U.S. officials are worried that al-Qaida has developed a new kind of bomb that can go undetected by airport security, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Intelligence agencies recently found out that al-Qaida's Yemeni affiliate, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has developed a method for smuggling explosives through airport metal detectors, body scanners and physical pat-downs, two anonymous U.S. counterterrorism officials told the newspaper in a Wednesday article.
The concern has prompted Homeland Security Department head Jeh Johnson to order the implementation of "enhanced security measures" in the days ahead for U.S.-bound flights departing from Europe and the Middle East.
Officials are reportedly worried that al-Qaida might recruit Westerners that have been radicalized from their experience fighting in the Syrian civil war to smuggle the new type of bomb aboard a U.S.-bound passenger flight. U.S. agencies do not have information about any definitive plan to attack an airliner.
The tightened security will go into effect at 15 foreign airports, unidentified officials told the New York Times. Homeland Security has shared some intelligence and details about the new security protocols with partner governments and airline companies.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is understood to be more focused than any other foreign terrorist group on carrying out direct attacks on the U.S. homeland. The jihadist group thrice before has attempted unsuccessfully to bomb cargo and passenger planes flying to the United States. The organization's head explosives expert, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, is still at large and has instructed a number of followers in the art of bomb making, officials said.
Some analysts believe that al-Qaida has a new incentive to carry out a high-profile attack on the United States or Europe in order to burnish its jihadist reputation, following the recent successes of its excommunicated former franchise, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in seizing control of broad swaths of land.
In the United Kingdom, the British Department for Transport on Wednesday announced it it would "step up some of our aviation security measures" in response to intelligence warnings from the United States, the London Guardian reported.