- Al-Qaeda’s Al-Shabaab terrorist detonated laptop bomb in Daallo Airline flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti;
- US ban laptop and other device use onboard flight from eight countries;
- UK enforced same rule including two countries US didn’t ban;
- US worried over al Qaeda bomb expert might have transferred skills to other terrorists;
Law enforcement agencies and US intelligence believe that ISIS and other terrorist organizations have designed new terrorist laptop bombs and other ways to plant explosives in electronic devices which can bypass airport security screening methods according to FBI revelations.
US intelligence heightened concerns after suggesting that terrorists have obtained sophisticated airport equipment to test how best to hide explosives in laptops and other electronic devices.
Gathered intelligence report months ago had enabled the Trump administration implement decision to restrict travelers flying out of 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa from carrying laptops and other electronic gadgets aboard planes.
The intelligence gathered may raise questions whether the prohibitions are broad enough. Information reaching us confirmed that series of test conducted last year by the FBI revealed that new laptop bombs different from earlier models would be intricately difficult for airport security screeners to detect. The FBI testing concentrated on major models of screening machines which are approved by the Transpiration Security Administration.
“As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss specific intelligence information. However, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in electronics,” the Department of Homeland Security told CNN in a statement.
“The U.S. government continually re-assesses existing intelligence and collects new intelligence. This allows DHS and TSA to constantly evaluate our aviation security processes and policies and make enhancements when they are deemed necessary to keep passengers safe. As always, all air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen.”
The current electronics ban is focused on eight countries considered to have high threat levels as US authorities and intelligence puts allege. Though intelligence and law enforcement assessments carried our recently reveal wider vulnerabilities, the US is more confident in it detection machines and security screeners at airport in the US and Europe – even as advanced technology training helps curb the risk.
According to US officials, the US and European countries employ layered approach to security screening that goes beyond X-ray equipment, including the use of bomb-sniffing dogs and explosive-trace detection.
Robert Liscouski, aviation security expert said limiting the prohibition to eight countries makes based on the capability and locations of terrorist groups, the former Homeland Security assistant secretary for infrastructure protection noted.
According to him, he noted that not only are US and European airports better protected, but they have a “better policy regime” that allows them to set standards and ensure uniform compliance.
“We don’t have the same level of confidence in other areas of the world because we don’t have the government bodies and stature to assure compliance,” said Liscouski, president of Secure Point Technologies.
During the announced ban of devices on flights, US officials expressed concern that terrorists might have developed ways to conceal explosives in batter compartments. However, the recent intelligence clearly shows that bomb-makers in ISIS unit and other groups have devised new means to conceal explosives while laptops would still function for a long time to bypass airport security screeners.
Experts in the FBI have tested variations of the laptop bombs using different battery and explosive configurations to evaluate the level of difficulty it would be for airport screeners to detect them.
READ MORE: Fire destroys Atlanta’s Interstate 85 Bridge
Three distinct officials who commented on the intelligence that led to the ban on electronic devices said the report was specific, credible and reliable saying the information is “hair-raising.”
The officials also said there was no distinct piece of intelligence that led to the ban but the prohibition was due to an accumulation of intercepted material and “human intelligence.”
It would be recalled that the prohibition which took effect March 21, restricted many electronics from the cabins of flights directly entering the United States from airport in eight countries. Travelers on board must place any device bigger than a cellphone in their check luggage.
Intelligence personnel have noted it is more challenging for terrorist to detonate explosives and that placing devices in cargo bay will drastically reduce damage if bomb where to detonate.
The United Kingdom which is privy to the same intelligence swiftly implemented the restriction this month for planes entering the UK from six countries including two which the US didn’t not ban.
The recent ban of devices on airplanes came when intelligence and law enforcement agencies noted that terrorist were working on plans to place explosives inside laptop battery compartments in a way that the laptop function even when it’s power in order to bypass airport security screening machines.
In the wake of 2016 intelligence officials were tipped of a laptop bomb incident. An operative of al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate in Somali, detonated a laptop bomb on a Daallo Airline flight from Mogadishu to Djibouti.
The bomb was concealed in a part of the laptop where the DVD drive was removed by the bomb-makers, investigators said.
Terrorist sympathizers who were workers in the airport smuggled the bomb onto the plane after it passed through an X-ray machine. With that, the bomber was blown out of the plane, however, the pilots were able to make a successful emergency landing.
The successful emergency landing would have been futile leading to a massive disaster had the plane reached cruising altitude, experts said.
As noted by several US officials, the military and intelligence community is worried over the possibility of terror groups to get laptop bombs on board airplanes. The US has been monitoring specific intelligence from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda in Syria and ISIS, officials noted.
The terrorist group that pose the greatest threat in optimal bomb-making expertise is al Qaeda in Yemen. Their specialist bomb-maker, Ibrahim al Asiri, is experience in designing explosive hidden on human bodies and in items like printer cartridges. It has been a growing concern for US officials since 2014 that Asiri must have transferred his expertise to other terrorists groups.
The recent improvised laptop bombs technology devised by terrorist comes as no surprise as advanced security techniques in airport have made it terribly daunting to smuggled bombs on airplanes.
After the September 11, 2001, attack on the US world trade centers screening equipment and procedures have tremendously improved making it very difficult to carry explosives onto airplanes. With that bomb-makers are working on other methods to get around elevated air security screening machines.
Credits: CNN, Stingged.com