'Mother of Satan': The New Terror Weapon of Choice

ByABC News via logo
August 11, 2006, 6:59 AM

Aug. 11, 2006 — -- It was a different kind of terror plot, as devious as it was dangerous.

The terrorists wouldn't board with bombs. They would board with seemingly harmless household ingredients that wouldn't make a security agent blink.

These explosive fluids could pass for hair gel, fit in a tube of toothpaste, and detonate with the flash of a disposable camera.

The potential weapons would be assembled onboard and ignited in an attempt to kill hundreds in one strike.

In this case, the specific plan was to conceal a liquid bomb ingredient -- acetone peroxide, also called the "Mother of Satan."

It would be dyed the color of the beverage at the bottom of a drink container.

This peroxide-based explosive is the same substance reportedly used by London subway bombers just over one year ago.

The top of the bottle would contain the original beverage, allowing terrorists to even drink from the bottle if questioned by security.

A co-conspirator on the same flight, another terrorist, would bring the detonator -- in this case the filament found in a disposable camera's bulb.

The 24 terror suspects, now in British custody, allegedly planned to set off explosives on up to 10 cross-Atlantic flights, tearing them to pieces midair.

This kind of plot may sound new to most of us, but it's a threat government agencies have known about for years.

It's a loophole in security they haven't fixed.

In February 2005, a Government Accountability Office report determined that the Transportation Security Administration had "delayed the development of a device to detect weapons, liquid explosives in containers found in carry-on baggage or passenger's effects."

A different report, issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, noted in its title the "Possible Terrorist Use of Liquid Explosive Materials in Future Attacks."

This report mentioned that liquid explosives could be set off by the filament of a single Christmas light.

Meanwhile, people of every age were waiting in line at the airport, shoes in hand.

This time, however, shoes were not the problem.

U.S. agencies knew there was a threat of liquid explosives for which they weren't prepared.

Despite the billions spent on homeland security since Sept. 11, 2001, America's anti-terror strategy could not keep up with rapidly evolving terror threats.

Thursday's alleged terrorists planned to bring simple travel items onboard their planned flights: sports drinks and disposable cameras.

If their operation had succeeded as designed, it could have struck up to 10 commercial jets, taking almost as many lives as the attacks of Sept. 11.

If the planes had exploded above major U.S. cities, as some feared the terrorists had planned, the loss of life could have been far greater.