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UK Airport Security Tightened As New Bomb Threat Emerges

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By Glynn Cosker
Editor, In Homeland Security

The U.K. is beefing up its airport security after a U.S. report cited that terrorists may be developing bombs that could elude current screening systems.

Terrorists with al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, as well as the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are believed to be creating undetectable bombs capable of destroying airplanes bound for the United States or Europe.

AQAP has a proven history of planning similar attacks as illustrated in 2009, when the group attempted to destroy a Detroit-bound airplane using a bomb hidden in a passenger’s underwear.

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) representative stated that the new measures stem from a “real time” and “credible threat,” which was enough London’s Heathrow Airport and the U.K.’s other major hubs to increase their vigilance.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office reiterated the caution by saying there was an “evolving threat” to the U.K. and other countries. Cameron said that his government had spoken to U.S. officials and decided that “extra precautions” were warranted.

“We have taken the decision to step up some of our aviation security measures,” the U.K. transport ministry said. “The majority of passengers should not experience significant disruption.”

The reported new explosives, known as “stealth bombs” or “artfully-concealed devices” are extremely hard to detect because they contain no metal and omit only a minuscule amount of vapor. The only way to detect such items is by utilizing a body scanner or an ion scanner—each available at the U.K.’s major airports but only used sparingly.

Even more alarming—according to the U.S. security personnel—is the possibility that al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists in Syria may carry European passports, making it much easier for terrorists to board international flights because no visa application process is required.

For now, travelers in the major U.K. airports are not experiencing significant delays due to the increased security. Most major airports in Western Europe—particularly those with U.S.-bound flights—have also stepped up security.

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