Counterterrorism officials said that recent intelligence tips had hinted at a planned attack by Qaeda operatives, but that the threat information was vague and did not specify a particular target or date. Still, after failing to anticipate the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight, government officials said they wanted to take every precaution.
(...) The measures will include random checks with explosive-detection devices of passengers or baggage at locations around some American airports, not just at security checkpoints, one Homeland Security Department official said. The devices search for trace amounts of explosives as a sign that someone might be carrying a bomb.
Air marshals will also more frequently board flights on certain unidentified routes, officials said. Canine teams and so-called behavior detection officers — which have been deployed in larger numbers since the Dec. 25 episode — will continue to patrol airports, looking for suspicious activity or explosives.
Three American counterterrorism officials declined Thursday evening to say what prompted the new travel advisory. But they suggested that they had seen an increase in tips about a possible attack from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based group that claimed credit for the failed Dec. 25 plot. A Nigerian man was indicted last week in that case, accused of concealing explosives in his underwear on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit.
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