Threat of 'Stealth' Bomb Leads TSA to Ratchet Up Airport Security

Thursday, 03 Jul 2014 07:51 AM

By Elliot Jager

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As the busy July 4th travel weekend approaches, the Transportation Security Administration has instructed overseas airlines flying into the U.S. to heighten their security procedures, The Hill reported.

Terror networks— thought to be the Nusra Front in Syria and the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula— are believed to be collaborating in efforts to target flights bound for the U.S., the Times in London reported, citing American officials.

In Yemen, master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri is known to be working on non-metallic "stealth" explosive devices that would be hard to detect. Authorities think terrorists in Syria have been testing such explosives. There is further concern about surgically implanted explosives that could be invisible to metal detectors and would not be noticeable during pat-downs, according to the Times.

Officials are worried that a stealth bomb could be carried by an American or Western citizen who travelled to Syria to take part in fighting against the Assad regime. With their U.S. or European passports, such individuals could have an easier time dodging security watch lists.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told a Pentagon  briefing on June 30th that he was worried about returning foreign fighters. "The flow from western Iraq and eastern Syria into Europe is a very distinct problem, and we are working to address that flow," Breedlove said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said his agency was sharing relevant information with allies and coordinating with airlines. "We will continue to adjust security measures to promote aviation security without unnecessary disruptions to the traveling public," he said, according to the Hill.

The Yemen-based Asiri was behind the Christmas 2009 attempt by a Nigerian Islamist to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound airliner, Reuters reported.

Asiri is believed to have tried to hide explosives in computer printer cartridges that were intercepted at a British airport in 2010, and in 2012, to have designed an "experimental bomb" placed aboard a US bound airliner, The New York Times reported.

He also built the bomb used in the attempted assassination of the Saudi interior minister Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, according to The Long War Journal.

The U.S. has tried several times to target Asiri without success.

Meanwhile, the FBI arrested a 19 year-old Denver woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, as she was about to board a flight to the Middle East where she said she wanted to take part in "jihad," according to the Associated Press.

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