FRANCE

France tightens security on US-bound flights

AFP file picture

France is stepping up its security for flights headed to the United States after the US warned that the al Qaeda terror network is believed to be developing a new type of bomb that could be harder to detect during standard security checks.

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The Obama administration earlier this week called for tighter security measures at foreign airports that have direct flights to the US, prompting British airports to increase security starting Thursday.

On Friday, the French civil aviation authority followed suit, announcing beefed-up security measures “for the summer period.” The agency said the measures could cause delays on US-bound flights.

French government officials would not elaborate on the measures, citing the need for discretion in security matters.

A US counterterrorism official said this week that American intelligence had picked up indications that bomb makers from Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have traveled to Syria to link up with the al Nusra Front, an affiliated group operating in Syria and Lebanon.

Extremists with Western passports

Olivier de France, a European security expert at France’s Institute for International and Strategic Relations, said expertise already exists to put explosive devices “in anything from shoes, soles, to energy drinks and even possibly surgically implanting these devices.”

What’s different now, he said, is that “this expertise, we fear, might now have proliferated in the direction of Syria and in the direction of Iraq ... in the direction of militants who might very well have European passports and therefore might very well have immediate access to trans-Atlantic flights.”

He said the enhanced security measures could involve closer checks of mobile devices and computers. He said they shouldn’t be cause for “any particular hysteria,” and stressed the importance of governments sharing information to increase security.

Ben Friedman, a defence and homeland security expert at the Cato Institute thinktank in the US, told the BBC earlier this week that while new fears had been raised, previous attempts by bomb makers to blow up planes have been unsuccessful.

“While we want to be prudent and cautious... these guys are serial failures,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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