Washington— Intelligence officials are concerned about a new al-Qaida effort to create a bomb that would go undetected through airport security, a counterterrorism official said Wednesday, prompting the U.S. to call for tighter security measures at some foreign airports.
The counterterrorism official, who would not be named because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, declined to describe the kind of information that triggered this warning. But officials in the past have raised concerns about non-metallic explosives being surgically implanted inside a traveler’s body, designed to be undetectable in pat-downs or metal detectors.
American intelligence has picked up indications that bomb makers from al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate have traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there. The groups are working to perfect an explosive device that could foil airport security, according to the official.
Americans and others from the West have traveled to Syria over the past year to join al Nusra Front’s fight against the Syrian government. The fear is that fighters with a U.S. or Western passport — and therefore subject to less stringent security screening — could carry such a bomb onto an American plane.
Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen, called al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, long has been fixated on bringing down airplanes with hidden explosives. It was behind failed and thwarted plots involving suicide bombers with explosives designed to hide inside underwear and hidden inside printer cartridges shipped on cargo planes.
It wasn’t clear which airports were affected by the extra security measures, but industry data show more than 250 foreign airports offer nonstop service to the U.S., including Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai International Airport.