US to call for worldwide tightening of airport security measures over fears of ‘new generation’ of Syrian terror attacks

Barack Obama issues warning about return of ‘battle-hardened’ European fighters

The US has reportedly received intelligence that militant groups in the Middle East are preparing a new generation of “creative” non-metallic explosives, representing a challenge to existing airport security measures around the world.

After the militant group Isis declared the formation of an Islamic state and a “new era of international jihad”, ABC News reported that two other rebel factions were believed to be preparing to target a US- or Europe-bound passenger jet.

The Obama administration is now reportedly considering a complete overhaul of its system of security checks at the US’s international airports – and may ask its overseas partners to do the same.

ABC quoted one defence source as saying the threat, discussed at the White House over the course of the past week by senior intelligence agencies, is “different and more disturbing” than previous plots that have involved potentially using explosives hidden in toothpaste, shoes and ink cartridges.

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Barack Obama has long been reluctant to arm the Syrian opposition, in part because of concerns that weapons may fall into extremist hands

US officials were reported to have specific concerns about the al-Qa’ida-affiliate group the Al Nusrah Front in Syria, which they said has now teamed up with Yemen-based al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula – the group behind the “underwear bomb” which failed to detonate in a plane over Detroit in 2009.

According to ABC, the Syrian threat was identified earlier this year and the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and other agencies have been developing new potential security measures for airports ever since. Those plans were now believed to be in their final stages.

Speaking to ABC’s This Week in an interview which also aired yesterday, Mr Obama did not address the latest news on the potential bomb threat.

But he did raise concerns that “battle-hardened” militants with European passports represented a growing risk to US security.

On the rise of Sunni extremist groups across northern Syria and Iraq generally, the President said: “They're gaining strength in some places.

“We've seen Europeans who are sympathetic to their cause travelling into Syria and now may travel into Iraq, getting battle-hardened. Then they come back,” he said.

Mr Obama said that the US must improve surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence gathering to combat the risk, and that Special Forces troops would have a role. He said military strikes against organisations that could harm the US may also be used.

Congressman Peter King, a New York Republican and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, also interviewed on This Week, warned: “The terrorists in Syria are extremely sophisticated, very advanced, and so thousands of people can go back to Europe and come here.”

Meanwhile, also in Washington yesterday, a spokesperson for the Obama administration reacted to Isis’s self-proclaimed “restoration of the caliphate” by calling on the international community to unite in the face of the threat posed by the Sunni extremists.

“Isis’s strategy to develop a caliphate across the region has been clear for some time now,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “That is why this is a critical moment for the international community to stand together against Isis and the advances it has made.”

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