Wednesday 2 May 2012

Concerns raised about body-cavities explosives attack on aviation

Security services raised the possibility that al Qaeda affiliates may decide to mark the anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by sending suicide bombers with explosives inside their bodies to bring down airplanes; these experts point to an August 2009 attempt by a suicide body-bomber on a Saudi prince, and to the fact that U.S. drones earlier this year killed a Yemeni doctor who had devised medical procedures which could be used surgically to plant explosive devices in humans

Prince Muhammud bin Nayef, target of a body-cavity bomber // Source:
In August 2009, a 23-year old suicide bomber named Abdullah Hassan Tali’ al-Asiri was sent on a first-of-its kind suicide mission: his older brother, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the chief bomb maker of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, placed explosives inside his younger brother’s rectal cavity, then sent him to meet with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was in charge of the Saudi government’s antiterrorist campaign.

The two al-Asiri brothers were known to the Saudi intelligence services as members of AQAP, and the younger al-Asiri used that fact to gain access to the prince: he turned himself in to Saudi authorities, but insisted that he had information about terror plot which he willing to share only with Prince bin Nayef. The Saudies bought his story, and took him to a meeting with the prince.

The plot almost worked – except that the explosive device in al-Asiri’s body exploded prematurely, when he was still some distance away from the prince. Al-Asiri was killed on the spot, and the prince suffered only light injuries to his hand. Three body guards were also injured lightly.

The story of al-Asiri’s exploit is now being studied again by security services, some members of which raised the possibility the terrorist would emulate this inside-the-body method to bring down planes during the anniversary month of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

ABC News quotes Dr. Mark Melrose, a New York emergency medicine specialist, to say that 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 Melrose.

msnbc reports that U.S. officials acknowledged that earlier this year, a missile fired by a CIA-operated drone killed a Yemeni doctor who had devised medical procedures which could be used surgically to plant explosive devices in humans. The older al-Asiri himself was also a target of a drone attack, but escaped.

John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), told ABC News in 2011: “We are treating the information seriously.”

Security experts note that the older Asiri is a clever and resourceful bomb maker. Among other schemes, he is also 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.
Note that some reports from Saudi Arabia about the younger al-Asiri said that the bomb he exploded was not carried inside his body, but was rather sewn into his underwear in a manner similar to Abdulmutallab’s bomb. Explosive experts doubt this version of events, saying that if al-Asiri had carried the explosives outside his body, as would be the case if he placed the explosives in his underwear, he explosion would have been much more powerful, causing much more damage and death.

DHS 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.”
Explosives experts doubt a body-cavity bomb is a serious threat to aviation. They note that it is not likely that an individual can carry in his body explosives which would create an explosion much larger than that created by a hand grenade. As quite a few stories of heroic soldiers who threw themselves on live grenades in order to save their comrades show, the human body can effectively absorb most of the effect of an exploding grenade.

Conceivably, liquid explosives would be a better method of inside-the-body explosion: the suicide bomber may drink a large quantity of liquid main-charge explosives (say, peroxide concentrate) and then, when he is in the proximity of the target, he could swallow a detonating device to trigger an explosion. The quantity of liquid explosives the digestive tract can accommodate is much larger than the explosives that can be stuffed into the rectal cavity – but the toxicity of the peroxide would kill the bomber within minutes of swallowing the liquids, making it impossible for him to carry out the mission.

Culled from Homeland Security News Wire


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