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Suspected Terrorist Worked for Company That Services Northwest Jets

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A suspected Al-Qaida operative arrested in Singapore worked as an aircraft mechanic for the same company Northwest Airlines contracts with to service its DC-10 jets, union officials said.

Members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, Local 33, learned of the arrest this week, sparking more criticism from the union of Northwest's decision to outsource all of its DC-10 maintenance to a
Singapore facility.

The revelation about the mechanic with alleged terrorist connections was reported in USA Today on Tuesday, in an article about evidence recovered in Afghanistan and Singapore that identifies planned attack targets.

Jim Atkinson, legislative officer for AMFA Local 33, said several members immediately recognized the connection to Northwest when they read that Ali Ridhaa bin Abdullah was a senior aircraft repair technician for Singapore Technologies Aerospace.

One of the company's units, Singapore Technologies Aviation Services Company, (SASCO) is used by Northwest and other airlines for maintenance work.

The Eagan-based airline replied that it's working with the Singapore company to tighten security

"Northwest has been actively engaged with SASCO in the review and implementation of enhanced security measures both before and after the mid-December arrest of a suspected terrorist," Northwest said in a statement Thursday.

"This is an ongoing review process involving regular and frequent contact and on-site inspections by NWA senior management. In addition, five NWA management staff are on-site at all times while maintenance work is being performed on NWA aircraft," it said.

USA Today reported that Abdullah, the aircraft technician, used a digital camera to take about 50 pictures of U.S. warplanes at Singapore's Paya Lebar air base. Singapore police found the photos during a raid.

Northwest said SASCO employees work on its airplanes on the commercial side of Paya Lebar Airport, which is separate from the military portion of the airfield.

"NWA has confirmation that the SASCO employee arrested in Singapore did not work on or have contact with commercial aircraft," the airline said.

Outsourcing of maintenance work is a major issue for the mechanics union, and Local 33 has been calling on Northwest since October to return the work to the United States. After the Sept. 11 attacks, 470 members of Local 33
were laid off.

Last month, Northwest shifted all maintenance of its DC-10s to Singapore. Because of that, Atkinson said, 64 mechanics were laid off, and another 150 could lose their jobs in June.

Northwest says the outsourcing was necessary as it battles to regain profitability after the terrorist attacks, and that it's confident of the security measures it has in place for its aircraft at locations outside the United States.

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