WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is implementing tighter security measures at foreign airports that have direct flights to the U.S. out of concern that al-Qaida is trying to develop a new and improved bomb that could go undetected through airport security.
Some questions and answers about the enhanced security measures:
Q: What's behind the move to enhance security for overseas flights bound for the U.S.?
A: The unspecified new security measures, planned a month ago, are a response to intelligence suggesting that bomb makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, have linked up with the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, in Syria to work together on bombs that can be slipped past airport security.
Q: AQAP has been trying to blow up U.S. airliners for years. What is different today?
A: U.S. officials have two new areas of concern. Thousands of Westerners, including Americans and Europeans, have traveled to fight government forces in Syria, including some who have joined up with the Nusra Front, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. Many of those people can board flights to the U.S. without visas. U.S. and European intelligence agencies track such people and sometimes put their names on no-fly lists, but they don't know all the names.
Second, U.S. intelligence has observed new linkages between AQAP, which possesses sophisticated bomb-making expertise, and the Nusra Front, including AQAP operatives traveling to Syria. There appear to be indications that AQAP's bomb makers are testing new designs for devices that can get past airport security, as their previous devices have done. U.S. officials say the new threat is not related to Iraq or the extremist group fighting there.
Q: What's the history of AQAP's attempts against U.S. aviation?
A: AQAP has successfully placed three nonmetallic bombs on U.S.-bound airliners, none of which detonated. Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled an underwear bomb onto a Detroit-bound passenger jet in December 2009, but it did not detonate, and he is serving life in prison. Two other bombs were found hidden in printer cartridges on U.S.-bound cargo planes in 2010.
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