Security at British airports is being stepped up after the U.S. received intelligence that jihadists plan to target flight with so-called “stealth bombs”. Passengers at London Heathrow will now face extra checks on footwear and electronic devices before they can board flights to America, while more bomb detection devices may be installed at airports.
The Times reports that Whitehall officials would not discuss the exact nature of extra security, simply stating that the majority of passengers will not face significant disruption and that the UK’s official terror alert status remains at “substantial”.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said: “There are terror organisations around the world that seek to do the UK, its citizens, citizens of many other countries, including our western allies, harm. We need to always be vigilant to situations that can develop.”
Speculation is now centring on two terror groups: Syria’s Nusra Front and Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). American security sources say the two groups are working together to create a new generation of explosives that are easier to sneak through airport security.
AQAP was previously behind the 2009 attempt by a militant with a bomb hidden in his underwear to blow up a plane bound for Detroit. It is also believed to be behind another bomb hidden in a printer ink cartridge that was intercepted at Britain’s East Midlands Airport. It was bound for America and scheduled to explode over the east coast.
U.S. officials have declined to describe the new bomb the terror groups may have created, but counter terrorism officers have in the past expressed fears of devices being surgically implanted in a militant’s body, thus avoiding detection during pat-downs.
A spokesman for Britain’s Department for Transport told the Times: “The UK government keeps aviation security under constant review in conjunction with international partners and the aviation industry. We have taken the decision to step up some of our aviation security measures.”