DHS Warns of New Shoe Bomb Threat

On February 19, 2014, AlertsUSA issued the following
Flash message to subscriber mobile devices:

DHS warning airlines of potential threat involving explosives hidden in shoes on overseas flights bound for U.S.. Said to be”very recent intel.” Developing…

On Wed of this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices that the Department of Homeland Security is warning domestic and international airlines of intelligence suggesting an increased threat involving explosives hidden in shoes on overseas flights bound for United States. This threat is reported to be completely separate and unrelated to warnings issued earlier this month regarding explosives hidden within cosmetics and liquids.

The threat information was sent to airlines flying to the U.S. from approximately thirty airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. These include Amsterdam’s Schiphol, London’s Heathrow and Gatwick, and the airport in Manchester.

Media reports invariably quote unnamed intelligence sources indicating the threat emanates from al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate formally known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Amongst the leaders is an innovative Saudi bomb maker, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who has surprisingly managed to survive two separate drone strikes, once in 2011 and again in 2013. It is believed that the group may have come up with new bomb designs intended to evade airport security measures.

While downplayed by DHS and dismissed by many bloggers as a scare tactic, the general threat posed by AQAP is quite substantive and demonstrable. As previously reported by both AlertsUSA and Threat Journal on a number of occasions, AQAP has been directly implicated in a number of plots against on the commercial aviation sector. These include:

The 2001 attempt at blowing up a passenger aircraft by radical Muslim and al Qaeda affiliated Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid.

The 2009 attempt at blowing up a passenger aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Detroit by radical Muslim and al Qaeda affiliated underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The 2010 cargo plane bomb plot within which explosives were built into printer toner cartridges and shipped to the U.S. via FedEx and UPS. One of these bombs is believed to have caused the crash of a UPS cargo aircraft flying between Dubai and Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany.

Additionally, no discussion of AQAP and master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri would be complete without referencing the 2009 “butt bomb” attack on a Saudi diplomat. In this incident, Ibrahim somehow managed to talk his younger brother, Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, into attempting to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of the Interior, Muhammad bin Nayef, using one pound of PETN plastic explosives hidden in his anal canal. Abdullah managed to kill himself in the attack but caused only minor injuries to the diplomat.

AlertsUSA continues to closely monitor the aviation security sector and will immediately notify service subscribers of changes to the threat environment as events warrant.