Airport security ramped up over US bomb fears
By Katherine Haddon, AFP
July 5, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
LONDON -- U.S.-bound travelers from Europe and the Middle East faced tighter airport security Thursday over fears that Islamist groups are developing new explosives that could be slipped onto planes undetected.
The stepped-up checks were ordered as the U.S. Embassy in Uganda warned of a "specific threat" to attack Kampala's Entebbe international airport on Thursday between 1800 and 2000 GMT.
The new checks focused on electronic items such as laptops and mobiles, fuelling fears that extremists such as al-Qaida could use them as their latest tactic in a long campaign of attacks involving aircraft.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the extra security on direct flights to the United States from some overseas airports on Wednesday, without citing evidence of any specific plot.
The move comes amid broader Western intelligence concerns that hundreds of Islamist radicals traveling from Europe to fight in the Middle East could pose a security risk on their return.
On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama warned that "battle-hardened" Europeans who embrace jihad in Syria and Iraq threaten the United States because their passports mean they can enter without a visa.
The airports concerned are located in the Middle East and Europe and were targeted "based on real-time intelligence," according to an official at the Department of Homeland Security who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Britain confirmed it is bolstering security at its airports in response.
Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet, whose country is also stepping up airport security, told RTL-TVI the measures would focus on electronic equipment such as tablets, computers and mobile phones "to make sure there are no explosives."
Analysts said the move was likely linked to concerns that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was passing on bombmaking expertise to militants fighting in Syria.