The United Kingdom has put in new and tougher security measures in airports across the country following warnings by the United States Homeland services of the possible use by terrorist groups of new-generation explosives that cannot be detected in standard aviation security checks.
The government’s announcement of the security measures does not disclose the details. “We have taken the decision to step up some of our aviation security measures. For obvious reasons we will not be commenting in detail on those changes. The majority of passengers should not experience significant disruption,” says the statement from the Transport Department.
The threat level remains at “substantial.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the extra checks between check-in and departure would not result in “significant delays” for the travelling public.
“I wish to reassure the public that we have the toughest security regimes in the world. When we get information we take the right measures,” he said.
The British media has however has reported extensively on the effects of the new security checks on travellers during the summer season. More vigorous body searches, clothing and shoes swabbed for traces of explosives, instructions to switch on and off laptops and mobiles, and bags taking twice as long than usual to be scanned.
Prime Minister David Cameron is reported as saying: “We take these decisions looking at the evidence in front of us and working with our partners. This is something we’ve discussed with the Americans and what we have done is put in place some extra precautions and extra checks. The safety of the travelling public must come first. We mustn’t take any risks with that. I hope this won’t lead to unnecessary delays but it’s very important that we always put safety first.”
Newspapers have quoted passengers as saying that body searches were being done far more rigorously than usual.
The Guardian reports that the present scare is based on new intelligence reports linking Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri — a chemist-turned- bomb-maker Saudi national, who has been on the US governments wanted list for long — to two groups in Syrian and Iraq, the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
Mr. Asiri has in the past devised ingenious devices designed to cause explosions on aircraft. He is believed to have been behind the unsuccessful attempt in December 2009 to blow up a transatlantic plane by hiding the explosive in the underpants of a Nigerian national.
Mr. Asiri is also believed to have masterminded the plot to assassinate a senior Saudi minister in 2009. The suicide bomber was his own brother and the bomb was either hidden or surgically implanted in his rectum.