Bomb in anal cavity raises new airline concern

Last updated 00:00 04/09/2009

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A terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia has raised fresh concerns about airline security after the bomber detonated an explosive device concealed in his anal cavity.

The terrorist, a wanted militant from al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP), pretended to renounce terrorism and repent in order to get close to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia's deputy interior minister who leads the kingdom's counter-terrorism campaign.

In the attack on August 28, the bomber obliterated himself but the prince survived shaken but unharmed.

AQAP claimed credit for the attack in an internet statement but was coy about the method, declaring: "No one will be able to know the type of this device or the way it was detonated."

But United States private sector intelligence group Stratfor said the terrorist adopted the novel tactic of concealing an improvised explosive device (IED) in his anal cavity. This is a technique more often used by drug mules.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute national security policy director Dr Carl Ungerer said this was still a bomb but one delivered by a different method.

"It does pose real issues for airline security if the bomb is inside the person," he said.

"That's why perhaps there is now going to be a real push for these scanning type machines."

Stratfor said it was unknown how the Saudi terrorist detonated the bomb, although it appeared to have been by some sort of remote control as protruding wires would have been detected by security searches.

It said he had been in custody for some 30 hours before meeting the prince, supposedly to renounce terrorism and repent, and the device had likely been in place the entire time.

Stratfor said the principal limitation was the modest quantity of explosive able to be employed, making the technique most useful for assassination.

"One other concern about such a device is that it would likely have a catastrophic result if employed on an aircraft, especially if it were removed from the bomber's body and placed in a strategic location on board the aircraft," it said.

Stratfor said aviation authorities had already enhanced security following earlier terror threats.

In 2001 a man on a US Airlines flight was caught trying to set off an IED concealed in his shoe. Passengers on many routes must now remove shoes and subject them to X-ray screening.

In 2006 British authorities thwarted a plot to smuggle liquid explosive aboard trans-Atlantic airliners. There are now limits on quantities of liquids passengers can take aboard international flights.

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