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AviationBoob bombs: breast implants suicide bomb a threat to aviation

Published 23 August 2013

Security checks at Heathrow Airport have been beefed up this past week following “credible” intelligence that al Qaeda operatives may use a new method to attack airlines flying out of London: explosives concealed in breast implants. This would not the first time Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has sought to use the human body as a hiding place for explosives. In September 2009, al-Asiri sent his younger brother on a suicide mission in Saudi Arabia. He built a bomb which could fit in his brother’s anal cavity, and sent him to kill the Saudi deputy interior minister, who at the time was in charge of hunting down al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. The worry about medically implanted explosives has already led airports to use behavioral analysis to augment detection methods already in use to screen people. Body scanners are good at identifying things outside the body but not inside.

Heathrow Airport security has been on high alert amid reports of a new type of terrorist threat to aviation: explosives concealed in breast implants.

The Telegraph reports that security checks have been beefed up following “credible” intelligence that al Qaeda operatives may use the method to attack airlines flying out of London.

One Heathrow security staff member told the Telegraph: “There are genuine fears over this.

We have been told to pay particular attention to females who may have concealed hidden explosives in their breasts.

“This is particularly difficult for us to pick up but we are on a very high state of alert.

“It’s led to long queues here at Heathrow – much longer than usual at this time of the year.

“But because it’s the summer holiday season, no one has complained.”

This would not the first time Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has sought to use the human body as a hiding place for explosives. In September 2009, al-Asiri sent his younger brother on a suicide mission in Saudi Arabia. He built a bomb which could fit in his brother’s anal cavity, and sent him to kill the Saudi deputy interior minister, who at the time was in charge of hunting down al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia.

The young man passed undetected through royal security and managed to get close to his target. He then activated the bomb in his bowels and detonated himself. The explosive charge, though, was too weak go through the abdominal wall, and the young man died without harming the minister.

After the attempt on the Saudi prince, aviation security experts feared that al Qaeda would send terrorists with explosives in the guts to bring down planes, but it appears that al-Asiri has concluded that the amount of explosive material that a human being can carry in his body would just not be powerful enough to bring a plane down.

Explosives expert Andy Oppenheimer told the Telegraph: “There is a great fear that al Qaeda are planning on using internal devices to try and get through airport scanners.

These explosives could be in breast implants.”

Another explosives expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said breast implant bombs could be set off by injecting another liquid.

He added: “Both are very difficult to pick up with current technology and they are petrified al Qaeda are a step ahead here.

“It’s pretty top secret and potentially very grisly and ghastly.”

Security analyst Paul Beaver said: “There are currently deeply serious concerns over body cavities and implants of all kinds — including breast implants — being used to hide explosives.

It is taking longer to get through Heathrow and other airports in Europe and North America because of these fears.

“They are taking longer to screen people and there is definitely some sort of profiling going on.

“The general alert state remains the same in the UK but overseas, the recent Pakistan prison breakouts and foiled attacks in Yemen are raising fears of a new jihadist wave of violence.”

Experts note that for a suicide bomber seating in a window seat it would take a relatively small blast to blow a lethal hole in a plane’s fuselage.

Beaver added: “The terrorist is getting clever, but so are detection methods.

“The fact we know about the new methods suggests there are detection and counter-measure options.

“Implant bombs are a one-way ticket anyway so the suicide bomber won’t care what the trigger might be.

It would have to be simple and straightforward — perhaps electrical.”

The worry about medically implanted explosives has already led more airport to use behavioral analysis to augment detection methods already in use to screen people at airports.

Body scanners are good at identifying things outside the body but not inside.