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Dutch plan new airport scanners after Detroit scare

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch airport authorities said on Monday they planned to make new, more sensitive passenger scanners mandatory after a Nigerian man passed through Schiphol Airport security last week with hidden explosives on his body.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a flight to Detroit on Christmas morning, allegedly with explosive powder and a syringe of chemicals hidden in his underwear. He has been charged with attempting to blow up the plane, Northwest Flight 253, just outside of Detroit.

Ad Rutten, the chief operating officer of Schiphol Group, told a news conference the airport would make the new microwave detectors compulsory pending approval from European authorities.

The current generation of scanners only detect metal objects, while the microwave scanners can detect unusual objects on the body and hidden under clothing.

But they are not as strong as the see-through full-body scanners that let security staff see passengers virtually naked and see items swallowed or concealed inside the body.

Officials said they did not want to use those machines due to health concerns.

The new microwave scanners have been in testing but have bumped up against privacy concerns that limited their use. Those concerns, officials said, have now been addressed.

"The machine so far gave indications of the body shape and it was also possible to detect whether it was a man or a woman. This violated certain privacy rules. We've now made some changes and we think this will get approval from European authorities," said Ron Louwerse, security director for Schiphol Group.

With the proper approvals, Louwerse said the airport could probably fully implement the new scanners within a year. Rutten also cautioned that no system was foolproof, even if it was an improvement on the current technology.

"There is no 100 percent guarantee we would have caught him," he said of Abdulmutallab.

The airport officials otherwise refused to take specific questions on last week's incident, though Louwerse defended Schiphol's handling of Abdulmutallab and said airport staff had done everything they could.

(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger, writing by Ben Berkowitz)

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