in back of me — even this guy (the alleged terrorist) — they just walked along with their shoes.

“I asked them why I had to remove my shoes and they are not removing their shoes.”

But the incident hasn’t changed her mind about flying and Chopra plans to take another trip back to Amsterdam in a couple of weeks.

“I want to tell people to keep on taking flights, don’t be scared, that can happen anywhere.

“ If we stop taking flights, the terrorists will win,” she added.

She is also hoping to discuss her concerns at a news conference outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Chopra, who was born in India and has lived in Montreal for the past 29 years, admits she has been singled out because of her skin colour.

“Yes, it’s happened, But I don’t believe in (racial profiling) because one single crazy person can do that act,” she said.

Chopra also complained about the lack of interest shown by local and federal politicians, saying none had called on her to find out what happened.

“ I’m a proud Canadian and no one checked on me,” she said.

Chopra said she thought she was not going to make it out of the airplane alive.

“At the time I thought the plane was going to blow up and that would be the end of my life.

“I saw a few children sitting around me and they were crying , but I started praying.

“God helped me and we all survived, but we could have been dead.”

A Nigerian man has been charged with attempting to blow up the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines plane by trying to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The federal grand jury also charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with attempted murder, possession of a firearm and other counts.

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