Suicide bombers associated with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida terrorist network have begun carrying bombs inside their bodies in the form of suppositories to circumvent strict security controls, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Monday.
Citing information supplied by the newly formed French anti-terrorist service DCRI, the report highlighted a recent assassination attempt in Saudi Arabia in which the terrorist carried the bomb within his body.
"That is to say, it was undetectable," a French interior ministry official said. "The suicide bomber had only to detonate it with his cellphone, which the palace guards did not have the presence of mind to remove."
The target of the attack, Mohammed bin Nayef, the son of the Saudi interior minister, suffered only minor injuries.
However, the method used by the bomber has forced security officials to reconsider the controls used to prevent suicide bombings, particularly at airports.
"Our aviation controls are equipped with metal detectors, but in the case of the Saudi suicide bomber only an X-ray control would have detected the explosive," a police official said.
But X-ray controls are not being considered for general use. For one thing, they are very expensive. There is also another consideration, that of health.
"It is simply unthinkable to put X-rays into general use for security controls, since we know how often some passengers fly," an interior ministry official said. "The health risks of over-exposure to X-rays are too great."
According to a police security expert, one solution would be to concentrate on finding the telephone that emits the signal for the explosion. That could mean that passengers may in future be forced to hand their cellphones to a stewardess on boarding.