The Blotter’s report of a nascent terror plot in Germany was challenged by Reuters on Friday, so they’re back today with a new piece linking it up to airports in Britain and claiming that the threat is so dire, training of air-marshal cadets is being abbreviated in order to get them onto planes more quickly.
As many as five or six U.S. air marshals are now assigned to each U.S.-bound flight from airports in Frankfurt, London and Manchester, England, because of fears terrorists might attempt a coordinated series of mid-air explosions, law enforcement officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
“We’re afraid someone in the back is going to mix something or light something up, so air marshals are being placed strategically through the plane,” said one senior law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the stepped-up security.
The stepped-up security on flights out of Britain’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports began about two weeks ago, based on intelligence reports that another al Qaeda hijacking plot was in the making, the officials said…
Security on all flights out of Germany was increased about two months ago, based on similar intelligence, the officials said…
“The intelligence was that there are plans to take a plane and crash it in a high-density, high-profile place,” one official told ABCNews.com. The official said the timing and identity of the “high-profile place” was not contained in the intelligence reports.
I’m not sure how they’re reconciling those two bolded parts. The first one sounds like the British airline plot from last summer, where the plan was to smuggle explosive chemicals onto the planes, mix them onboard, and then detonate simultaneously. That itself was a reprise of the Bojinka plot from the mid-1990s; as we’ve seen before, once AQ has its heart set on something, it keeps trying ’til it gets it right. But in that case, what’s the deal with the bit about crashing the planes into high-profile targets?
This is odd, too:
U.S. officials said that an al Qaeda-connected cell in southwest Germany had been under 24-hour surveillance since the beginning of the year after some of its members were detected conducting surveillance on the headquarters of the U.S. European Command at Patch Barracks, near Stuttgart.
The cell, officials said, is made up of members of the Islamic Jihad Group, a violent terrorist organization based in Uzbekistan.
Doubtless there are jihadis in Uzbekistan, but if they’ve ever tried a major attack in the west, it’s a new one on me. It’s not even clear from the Blotter’s article whether the Patch Barracks plot is connected to this new British/German airline plot they’re reporting or if they mean to suggest that it’s something separate but “oddly coincidental.”
I don’t know. Definitely worth flagging given how seriously the marshals are taking it, but add a pinch of salt.