French warn of “body bomb” threat for airplanes

Posted on

Tue, 10/06/2009 – 12:45pm

Al Qaeda’s newest suicide bombing tactic — cellphone activated explosives hidden inside the bomber’s rectum — has French security officials worried:

French anti-terrorism chiefs are expected to recommend widening examinations already used to catch drug smugglers after President Sarkozy’s new domestic intelligence directorate (DCRI) learnt of an attack in Saudi Arabia in which the bomber detonated such a device in his rectum.

Al-Qaeda gave video publicity to its new method tested by Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, a 23-year-old terroristwho blew himself apart at a meeting in Jeddah in late August with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi anti-terrorism chief. The Prince was slightly injured in the blast, but al-Asiri, who used a mobile telephone to trigger the bomb, was ripped into 70 pieces, the DCRI report said.

Such a blast, though limited in force, could be catastrophic in a pressurised airliner, say experts. Counter-measures would be draconian. As well as taking off shoes and handing in liquids, passengers could be subjected to X-ray screening or be required to hand in all electronic devices because they could be used as detonators, police commanders told Le Figaro newspaper.

Given that shoe removal has become an integral part of the “security theater” in U.S. airports since shoe-bomber Richard Reid‘s botched operation in 2002, one shudders to think where we’re headed in response to the “keister bomber,” as theTimes calls him.

Normally I’m all for government transparency. But it seems like “body-bombing” is generally not a very effective tactic, since most of the explosion is absorbed by the bomber himself, but it could be very effective on a plane. Why exactly did French authorities choose to publicize this fact?

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