Common Items, Extraordinary Threat

"Allah loves us to die and kill in his path," Umar Islam is seen saying on an alleged martyrdom video.

The video, shown today in a London court, is part of what the prosecution says is evidence against Islam, one of eight men facing charges for an alleged plot to blow up at least 10 passenger jets in 2006, most of which were bound for the United States.

"There are many more like us, and many more like me ready to strike," the video continues.


With a shifting global terror landscape and increasingly stealth terrorists, the Transportation Security Administration has given ABC News exclusive insight into the nature of the threat: examples of what the TSA says are the latest tactics being developed by extremists intent on causing harm.

U.S. officials have been collecting examples of would-be bombs from airport security and intelligence agencies around the world.

The newest techniques involve everyday items. "They're always working to improve to use common objects to use against us; they're innovative, creative," TSA administrator Kip Hawley told ABC News. "And even though you think this is a very small container, you can put a lot of damage inside even the back of a watch."

Hawley showed ABC News one such watch, demonstrating that what looks like an ordinary accessory can actually become a bomb detonator -- an explosive charge -- which could be used to set off a huge explosion.

How would a would-be suicide bomber use it? "Well, you would smuggle it through security then you would actually be able to press it up against" a bomb-laden vest, Hawley explained.

"Just that simple. You have a power source, you have the detonator and everything else you need there in an explosive," Hawley said.

The watch -- a duplicate of one recovered from a suspected suicide bomber overseas -- comes complete with a battery for electrical spark and a tiny cube of TATP, a powerful explosive.

Authorities overseas also found an electric toothbrush, similar to one the TSA showed ABC News, which was actually re-engineered to detonate a plastic explosive that could be hidden in the lining of a briefcase.

A government test video shows how small amounts of explosives can cause a damaging blast. Islam and his co-defendants allegedly planned to use common sports drink bottles to conceal liquid explosives. Investigators said the group planned to use those materials, and seemingly innocuous electronic devices such as MP3 players, in their alleged plot, which authorities thwarted in 2006.

As a result, U.S. officials banned liquid containers of more than 3 ounces from all carry-on luggage.

In December 2001, British citizen Richard Reid attempted to blow up his explosive-packed shoes on a plane flying from Paris to Miami. He pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in 2002 and is serving his sentence at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo. But according to the government, the threat posed by shoe bombs didn't end with the so-called shoe bomber.

Government tests have shown how a shoe bomb could easily slice through metal and potentially take down a plane.

In recent months, TSA screeners have been routinely discovering peculiar, suspicious items hidden in the lining and soles of shoes.

Authorities have discovered wires, electronic components, even toggle switches embedded in footwear.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...