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NZ warned over 'body bombers'

Published: 2:20PM Wednesday May 02, 2012 Source: ONE News/Fairfax

United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has warned the New Zealand Government about the latest terrorist threat known as "body bombers".

US media reports have suggested the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, and its master bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, have been designing body bombs with no metal parts to get past airport security.

Napolitano said the US is monitoring the possibility of terrorists implanting explosives in the human body.

"Do we have specific credible evidence of a threat today? I would not say that we do, however, the importance is that we all lean forward," she said.

Security at airports in the US and UK is now reportedly being beefed up ahead of the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden this week.

New Zealand will have greater access to information about threats as our once frosty relationship with the US continues to thaw.

"This is indeed an international problem and that's why these international agreements and these international interactions are ever more important in today's world than perhaps any time in our history," she said.

Smart gate review

While warning on potential security threats, Napolitano also hinted that travel between the United States and New Zealand could be streamlined for frequent travellers.

Ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister John Key, Napolitano said she would be viewing the "smart gate" system that operates between Australia and New Zealand tomorrow.

"One of the things we are looking at is how can the smart gate system... how it matches with our global entry system which is our fast-track Customs process for international travellers, to see where those things link up and, where they don't, to see if there's a possibility moving forward in the future to facilitate travel - particularly of New Zealanders who are frequent travellers to the United States."

Smart Gate allows New Zealanders and Australians quicker passage through the countries' borders, and America's global entry system operates in a similar way for frequent US travellers.

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson said he saw a "golden opportunity" to extend Smart Gate away from its current application of just Australian and New Zealand passport holders to US passengers with trusted traveller status.

This would possibly only be at the departure level to start with "but on a long-term basis moving to a full integration with our systems if we can".

Napolitano signed a statement of intent this morning with Williamson and Immigration Minister Nathan Guy to work more closely against people trafficking, improving border security and preventing trans-national crime.

"As countries with a shared interest in the Pacific region, it is in our interest to protect all communities from falling victim to the horrific crime of trafficking in persons. We want to do everything we can to support the Pacific," said Guy.

Labour leader David Shearer and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Phil Goff meet with Napolitano tomorrow morning.