U.S. News

U.S. was warned on shoe explosives

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. security officials were warned to look out for explosives components smuggled in thick-soled shoes, after European authorities found blasting caps concealed that way in luggage on a bus.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security, in a memo this week reported by CBS television and posted on its Web site, said European authorities in September found the electric blasting caps in hollowed-out shoes that were transported across international borders in baggage on a bus.

Blasting caps by themselves are incapable of great damage, but could be used as a bomb component, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

There was no specific intelligence that militants planned to use the concealment tactic in an attack on the United States, the memo said. The official said the incident was considered unrelated to Islamic militancy.

U.S. authorities described the memo as routine but declined to discuss details. “This is one of many, many bulletins that we send out,” Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Laura Keehner said.

The memo said shoe modifications can be “difficult to detect by visual inspection.” It said homeland-security and law enforcement officials need to be alert particularly at passenger screening checkpoints.

U.S. airports X-ray footwear at screening points, but not all overseas airports with U.S.-bound flights have the same requirement, the memo said.

The memo noted the case of foiled “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, thwarted by passengers as he tried to detonate an explosive device hidden in his shoe during a Paris-to-Miami flight in December 2001.

It said U.S. authorities anticipate that “terrorists will continue to use concealment methods for explosive devices or components, such as hiding them in modified footwear, especially in circumstances where inspection is rudimentary.”