By Tom Whitehead and Nick Collins
Heightened airport security after US terror warning could lead to summer of chaos for holidaymakers
Terrorists are plotting to use new stealth bombs in laptops and even humans to bring down a US-bound passenger plane, it is feared.
Airport security was increased across the UK, US and other countries amid fears al-Qaeda bomb experts have successfully designed a new explosive that can bypass current checks.
They are believed to be targeting the thousands of Western jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq as would-be suicide bombers.
The threat, which originated from US intelligence, had an immediate impact at British airports where passengers were subjected to more stringent and rigorous security checks.
It raises the prospect of a summer of delays and chaos for holidaymakers with long queues at airports.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said the safety of passengers “must come first” while Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM, warned travellers the new checks would be a permanent feature.
Changes to security measures were announced after Washington homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson ordered beefed-up security at foreign airports which have direct flights to the US.
There are concerns that al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen, known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and specifically its master bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, have linked up with the Jabhat Al-Nusra jihadists in Syria and passed on bomb making skills.
It is feared a new type of explosive has been developed that will not be picked up under normal checks.
It remains unclear whether that could be deployed in an electronic item such as a laptop, a liquid based explosive soaked on clothing or even surgically implanted in a bomber.
All such techniques have been tried by Asiri in the past.
At Heathrow, passengers were being asked to turn on laptops, mobile phones and other electronics as they passed through security.
Staff were also swabbing all electronic items, clothing and shoes to check for traces of explosives.
Shoes and belts had to be removed and travellers were subject to “vigorous” physical searches, according to one passenger.