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TSA warning describes surgically implanted bombs

TSA warning: If terrorists hide bombs inside their bodies, current screening measures may be useless.

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Surgery to implant explosives could be done a couple of days before a planned attack, said James Crippin, an explosives expert in Colorado. In order for it to work, there would need to be a detonation device, and it's conceivable that if the explosive was implanted in a woman's breast, the detonator could be underneath the breast so that all the operative would have to do is press downward, Crippin said.

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But Jimmie C. Oxley, a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode Island and explosives expert, said it would be tough to carry out such an effort successfully. She said there are only so many places to hide a bomb in the body, and a suicide bomber would have to recover enough from the surgery to travel and set off the device.

The al-Qaida offshoot in Yemen has emerged as the most inventive terror organization these days and has been behind two plots that nearly brought down planes over the U.S. The group, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, was behind the Christmas Day attack in 2009 when a Nigerian hid a bomb in his underpants and nearly brought down an airliner over Detroit.

AQAP operatives also concealed bombs in printer cartridges last October, shipping them to Chicago addresses. That attack was thwarted because of specific intelligence about the plot.

In late December, the U.S. received intelligence that the Yemen group was considering hiding explosives in the insulated lining of beverage containers and carrying them aboard airplanes. There was no information pointing to a specific plot with insulated beverage containers, but, like the recent intelligence about the implanted bomb tactic, the Transportation Security Administration warned domestic and foreign carriers to be on the lookout.

"Due to the significant advances in global aviation security in recent years, terrorist groups have repeatedly and publicly indicated interest in pursuing ways to further conceal explosives," TSA spokesman Nick Kimball said, adding that passengers flying into the U.S. may notice additional security. "Measures may include interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies."

Officials would not specify which terrorist organizations are thought to be considering this surgical tactic.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. counterterrorism efforts must evolve as terror groups publicly indicate their interest in finding ways to conceal explosives.

"The idea that terrorists have been looking for other ways to circumvent security measures to target aircraft is not at all surprising," Carney said.

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