A new strategy. From The Observer, :
Islamic militants have conducted dry runs of a devastating new style of bombing on aircraft flying to Europe, intelligence sources believe.
The tactics, which aim to evade aviation security systems by placing only components of explosive devices on passenger jets, allowing militants to assemble them in the air, have been tried out on planes flying between the Middle East, North Africa and Western Europe, security sources say.
Concerns that militants might assemble a bomb or another weapon on board were a key factor in the series of recent cancellations of transatlantic flights. Last weekend British Airways stopped flights from London to Washington and Miami for fear of an attack and Air France also cancelled scheduled flights.
Security agencies are now hunting scores of militants who have been trained in the new tactics. The warning, passed to Western agencies by Middle Eastern intelligence services, is based on interrogations of Islamic militants captured in the Arabian Gulf and is corroborated by intercepted communications between terrorist cells and interviews with prisoners held by the US government at Guantanamo Bay.
Officials in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are believed to have warned that at least 12dry runs may have been completed and to have said that the terrorists are aiming to try out their plans on flights around the Mediterranean and the Middle East before attempting to bomb a transatlantic route, where security precautions are now very tight. Militants know that individual components are far easier to smuggle through airport security than an assembled bomb.
In May 2002 nearly 100 grammes of pentrite, a plastic explosive used by the alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid, was found hidden in the armrest of a Moroccan jet when it landed in Metz, France. At the time, investigators said they thought it had been put there as a warning. Now French officials suspect the explosives were placed on the jet as a trial of the new tactics. Though some investigators fear they may be the victim of deliberate ‘disinformation’, officials say that they cannot risk ignoring the warnings.