At a Glance | July 5

Aviation: DHS Announces Enhanced Security Measures for All Flights to the United States

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced enhanced security measures for all commercial flights to the United States, but stopped short of expanding the ban on laptop computers and other electronic devices—unless airlines and airports fail to comply with the new requirements.

Calling aviation “a crown jewel target” for terrorists, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a speech that the United States “is not standing on the sidelines while fanatics hatch new plots.” Noting that terrorist organizations are “constantly working to find new methods for disguising explosives, recruiting insiders, and hijacking aircraft,” he announced new security requirements for all commercial flights coming into the United States. He said that “those who choose not to cooperate or are slow to adopt these measures could be subject to other restrictions—including a ban on electronic devices on their airplanes, or even a suspension of their flights to the United States.”

A DHS fact sheet said the new security measures include improved passenger screening; heightened screening of personal electronic devices; increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and deploying advanced technology, increasing the use of bomb-sniffing dogs, and setting up more preclearance locations.

Ohio Man Returned From Syria, Plotted to Conduct Terror Attack in the United States

The guilty plea of an Ohio man that was announced last week represents a rare instance of a US person who traveled to Syria, received training from a terrorist group, and then returned to the United States and plotted to conduct a terrorist attack here. Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud, age 25, of Columbus, Ohio (see photo), pleaded guilty to providing material support to the Nusrah Front—the al-Qa’ida affiliate in Syria—among other charges, on August 14, 2015. The guilty plea was sealed until last week, because of the ongoing investigation.

In 2014, Mohamud, a Somali-born naturalized US citizen, traveled to Syria and received training from the Nusrah Front, according to a statement of facts supporting the guilty plea. After receiving weapons and tactics training, he participated in a firefight and expressed a desire to die while fighting in Syria. After his brother was killed while fighting for the Nusrah Front, Mohamud returned to the United States. He then planned to acquire weapons to kill military officers, other government employees, or people in uniform. Prosecutors said he researched places in the United States to conduct such an attack.

Mohamud was originally arrested and indicted on state charges. The state charges were dismissed when a federal prosecution commenced after an indictment in 2015. Mohamud has remained in federal custody since that time.

Alabama Defendant Planned to Plant Bomb in a Public Building and Acquired Materials, Say Prosecutors

In a bail hearing last week, in which the defendant's request for bail was denied, prosecutors revealed that Aziz Sayyed, age 22, of Huntsville, Alabama, admitted to investigators that he planned and discussed planting explosives in a public building. Moreover, a search of his residence revealed all of the materials and chemicals necessary to build an explosive device. Sayyed was arrested on June 15 for soliciting or providing support for terrorism, but few details have been released about his plot. Prosecutors have not said specifically what building or buildings Sayyed was targeting.

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