U.S. security officials ordered tighter security Wednesday for international airports with direct flights to the U.S. The new security alerts came in response to concerns that al-Qaida terrorists have developed bombs with no metal parts that can’t be detected by airport scanners.
The bombs are the creation of Ibrahim al-Asiri, who is believed to be the chief explosives maker for al-Qaida. One U.S. official, who described al-Asiri as an “evil genius,” said the bomb maker had been working for years to develop the bombs that can be sewn into clothes or implanted in the bodies of jihadists, according to the New York Daily News.
British airports increased security Thursday amid concerns that U.K.-based terrorists have plans to target flights bound for the U.S.
Although no official list of the added security measures has been released, some travelers told the Daily Mail what they experienced while waiting to board their flights.
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“People were being checked for iPhones and things like that, but the biggest difference was in the physical checking of people’s bodies,” said one traveler.
“The security guys were paying a lot of attention to everyone’s bags and items as they went through the scanners. It seemed to take twice as long for each bag to go through, I’ve never seen it done like that and I have travelled a lot,” said another. “There were a lot of bags being taken aside too, when they came out the other side, for extra searches.”
Of particular concern for British security service officials are the hundreds of British Muslims they believe have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups, like the al-Qaida splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The concern is that those individuals have been trained in the use of the new, so-called stealth bombs while overseas and could use them to blow up a flight leaving the U.K.
But U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said there was no knowledge of any specific plot.
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“People should not overreact to it or over-speculate about what’s going on, but there clearly are concerns centered around aviation security that we need to be vigilant about,” Johnson said, according to the London Evening Standard.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, though, suggested that the new security practices could be permanent.
“This is the world we now live in,” he said. “I don’t want people to think that this is some sort of blip for a week.”
“This is part of an evolving and constant review about whether the checks in our airports – and indeed other places of entry and exits from countries – keep up with what we know from intelligence and other sources about the nature of the threats we face,” Clegg said.