An affiliate of al Qaeda has taken a page from the drug mule's playbook, hiding an improvised explosive device (IED) in the anal cavity of a suicide bomber who detonated himself in late August in Saudi Arabia, reports the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
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."
The AAP credits the U.S. private intelligence services firm, STRATFOR, with the intimate details of the suicide bombing. According to the firm's intelligence report, the bombing signals a paradigm shift in suicide bombing tactics.
The third tactical shift is perhaps the most interesting, and that is the use of an IED hidden in the anal cavity of the bomber. Suicide bombers have long been creative when it comes to hiding their devices. In addition to the above-mentioned IED in the camera gear used in the Masood assassination, female suicide bombers with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have hidden IEDs inside brassieres, and female suicide bombers with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party have worn IEDs designed to make them look pregnant. However, this is the first instance we are aware of where a suicide bomber has hidden an IED inside a body cavity.
It is fairly common practice around the world for people to smuggle contraband such as drugs inside their body cavities. This is done not only to get items across international borders but also to get contraband into prisons. It is not unusual for people to smuggle narcotics and even cell phones into prisons inside their body cavities (the prison slang for this practice is “keistering”). It is also not at all uncommon for inmates to keister weapons such as knives or improvised stabbing devices known as “shanks.” Such keistered items can be very difficult to detect using standard search methods, especially if they do not contain much metal.
The firm says that the modest amount of explosives able to fit inside a human anal cavity means the tactic is ideal for assassination.
"It does pose real issues for airline security if the bomb is inside the person," Dr Carl Ungerer, national security policy director for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute."That's why perhaps there is now going to be a real push for these scanning type machines."
It is still a mystery how the suicide bomber detonated the IED inside him, although a remote control is the most likely culprit.
The incident does reveal another insecurity. If someone can conceal an IED inside their body, they could carry it on a plane, remove it, and then detonate it in "a strategic location," says STRATFOR.
Photo of King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, by Travel Aficionado/Flickr