April 1, 2017 U.S. intelligence indicates that terrorist groups are perfecting and testing explosives that are undetectable by airport scanners and small enough to fit in a laptop computer.
The consensus from recent intelligence sources is that terrorist groups are once again refocusing on commercial airliners. Over the last few years, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that terrorist groups had shifted their focus from hard targets such as airports where security is tight to “soft targets” like shopping malls, sports arenas and nightclubs where security is lax.
Intelligence gathered in recent weeks revealed that both al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State and affiliated groups are testing undetectable explosives hidden in laptops and other electronic devices. A source told CNN that evidence discovered during a raid on an AQAP compound in Yemen in January contributed the recent U.S. and United Kingdom ban of electronic devices larger than a cellphone from certain flights from the Middle East and Africa.
United States counterterrorism agencies have known for several years that AQAP has developed sophisticated non-metallic bombs constructed out of hard-to-detect, low-vapor explosives like pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) that can be smuggled onto commercial airliners undetected.
In 2010, even with specific intelligence from the Saudi government regarding two packages en route to Chicago from Yemen containing explosives, authorities said the devices hidden inside printer toner cartridges were extremely difficult to find.
In February, 2016, a laptop bomb “>laptop bomb exploded minutes after takeoff from Mogadishu. A man fell to his death after he was ejected through the fuselage mid air on Daallo Airlines Flight 3159. The pilot was able to land the Airbus A321-111 safely. Al-Shabaab, an ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack. International and national security experts called the incident a wake-up call.
Since 2006, AQAP bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri has built liquid explosives that are undetectable by the TSA. Al-Asiri is believed to have been the architect of bombs hidden in two packages which were found on planes in Dubai and the UK in October 2010. He was behind the failed Christmas Day 2009 shoe bomber as well as the infamous underwear bomber.
There have been several unconfirmed reports that Ibrahim al-Asiri has been killed in U.S.-led air strikes, most recently in March. Dead or alive — al-Asiri passed his bomb making skills on to other AQAP operatives.
SEE ALSO: Several Predominantly Muslim Countries Ban Electronic Devices
Cynthia Hodges holds a M.A. in Political Science from NEIU in Chicago, Illinois and a Post-Grad Professional Certificate in Disaster and Terrorism Management from University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill. In addition to a successful writing career, Cynthia is in the process of writing a book on the role of private security guards as first responders in the post 9/11 America. "My career has been a balance of security and education, and my passion for Homeland Security while protecting individual's Constitutional rights has grown as a result of the two."