The US department of homeland security has sent a bulletin to airline executives saying it has identified a potential threat from terrorists who could “surgically implant explosives or explosive components in humans”. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said in a statement, that due to “significant advances in global aviation security in recent years, terrorist groups have repeatedly and publicly indicated interest in pursuing ways to further conceal explosives.
No specific plot has been identified but an anonymous official said new intelligence highlighted the threat. Last year, it was reported that British officials uncovered intelligence that al-Qaida was seeking to surgically implant bombs inside people, a move some believed was prompted by the use of full-body imaging machines at major airports around the world.
Some militant organisations seeking to mount an attack on aviation have used increasingly creative methods in their efforts to evade detection in recent years. In December 2009 a Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to detonate a bomb that was in his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The attempt failed, his clothes caught on fire and he was subsequently overpowered by his fellow passengers.
Some experts are divided over the feasibility of mounting this type of attack. Chris Ronay, a former chief of the FBI explosives unit, told AP it would be “rather easy” once a willing would-be suicide bomber was found, the explosives secured and the bomb made. “It’s rather easy and the damage could be rather severe,” Ronay said. James J. Carafano a security expert with the Heritage Foundation, said it was important to know that it would be challenging to implant a bomb large enough to do serious damage, and difficult for a passenger to position himself in a plane to cause truly catastrophic damage.