UK & World News

  • 3 July 2014, 12:07

Airport Security Tightened Over 'Bomb Fears'

Security at British airports has been increased after warnings from the US that terrorists are developing bombs that can be smuggled on to planes without being detected.

US Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson said he had tasked officials to "implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States".

However, he declined to say which airports would be affected.

A statement issued by the US Department for Homeland Security said: "We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and consulting the aviation industry.

"These communications are an important part of our commitment to providing our security partners with situational awareness about the current environment and protecting the travelling public."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the additional security was not expected to cause "significant" disruption to flights.

He told Sky News: "I would like to reassure the travelling public we have got one of the toughest security regimes in the world, along with the United States.

"It is important that we take these measures to protect the travelling public and the public have confidence when we get information we take the right measures.

"There will be extra security checks but they will be made in the course of events people already go through and I hope there will not be significant delays."

But British aviation security expert Philip Baum said heightened security will inevitably mean longer queues and increased waiting times to board flights at UK airports.

"It will mean an increase in the number of random searches, secondary searches and an increase in the number of passengers asked to remove shoes and possibly all passengers being asked to remove shoes if they're going on certain flights," he said.

"It stands to reason that if we're going to spend longer doing checks, people are going to have to spend longer waiting in line to board flights."

US officials said the security alert followed intelligence reports that Islamist groups in Yemen and Syria had joined forces to prepare an attack on the US.

Bomb-makers from al Nusra Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, and Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are believed to be working together to develop the new devices.

According to ABC News, they are trying to build non-metallic bombs that could evade metal detectors.

As a result security enhancements are likely to include greater scrutiny of US-bound passengers' electronics and footwear and installation of additional bomb-detection machines.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "There are terror organisations around the world that seek to do the UK, its citizens, and citizens of many other countries including our Western allies, harm.

"We need to always be vigilant to situations that can develop."

Sky's US correspondent Dominic Waghorn said US officials were also closely monitoring the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) over concerns its success in Iraq might help it recruit jihadists from Europe, who would have easier access to flights bound for US cities.

The thousands of foreign fighters flocking to join ISIS, including an estimated 400 from Britain, is a serious concern, he said.

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