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Resurgent al Qaeda Plotting Attacks on Airports, Planes, UK Minister Warns

LONDON - JULY 03: An armed police officer stands guard at Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport on July 3, 2007 in London, England. Officials at Heathrow Terminal 4 have confirmed they have a suspect bag which has caused major disruption to the travel network. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Daniel Berehulak/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

The UK’s security minister has warned that a resurgent al Qaeda is seeking to carrying out fresh terror attacks on airplanes, using drone technology and jihadist sleeper agents working at airports.

Ben Wallace MP told The Sunday Times that with Islamic State on the decline, al Qaeda was regrouping and had already made grounds in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya under the organisaton’s spiritual leader and Osama bin Laden’s inheritor Ayman al Zawahiri.

“The aviation threat is real,” Mr Wallace told the newspaper of record.

“Aviation is still a blue riband event for these terrorists. Al-Qaeda are resurgent. They have reorganised. They are pushing more and more plots towards Europe and have become familiar with new methods and still aspire to aviation attacks.”

“Al-Qaeda sat quietly in the corner and tried to work out what the 21st century looked like, while Isis became the latest terrorist boy band, but they have not gone away — they have reorganised. You’re seeing al-Qaeda appear in areas we thought were dormant,” he added.

In the context of the recent drone incidents at Gatwick airport, which are considered not to be terrorist related, Whitehall warned that the Islamic fundamentalist terror group could use drones packed with explosives to hit targets.

The drone concerns come after security services were said to have discovered schematics of the devices delivering bombs during a recent UK terror raid, and after Islamic State was found to have used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver bombs in Iraq and Syria.

After Gatwick was ground to a halt by the drone incidents this week, Islamic State issued a threat of bomb attacks using UAVs against the United States and Europe.

The minister said that an additional £25 million has been put into threat detection and counter-terror activities to “protect our planes even more from new chemicals,” miniature bombs, and the “insider threat” of al Qaeda operatives working in airports.

“They have explored other ways of getting bombs on planes. We’ve talked publicly about an insider threat issue. If you can’t get in the front door, you’re going to try to get in the back door,” Mr Wallace added.

Al Qaeda was formed in Peshawar, Afghanistan, in 1988 and under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, was responsible for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2001, and the September 11th attacks in 2001.

In the U.S.’s deadliest terror attack in history, 19 jihadists, mostly Saudi nationals, hijacked four airplanes, flying two into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, one into the Pentagon, and one was downed in a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers of Flight 93 fought the terrorists.

In total, 2,977 people died and thousands injured. Seventeen years later, the remains of more than 1,100 victims are yet to be identified.

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