News

U.S. increases security at overseas airports amid bomb concerns

U.S. increases security at overseas airports amid bomb concerns

SECURITY:epartment of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks to the media at the Nogales Border Patrol Station in Nogales, Arizona June 25. Photo: Reuters/Nancy Wiechec

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday it would increase security at overseas airports with nonstop flights to the country, and U.S. officials cited concerns al Qaeda operatives in Syria and Yemen were developing bombs that could be smuggled onto planes.

The new security measures would be required at airports in Europe, Africa and the Middle East that have direct flights, the U.S. officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Department of Homeland Security said “enhanced security measures” would be implemented in the next few days at “certain overseas airports with direct flights into the United States.”

It did not specify which airports or what countries would be affected, nor did it say what triggered the extra precautions.

“We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and are consulting the aviation industry,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson said he directed the Transportation Security Administration to implement the measures in the coming days. The move comes during the summer travel season and days before the July 4 holiday.

A U.S. official told Reuters some of the new measures would involve additional inspections of passengers’ shoes and property.

The official said Washington had legal authority to enforce new security requirements on foreign governments or airports because the flights go directly to the United States.

Asked about the enhanced security steps in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday night, Johnson said: “We continually evaluate the world situation and we not infrequently make changes to aviation security. We either step it up or we feel sometimes we’re in a position to dial it back.

“So this is something that happens periodically and people should not overreact to it or overspeculate about what’s going on,” he said.

Adding there is “a terrorist threat to this country that remains,” Johnson said: “We continually evaluate the world situation and if we think that there are improvements that we can and should make without unnecessarily disrupting the traveling public, we’ll do that.”

Earlier, law enforcement and security officials told Reuters the United States and European authorities were discussing measures that could include installation of additional bomb-detection machines.

Bombmakers from the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, are believed to be working together to try to develop explosives that could avoid detection by current airport screening systems, U.S. national security sources said.

The main concern is that militant groups could try to blow up U.S.- or Europe-bound planes by concealing bombs on foreign fighters carrying Western passports who spent time with Islamist rebel factions in the region, the sources said.

‘STEALTH EXPLOSIVES’

AQAP has a track record of plotting such attacks. It was behind a 2009 attempt by a militant with a bomb hidden in his underwear to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner.

There was no immediate indication U.S. intelligence had detected a specific plot or time frame for carrying out an attack. U.S. officials believe Nusra and AQAP operatives have carried out operational testing of new bomb designs in Syria, where Nusra is one of the main Islamist groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a national security source said.

The “stealth” explosives the bombmakers are trying to design include non-metallic bombs, ABC News reported.

But officials are especially worried that the recent battlefield successes of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, an al Qaeda splinter group, have drawn a growing number of militants from America and Europe to the jihadist cause and they would have easy access to flights headed for American cities.

(Additional reporting and writing by Matt Spetalnick and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Peter Cooney and Ken Wills)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Ex-wrestler ‘Superfly’ Snuka charged in girlfriend’s 1983 death

Updated
SEPTEMBER 1 : Former professional wrestling star Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka has been charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend **File Photos** Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka appears at the Spooky Empire Convention on May 16, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. Credit :	WENN.com

Seventy-two-year-old Snuka, now living in Waterford Township, New Jersey, wrote in his 2012 autobiography that he was innocent in her death, which he said ruined his life.

in Sports

Deflategate: Nothing today, judge sales he’ll rule by Friday

judge berman

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman will have to either affirm or throw out Goodell's decision in July to uphold Brady's four-game suspension.

in Sports

Jaguars’ Thomas to have surgery, expected to miss 3 games

Julius Thomas Twitter

The team said Tuesday that Thomas will have surgery Wednesday to repair ligament damage in his right hand. The decision came after Thomas got a second opinion.

in Lifestyle

McDonald’s all-day breakfast is coming next month

17-overlay1

Breakfastarians rejoice as the Golden Arches announces you'll soon be able to buy an egg McMuffin at dinner time.

in Sports

U.S. Open: Caroline Wozniacki, Federer & other favorites advance

Caroline Wozniacki, of Denmark, returns a shot to Jamie Loeb, of the United States, during the first round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Caroline Wozniacki got herself quickly off the court on a scorching day at the U.S. Open. The fourth-seeded Dane, last…

Bellingham Traffic