Airports in the Middle East and other parts of the world that fly non-stop to the United States are expected to tighten security this week, for fear of a possible attack ahead of the US’s 4th of July Independence Day celebrations.
Reuters reports that there are concerns about al Qaeda operatives in Syria and Yemen, who are thought to be developing bombs that could be smuggled onto planes. It cites sources as saying:
“The main concern is that militant groups could try to blow up U.S.- or Europe-bound planes by concealing bombs on foreign fighters carrying Western passports who spent time with Islamist rebel factions in the region.”
In a statement issued yesterday, the US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson confirmed that security measures would be stepped up in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the US. He did not specify which airports, but added:
“We will work to ensure these necessary steps pose as few disruptions to travelers as possible…Aviation security includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, informed by an evolving environment.
Is is unclear if these security measures will be implemented in Qatar.
Qatar Airways currently operates seven direct passenger routes to the US – New York City, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago and the newly added Dallas/Fort Worth route. It also runs a cargo service to Atlanta.
However, when asked about the alert, a spokesman for the airline told Doha News: “Our security team cannot provide any information at this time.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Qatar’s new Hamad International Airport said it was looking into our request for comment.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Emirates also declined to comment about whether it would be making any security changes, Arabian Business reports.
Speaking to Reuters, US officials said airports in the Middle East, Europe and Africa with direct flights into the country would see increased measures that include “additional inspections of passengers’ shoes and property.”
The newswire added:
“The official said Washington had legal authority to enforce new security requirements on foreign governments or airports because the flights go directly to the United States.”
ABC News also reports US officials as saying there will be more random screenings, an increased scrutiny of electronics and an expanded use of bomb detection machines.
So far, only the UK has confirmed it is increasing airport measures due to the US alert, according to a statement on the Transport Ministry’s website.
US officials told Reuters that the two groups it is specifically concerned about are the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The latter group took responsibility for a 2009 attempt by a passenger to blow up a Detroit-bound plane with plastic explosives hidden in his underwear.
Have you noticed increased security at HIA this weekend? Thoughts?