U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the U.S. ambassador’s residence Tuesday in Oslo to address efforts to confront the security threat posed by extremists traveling to and from Syria.

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Holder calls possible bomb-makers in Syria 'frightening'

  • Article by: BRIAN KNOWLTON
  • New York Times
  • July 13, 2014 - 8:18 PM

– Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday expressed “extreme, extreme concern” over reports that bomb-makers from Yemen responsible for the 2009 underwear-bomb plot are now in Syria cooperating with foreign militants there, possibly to formulate new, nearly undetectable explosive devices.

“That’s a deadly combination, where you have people who have the technical know-how along with the people who have this kind of fervor to give their lives in support of a cause that is directed at the United States and directed at its allies,” he said in an interview taped in London for the ABC News program “This Week.”

Holder was asked about news reports that the Yemeni bomb-makers are working to design an explosive device small enough to fit into a cellphone or a laptop computer — and that this was behind a recent tightening of security for many passengers flying to the United States. He seemed to confirm as much without explicitly saying so.

“This is not a test,” he said. “This is a something — we’re doing something in reaction to things that we have detected.”

In recent weeks, more than a dozen airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have started to require passengers to turn on their electronic devices while being screened by security personnel to demonstrate that the devices are not filled with explosives.

The U.S., which requested those measures, has not said which airports are affected.

Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen has been linked to at least three unsuccessful attempts to introduce explosives onto airliners. In the best-known attempt, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, tried in 2009 to detonate a bomb sewn into his underwear but was subdued by passengers.

Holder has been in Europe for urgent consultations with his counterparts there about security concerns, largely flowing from the spreading conflict in Syria and Iraq, which has left extremists in control of broad parts of both countries.

In Oslo last week, he implored European countries to adopt tougher laws and U.S.-style tactics, including undercover stings, to prevent potential terrorists from traveling to Syria or Iraq, where they could receive advanced training before returning to the West.

Asked Sunday whether that threat was a “clear and present danger,” Holder responded: “I think it is. In some ways, it’s more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as ­attorney general.”

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