ISIS: Capable of Sophisticated Aviation Plot

In July, Australian authorities arrested two brothers, Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat, who allegedly plotted to target a commercial airliner in Sydney, possibly on behalf of ISIS. British and Lebanese intelligence services discovered the plan, which was described as “one of the most sophisticated plots” attempted in Australia, according to the Australian Government.

  • In early 2017, Khaled received components for two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along with instructions on how to assemble the devices from Turkey. On July 15, Khaled concealed the IEDs in a meat grinder—to avoid airport security—and attempted to have his youngest brother, Amer Khayat, board an Etihad Airways flight to Abu Dhabi with the devices in his carry-on luggage. Amer failed to bring the luggage on board because it exceeded the airline weight restrictions. He was arrested in Lebanon.

Salafi Jihadist organizations—primarily ISIS and al-Qa’ida in The Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)—continue to target the Aviation Sector using innovative means to exploit security vulnerabilities. Since 2015, there has been four attacks against airports in the West, resulting in 40 deaths and 386 injuries. 

  • In March, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) banned personal electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights destined for the United States, citing interest from foreign terrorist organizations—such as AQAP— in targeting the Aviation Sector. Since then, TSA has rolled back this policy, but implemented a new airport screening procedure targeting carry-on items.

  • In March 2016, two suicide bombers detonated IEDs concealed in large suitcases outside secure areas and near ticketing counters at Brussels International Airport, killing 17 and injuring 81. Authorities arrested a third bomber after discovering an IED that failed to detonate.

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