The U.S. Homeland Security Department has told some airlines to be on the lookout for toothpaste tubes that may contain bomb ingredients, lawmakers say.
U.S. Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said he had been informed of the specific bomb danger and that it was a credible threat, ABC News reported.
An unidentified senior U.S. official said the cautionary warning applied to U.S. and some international airlines conducting flights to Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“Any type of explosive, concealed explosive, can be extremely damaging,” King said to CNN. “It could be enough to bring down a plane. … This is the type of threat that we’re very concerned about.”
A Homeland Security official would not comment on the reported warning but said the department “regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics.”
“As always, our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, and DHS will continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment,” the official said.
A federal government source said the information about a toothpaste bomb threat was connected to the recent apprehension in France of two Chechen women.
Possible terrorist threats to the Sochi games have received much attention in recent weeks. Last month, it was reported that Russian authorities were concerned that so-called “black widows” of slain Islamist fighters might be making their way to the Baltic Sea resort town in preparation for suicide bombing attacks during the Olympics, which take place from Feb. 7 to 23.
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) confirmed to CNN that a Homeland Security advisory was sent to airlines to be on alert for bomb ingredients that could be used either in flight or in Sochi attacks.
The toothpaste bomb worries are primarily concentrated around air travel from Europe and nearby Asian nations, according to CNN.
The threat is “real,” an anonymous government insider said. “We got very good information. It’s based on a credible source. We’re taking it seriously. So are other countries.”
While the U.S. government has recommended that U.S. citizens be cautious when traveling to Russia, no new travel advisory has been issued, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“If we should receive information in the coming days and weeks that changes our assessment of whether people should travel to Sochi, we will make that information public,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Laura Magnuson said.
One of the most recent serious threats to a passenger airliner was on Christmas Day 2009 when an al-Qaida affiliated extremist unsuccessfully attempted to blow up a plane flying to Detroit using chemical explosive ingredients hidden in his underwear.