U S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. expressed "extreme, extreme concern" over reports that bomb makers from Yemen are cooperating with foreign militants in Syria to create nearly undetectable explosive devices that may be used against the United States.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expressed “extreme, extreme concern” on Sunday over reports that bomb makers from Yemen, responsible for the 2009 underwear-bomb plot, are now cooperating with foreign militants in Syria, possibly to formulate new, nearly undetectable explosive devices, reports The New York Times.
“That’s a deadly combination, where you have people who have the technical know-how along with the people who have this kind of fervor to give their lives in support of a cause that is directed at the United States and directed at its allies,” said Holder in a London interview taped for the ABC News program, This Week.
When Mr. Holder was asked whether the recent tightening of security for many passengers flying to the United States was driven by news reports that Yemeni bomb makers are designing an explosive device small enough to fit into a cellphone or a laptop computer, he seemed to confirm it without definitively saying so.
“This is not a test,” Holder said. “This is a something — we’re doing something in reaction to things that we have detected.”
The United States recently requested heightened security measures, but has not said which airports are affected. More than a dozen airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa now require travelers to turn on their electronic devices while being screened by security personnel to demonstrate that the devices are not filled with explosives.
In Yemen, the Al Qaeda’s affiliate has been connected to at least three unsuccessful attempts to bring explosives onto airliners. A 2009 attempt by a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, failed when he was subdued by passengers while trying to detonate a bomb sewn into his underwear.
The spreading conflict in Syria and Iraq has allowed extremists to control wide parts of both countries. Mr. Holder has been in urgent meetings with his European counterparts to address related security concerns.
For now, the leading militant group that has extended its grip through large areas of the region — the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — is preoccupied with consolidating its gains there, said the attorney general.
But, Mr. Holder added, “I think it’s just a matter of time before they start looking outward and start looking at the West and at the United States in particular.”
“I think we are at a dangerous time,” said Holder.