British Security Minister Ben Wallace on Saturday said that al-Qaeda is developing technology to bring down airplanes and target airports, warning that the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks plans to carry out further atrocities.
“The aviation threat is real,” Wallace told British newspaper The Sunday Times. “Al-Qaeda are resurgent. They have reorganized. They are pushing more and more plots towards Europe and have become familiar with new methods and still aspire to aviation attacks.”
He added that the Islamic State terrorist group’s “decline” could lead to an al-Qaeda attempt to reassert its dominance, using a massive aviation terror attack to announce its comeback.
Officials told The Sunday Times this could include the use of miniaturized explosive devices. Last year, US President Donald Trump reportedly revealed to Russia details of an Israeli intelligence operation which uncovered an Islamic State plot to blow up planes using explosives concealed in laptops — a revelation which led to a brief ban on taking the personal computers on board aircraft.
“Al-Qaeda sat quietly in the corner and tried to work out what the 21st century looked like, while Islamic State became the latest terrorist boy band, but they have not gone away — they have reorganized. You’re seeing al-Qaeda appear in areas we thought were dormant,” Wallace said.
The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has used drones to deliver explosive devices, and security sources told the newspaper that drawings of UAVs designed to deliver bombs were discovered during the course of a recent UK terror investigation.
The revelation comes days after London’s Gatwick Airport was shuttered for more than 36 hours after an unmanned aerial vehicle caused chaos in the skies above the airfield.
Wallace said that increased airport security meant that terrorists would try to find new methods of carrying out attacks, including possibly placing jihadist sleeper agents in jobs at airports.
“They have explored other ways of getting bombs on planes. We’ve talked publicly about an insider threat issue. If you can’t get in the front door, you’re going to try to get in the back door,” Wallace said.
British intelligence officials are said to be concerned that Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria will provide terrorist groups with a safe haven from which they can launch attacks.
The US president has faced intense opposition to his abrupt announcement that the Islamic State terror group has been defeated and that as a result he was ordering the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops from Syria.
The move came as a surprise to US lawmakers and security officials, as well as international allies. The UK only found out about the decision when the US president tweeted about it, the newspaper reported.