French may take intrusive measures to prevent inside-the-body bombers

Published 12 October 2009

Security experts are split over whether inside-the-body suicide bomb is a serious threat; the French say they may not take any chances, and warn that security measures at airports may become more intrusive

Security authorities around the world continue to assess the repercussions from the incident with the al Qaeda suicide bomber who tried to assassinate a Saudi minister by detonating an improvised explosive device hidden inside his body with a cellphone. According to the London Times, French antiterrorism officials will likely recommend using inspection techniques reserved for drug mules to catch this new threat to aviation security.

As the Times reports, security screening at airports could get much more intrusive, frustrating, and time consuming if security adjusts to this new threat.

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.

Full X-ray scans, which are used by customs officers for examining suspected drug smugglers, would cause huge disruptions for air travelers, said a senior Interior Ministry official. “It is unthinkable when you think about the frequency with which some people fly. The health risks would be too high,” he told Le Figaro.

The Ministry declined comment on possible new measures, which would be decided by Brice Hortefeux, the Interior Minister.

Sebastien Mahé, an airport security expert with Brink’s France, told the Times that security will have to focus on neutralizing the detonators and profiling suspicious passengers until an efficient technological solution can identify internal body bombs.

Since the revelation of al Qaeda’s “keister bomber,” security experts have been split whether this new method of conveyance poses a legitimate threat.

See Matthew Harwood’s report on those who say it is a serious threat — and his report on those experts who say it is not.