Al Qaeda jihadists, possibly using plans organized by a Khorasan group bomb-maker, are planning what the Sunday Express called a Christmas “spectacular” in a report released by the British newspaper this week.
Citing anonymous sources including a “well-placed security insider,” the report suggests that European officials are preparing to enhance their security at airports to prevent what many see as an “almost inevitable” attempt at a terrorist attack by sleeper cells in the UK and elsewhere. One source working within the airport security industry told the paper that officials have “been waiting for the big one” and described the threat as “real and alive”: “We’ve been told that five planes are being targeted in a high profile hit before Christmas.”
As officials decide how to handle the threat, it is possible that multiple European flights may ban electronic devices and, possibly, all hand luggage, though such decisions have yet to be taken. Express cites one source as explaining that major European cities will likely be the targets, and those used to carry on the attacks may be members of sleeper cells that would not arouse suspicion. Targeting Europe rather than America seems a deliberate choice, said one source, because “the U.S has improved their security over the summer but we have not.”
Sources differ on which government officials first uncovered the plot. Express writes that the plot “is understood to have been uncovered by American intelligence officers who fear that despite success in taking out key Al Qaeda bomb-makers, the genie is out of the bottle and sleeper cells are currently preparing for a doomsday scenario.” The New York Post, however, followed up on the story with its own sources and claims that “London authorities were the first to uncover the threat, which would involve midair bombings.”
The Khorasan group has been credited with threatening the United States and greater West with terrorist attacks using weapons designed to get past airline security, including explosives that would not set off a detector. The Pentagon announced earlier this year that a majority of airstrikes conducted in Syria after the announcement of such military action were meant to attack the Khorasan group, a surprising revelation given that many assumed the strikes would be directed at the Islamic State terrorist group, an offshoot of Al Qaeda.
While the Islamic State has taken up much of the mainstream media’s time given its exponential expansion in Iraq and Syria, Al Qaeda jihadists have been accused of continuing to plan terrorist acts against the West and the United States, including one in Malaysia as recently as last March.