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Air show could be terrorist target

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:15 24 February 2010

NERVOUS residents are calling for Europe's biggest military air show and display of America's military might to be cancelled amid fears it would provide an easy target for terrorists.

NERVOUS residents are calling for Europe's biggest military air show and display of America's military might to be cancelled amid fears it would provide an easy target for terrorists.

People living near the air base at Mildenhall say that if the Air Fete, planned to go ahead this May, is to happen it will present an easy target of thousands of people and millions of pounds worth of military hardware for any terrorist.

The show, one of the world's largest military air shows, was cancelled last year due to security fears following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Although base security is still extremely tight, given the apparently impending attacks on Iraq, residents say it would not be wise to go ahead with the show, which attracted more than half-a-million visitors in 2001.

Philip Haylock, chairman of Beck Row Parish Council which has voted to pass on its concerns to base authorities, said: “A majority of the council felt it could be dangerous to have the show.

“The world situation is in a very precarious state and the vast majority of people who have spoken to me say it should not go ahead this year - it would be a target and people are nervous,” he said.

Fellow councillor Laurie Wallace added: “Since September 11 the Americans have been scared of their own shadows.

“If you get a massive gathering of people in a confined space then, of course, there is the potential for an attack.

“The only thing we can do is wait and see but it should definitely be cancelled.”

“The security levels have been a knee-jerk reaction to the threat but it is a double standard if they are then going to let any Tom, Dick and Harry onto the base for the Air Fete,” he commented.

Gerry Taylor-Balls, chairman of Mildenhall Parish Council, said: “Security has to come into it. Obviously there must be concerns for the safety of both the people who come in and also local people.

“Even if terrorists do not go onto the base, they may still park somewhere nearby.”

The show is usually a business bonanza for pubs, restaurants, and hotels across the area so another cancellation would be a blow to the local economy, but Mr Taylor-Balls said: “It would be a great shame if it was cancelled, but it is going to be difficult to organise safely.”

A spokesman for the United States Air Force at Mildenhall would only say that: “As yet, the fete will still go ahead as planned.”

If it is cancelled it would be the third time in five years the two-day event has been called off. In 1999 it was cancelled because of the conflict in Kosovo and there will be no show in 2004 because of a major runway building project.


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