Al Qaeda terrorists could try to bring down planes using an undetectable explosive soaked into their clothes, officials fear. The organisation’s bomb-makers are reportedly developing an ‘ingenious’ system whereby shirts and trousers drenched in the explosive could be ignited when dry. It would be undetectable under current security measures and remove the need for terrorists to mix liquid explosives on board, security sources say.
The latest threat to air passengers is one of the reasons behind the current global terror alert, according to two senior US government officials. The reports are the most detailed yet into the nature of intercepted messages between Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, his deputy in Yemen. British bomb expert Sidney Alford confirmed that the new method was possible using easily available chemicals, but pulling it off would be tricky as the soaking process would dilute the explosive.
He said: ‘The clothes act as a diluent and reduce the power of the explosives.’ However, igniting treated clothes could be done simply with a match. Passengers are allowed to carry a single box of safety matches or a cigarette lighter on flights.
The new explosive has reportedly been developed by the notorious bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who made the device used by convicted ‘underwear bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his attempt to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Other reports have suggested that Al-Asiri is developing bombs that could be sewn under the skin of terrorists. The level of ‘terror chatter’ being monitored by security services has been described as one of the most serious threats to American and Western interests since the 9/11 attacks.