Are suicide bombs carried internally a possibility?

This thread on airline security reminded me of a thought I had some time back. As airline security and restrictions on baggage get ever tighter, is it possible that a determined suicide bomber could smuggle sufficient explosive inside his or her body to bring down a plane? Either swallowed, stuffed or even sewn under the skin, and either detonated in situ or regurgitated.

I’m sure I’m not the first to have thought of this, but is it feasible? And if so, what could be done to stop it?

I’ve seen the idea in fiction often enough. But if you’re trying to sneak your bomb onto a plane, the metallic parts will still set off the detector if they’re inside you. That’ll generate some interest in security personnel before you even get to the plane.
I suppose it’s possible to try to create a bomb that didn’t use metallic elements (use acid eating through a membrane as a timer, maybe. Pretty iffy and inaccurate), but I 6hink that’d be a REAL challenge.

“Yeah - I got a surgical pin in my hip a while ago after a motorcycle accident. Always does that”

Yeah, but it’d cause comment if the signal isolated by their hand-held detctors was coming from, say, your stomach.

Hey, less of the “your”. I’m not actually, you know, planning this! :wink:

Going by what I’ve seen on Mythbusters, I’d venture to guess that it would be difficult to get sufficient explosives into someone to do structural damage to an airplane. The placement of a body around the blast would also inhibit the spread (see, body on a grenade myth.)

Certainly an explosive device could be designed to fit up a terrorist’s rectum. If you run a websearch on “rectal foreign bodies artillery shell” you can read about a fellow who managed to lodge a live WWII-era anti-aircraft shell in his behind. An explosive device in that size range could be made using pretty minimal amounts of metal. Our dedicated terrorist could use battery power from some permitted item, like a laptop computer, to detonate it after a trip to the restroom for extraction. Not having the battery pack up his ass leaves more room for explosive and gives less of a metals signature. The wand isn’t pinpoint accurate enough to tell whether the metal is in his hip or his ass.
He’d still be apprehended, IMO, by the chemical signature of the bomb. Dogs would key on it for sure. Do they have mechanical sniffers in all airports now? ( I don’t fly much because of the routine indignity heaped on travellers these days.)
Yeah, this could be done.

This matches what I was going to say. One of the biggest surprises for me, watching the show, is that the miniature bombs we see in movies aren’t really all that practical in reality. The James Bond fountain-pen bomb, for example, goes off like a really big firecracker; it makes a loud pop but would hardly represent a danger to anybody other than the person holding it. If it were inside you, it would hardly do more than ventilating your gut, and spraying gore on people in your vicinity.

In order to produce a substantial bang, the explosives experts hired by the Mythbusters have to employ surprisingly large devices; you’d need even more material to make a blast big enough to (a) escape the body and (b) then do additional damage to the surroundings. I suppose it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a small coffee can could be hidden inside the body somehow; presuming long-term survival is not a concern, you could live without your stomach, say, for a couple of days. It seems really unlikely, though.

My dad had a pacemaker and he had to carry a certificate showing that he had it to be able to get through security. Other medical implants my require similar certification.

Uh, no thanks. Not ever since I clicked that GOATSE link :eek:

I do not believe they use sniffers on passengers in the US but they do either selectively or exhaustively use it on checked baggage.

With all due respect, I suspect that in 2000 someone in the US government had a conversation that went like this:

“Well, they could hijack an airplane and fly it into a building, committing suicide in the process.”
“It seemly really unlikely, though.”

What I always wonder is whether security has any proactive way whatsoever of checking the contents of the rectum. I know they won’t hesitate to perform a cavity check if causes warrant, but I also am sure they don’t do random cavity checks. Is there any type of airport scanner that would reveal non-metallic foreign bodies in the rectum?

I’m fairly certain that one’s rectum could carry enough C4 to put a hole in an airliner fuselage. You’d just go to the airport, poop out the C4, and detonate it by some physical shock like stomping on it, banging it with a hard object, etc (IIRC it is possible to detonate C4 in this manner).

What explosive did Mythbusters use to make a pen-sized bomb? Not all explosives are created equal and you’ll get different results from a pen full of blackpowder than you will from a pen full of TNT than you will from a pen full of HMX.

Probably TNT; they’ve used that before in various tests. Nevertheless, HMX isn’t even twice as powerful as TNT, so I can’t see it making that big a difference. You’re not going to go from severe injury to the user with one to room-leveling destructive power with the other.

When I was trained as a combat engineer, we still had canned food (C-rations) that we’d eat in the field. Occasionally, not often because the stuff was pretty tightly controlled even then, you’d see somebody heat a can by pinching off a bit of C-4 and lighting it, this was intended to show that you were a cool guy and not afraid of the explosives. C-4 requires both heat and shock to detonate, which is why we had such things as blasting caps at our disposal. The men who trained me told me the following:

  1. You can light C-4 on fire and all it will do is burn.
  2. You can hit C-4 with a hammer or stomp on it and it won’t do anything.
    If you light it and then stomp on it, you’ll lose a foot at the very least. We heard stories about guys losing a foot, or worse, by using C-4 to heat food and then trying to stomp out the flame when done.
    I never saw it actually happen and we were discouraged from doing little experiments of our own with Uncle’s C-4, so take the story for what it is worth.

Who said you would?

I recently read a novel where the bad guy “installed” a bomb in a German Shepard dog that had been trained to seek the scent of the intended target. When the dog approached the targeted person and attempted to jump up at them he was going to detonate the bomb.

Fortunately for all involved, including the dog, the plot was thwarted.

Just saying is all.:dubious:

According to howstuffworks, we’re both sort of wrong. C4 requires no heat to detonate, only a strong physical shock. However, nothing less powerful than a blasting cap can initiate that type of shock. Even a rifle shot will not detonate it, and the story about the guy losing a foot from stomping on burning C4 is probably an urban legend.

You could fairly easily get a quarter pound of C4 in your colon, though, and that’s almost certainly enough to blow a hole in an airliner if you had a way to detonate it.

Elsewhere on that same website is this article. Note this quote from the bomb expert:

I dunno. Unless someone’s tested it or there’s an actual study, it still sounds pretty urban-legendy to me. It’s virtually guaranteed that every “bomb expert” will have heard this anecdote, unlikely that anyone will attempt to reproduce it, and very likely to repeat the story.