Friday, July 11, 2014

A new terrorist threat

Fears that al Qaida’s offshoot in Yemen could be about to stage an audacious new terrorist attack led the U.S. this week to request that officials at more than a dozen foreign airports confiscate from passengers any electronic devices that cannot be switched on. The move came in response to intelligence reports that the terrorist group, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was trying to hide explosives in hollowed-out cellphones, tablets, and laptops, U.S. officials told The New York Times. Since 2009, al Qaida’s Yemen affiliate has attempted to blow up at least three planes using bombs carried onboard by passengers or stashed inside cargo. “Our job is to try to anticipate the next attack,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, “not simply react to the last one.”

Get ready for a “long and difficult summer” of traveling, said Jamie Dettmer in Passengers flying back to the U.S. from airports in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa can expect longer security lines, even more intrusive searches, and a “further proliferation of inconvenient rules about what you can carry on a plane.”

But what choice do we have? said Jonathan Russell in CNN .com. Al Qaida is desperate to win back its status as the world’s most feared jihadist outfit, a title it recently lost to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—a group so brutal that Osama bin Laden’s successor denounced and disowned them in February. “The only way for al Qaida to stay relevant now is through a violent and spectacular attack.”

The U.S. can’t afford to underestimate the enemy, said Peter Brookes in AQAP’s master bomb-makers have previously got past airport security by hiding bombs inside printer cartridges and a terrorist’s underwear. Those attacks ultimately failed, but it will only take one successful onboard detonation to kill hundreds of people. Thirteen years after 9/11, al Qaida is not on the run. It is “on the hunt.”
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