Federal and local authorities have stepped up security in New York City today as a precaution on the anniversary of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death one year ago today, law enforcement officials told ABC News.
Though officials say there are no known threats centered on New York City -- the metropolis that suffered a majority of the casualties of the 9/11 attacks when the World Trade Center buildings fell in 2001 -- 240 federal, state, city and transportation police have been deployed to major transportation hubs like Grand Central Terminal and Times Square with heavy weapons, radiation detectors, bomb sniffing dogs and other equipment, authorities said.
The officials said the surge will include National Guard forces and Transportation Security Administration agents.
Beyond New York City, security officials in the U.S. and abroad are watching U.S.-bound flights carefully amid fears terrorists could attempt to smuggle explosives onto planes by actually hiding them inside their bodies. As ABC News reported Monday, security at several airports in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East has been substantially stepped up, with a focus on U.S. carriers.
Additional federal air marshals have also been shifted overseas in advance of the anniversary. While President Obama announced bin Laden's death to the world on the night of May 1, 2011 in the U.S., it was already May 2 in Pakistan when the terror leader was killed by an elite team of U.S. Navy SEALs.
Bombs Hidden in the Bodies of Terrorists
Medical experts say there is plenty of room in the stomach area of the body for surgically implanted explosives. "The surgeon would open the abdominal cavity and literally implant the explosive device in amongst the internal organs," explained Dr. Mark Melrose, a New York emergency medicine specialist.
For the last year, U.S. and European authorities have publicly warned that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, and its master bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, have been designing body bombs with no metal parts to get past airport security.
"We are treating the information seriously," John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, told ABC News in 2011.
Asiri placed a bomb inside the rectal cavity of his own brother for a suicide mission aimed at Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Muhammad bin Nayef in 2009. That bomb exploded prematurely, officials said, and the only casualty was Asiri's brother 23-yearold brother Abdullah. Asiri is also believed responsible for the "underwear bomb" with which Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to take down Northwest flight 253 on Christmas 2009, and for the printer bombs in the failed cargo bomb plot of 2010.
In public, U.S. officials say there is no credible information of an impending attack. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard released a statement Monday evening saying, "We have no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S. tied to the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death."
But earlier Monday, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan called the al Qaeda group in Yemen the greatest threat to the U.S.
"AQAP continues to be al Qaeda's most active affiliate, and it continues to seek the opportunity to strike our homeland," said Brennan during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C.
Brennan said bin Laden admitted al Qaeda had lost its way, agreeing that "a large portion" of Muslims around the world "have lost their trust" in al Qaeda.
Confessing to "disaster after disaster" in al Qaeda plots, Brennan said, bin Laden urged leaders to feel to places "away from aircraft photography and bombardment."
Brennan was in part referring to the writings of bin Laden taken from his compound when he was killed one year ago. A portion of those documents are scheduled to be released online Thursday at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
- Politics & Government
- al Qaeda
- Osama bin Laden
- New York City