Al-Qaeda is planning a “return” to targeting airports and airlines in Britain and Europe, the United Kingdom’s Security Minister Ben Wallace told the Sunday Times in an interview Saturday.
The minister says the terror network responsible for 9/11 is “resurgent” and “still aspire[s] for aviation attacks” with new methods of targeting passenger jets such as miniature bombs and drones, Fox News star Sean Hannity’s news site Hannity.com reported.
London is beefing up security at its airports after drones brought air traffic at a London airport to a halt last week.
Al-Qaeda “returning” to Europe
ISIS’s demise has created an opening for al-Qaeda to begin terrorizing European airports again, Wallace said.
“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.”
“The aviation threat is real. Aviation is still a blue riband event for these terrorists,” he added.
In recent years, terrorists have turned to new forms of barbarism like running down crowds in trucks. It might seem that improvements in security at airport terminals would make airline threats a thing of the past, but terrorists are now looking to new methods, Wallace said. British intelligence has found that Al-Qaeda is developing ways to target airlines using drones packed with explosives or “insiders” who slip through the “back door” with miniature bombs.
“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,” he said.
Threat keeps leaders “awake at night”
The threat is keeping the U.K.’s leaders “awake at night” and the government is investing millions of pounds into the counter-terrorism research, Wallace said.
The warning comes as Gatwick airport in Sussex stopped almost all air traffic for 36 hours last week because of drones being flown by a couple that was arrested and released without charge in an incident that was “deliberate but not terror related.”
While Westerners have been preoccupied with the threat of ISIS over the last few years, Wallace warned the public to not be complacent about the threat posed by al-Qaeda despite the killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda does not seem as active as it once was after being eclipsed by ISIS, but the group is still operating in several Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Afghanistan and is “re-energizing.”
“In 2019, we should be alert to al-Qaeda. They are re-energizing some previous links and support and their ambition towards aviation is real. We saw in Australia that terrorists do what works and they don’t give up,” he said, referring to a failed threat in 2017 at an Australian airport.
“Al-Qaeda sat quietly in the corner and tried to work out what the 21st century looked like, while ISIS became the latest terrorist boy band, but they have not gone away,” Wallace warned.
Meanwhile, ISIS has been beaten back in Iraq and Syria by the U.S.-led coalition under President Donald Trump.