Report: Al-Qaida doctors trained to implant bombs in humans
Western intelligence agencies believe that al-Qaida doctors have been trained to implant bombs inside the bodies of suicide bombers, Britain's Sunday Times reported.
The doctors, thought to have been trained by a man who worked with the top bomb-maker for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have the ability to put explosive compounds in breasts and abdomens of suicide bombers, the newspaper reported without citing its sources.
The lead doctor was thought to have been killed in a drone attack earlier this year and likely worked with the master bomber-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, according to the newspaper.
The CIA want to track down the group of doctors, the newspaper reported.
"There is a transferable skill and there is still some concern," said a Western security official who spoke to The Sunday Times on condition of anonymity.
Experts said explosive compounds such as pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) could be surgically implanted in an aspiring suicide bomber, who would them allow the wounds to heal, according to the newspaper. Body scanners in most airports around the world would not be able to detect the device, which could be detonated by injection, the newspaper added.
The news follows revelations on Monday that that AQAP tried to arm a suicide bomber with a non-metallic device that was an upgraded version of an "underwear bomb" that was carried on to a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009, but failed to detonate.
The device that authorities seized in the undercover operation contained what was intended to be a more reliable detonating mechanism, counter-terrorism officials said Monday.
U.S. officials said that the latest plot was foiled by the CIA and allied foreign intelligence services, without identifying the allies. British authorities put heavy pressure on the Obama administration not to disclose Britain's role in the investigation.
Several U.S. media outlets reported that Saudi Arabia was the key partner in the operation.
But it turned out that British intelligence played what appears to be a more central role in foiling the plot to send a suicide bomber on to an airplane. The operation was a cooperative venture between Britain's domestic and foreign intelligence services known as MI5 and MI6, officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
As details of the operation emerge, it appears to be a striking example of how U.S., European and Middle Eastern intelligence services cooperate on complex counterterrorism missions.
A spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office declined to comment, saying that in such cases it never confirmed or denied the involvement of British intelligence. A spokesman for British intelligence also declined to comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.