What will they think of nextFundamentalists' fundaments: how serious is the suicide bum-blast threat?

Published 29 September 2009

An al-Qaeda’s follower stuffed his bum with explosives and blew himself up next t the Saudi antiterror chief (the chief was only slightly injured); how serious is this new bum-bombers threat? Experts are divided: some say the arse-blast method poses a new threat to air travel, while others argue that the kaki-kamikaze is nothing to get anyone’s bowels in an uproar about

We reported about a fanatical al-Qaeda suicide terrorist who last month attempted to kill a Saudi prince who is in charge of the Saudi government’s antiterrorist campaign. The suicide bomber concealed a bomb up his bottom (the terrorist’s bottom, not the minister’s). The strategy, well, backfired, as the bum-bomber’s own body absorbed much of the deadly arse-blast and his target escaped with only minor injuries (one of our readers suggested calling the affair “a Royal pain in the a**”) (see 9 September 2009 HSNW).

Lewis Page writes that reports of the attack, in whichthe fundamentalist Abdullah Hassan Tali’ al-Asiri — aka Abul-Khair — attempted to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, broke last month. Al-Arabiya TV and the Sun have now revealed more details of al-Asiri’s method of smuggling the explosives through the Prince’s security.

It appears that al-Asiri gained access to the Prince by surrendering to Saudi forces near the Yemeni border, saying he wanted to give himself up but insisting that he must do so face to face with bin Nayef personally. The Prince’s guards apparently failed to detect that the 23-year-old fanatic had stuffed an unspecified amount of TNT and a firing system of some type up his arse, which he detonated once in the room where bin Nayef was receiving visitors in Jeddah.

Reportedly the Prince, who is the Saudi deputy interior minister for security, sustained only a minor injury to his hand during the presumably extremely messy explosion which followed. Other people present in the room were also largely unharmed, with the deceased buttock-bomb operative the only casualty.

He surprised me by blowing himself up,” the Saudi bigwig reportedly told al-Arabiya, in a masterpiece of understated commentary.

Experts were quick to point out that bum-bombing poses a grave new threat to air travel (see 28 September 2009 HSNW). Page, himself improvised-device disposal operator earlier in his career, writes that bomb-disposal experts would suggest that the failed operation tends to illustrate the generally poor skills of al-Qaeda terrorists. One does not have to be an explosives expert to know that a human body can stifle a grenade explosion very effectively, after all, and even a mercilessly trained operative of exceptional capacities would probably struggle to deliver a payload a lot bigger than a grenade using al-Asiri’s eye-watering poo-chute portage method.

It is not clear what was the firing system furnished by the back-alley bomb makers who stood behind the young terrorist. An internal mechanical timer device would be simplest, though there could be a risk of sharp-eared guards noticing a ticking sound coming from one’s arse with such a method. Electrical firing circuits are much more common in terrorist devices, though the need to carry a fairly substantial battery internally would place even heavier demands on the kamikaze operative as he prepared for his mission.

There are other methods of providing a manual firing switch, using an external power sources such as wall sockets or light fittings once in the target room, etc. Page notes that in order to deploy a charge actually capable of working from within an enemy within you would need to fill up quite a lot of the body. This is theoretically possible — a gutsy bomber could conceivably quaff huge quantities of liquid main-charge explosives and then perhaps swallow a detonating device.

It still seems pretty unfeasible, though. The Tang part of current liquid mixes would not be too much of problem, but the peroxide concentrate would be likely to finish the belly-bomber off before it even exploded — or anyway cause one or another kind of inadvertent payload-jettison unpleasantness. Then there would be the risk that stomach acids would render the charge ineffective, or make it explode early etc.

What is the, well, bottom line on this threat? “Nothing to get anyone’s bowels in an uproar,” Page concludes.