Miranda Tomic

Marketing terms and branding will not ensure that the components of a layered security plan are prepared to meet the current and emerging security threats that are faced globally on a daily basis. The threat spectrum presented by the current terrorist threat is situationally driven, dynamic and continuously evolving. MSA Security’s Explosive Detection Canine program is built on the ability to address the entire threat spectrum and anticipate evolving and emerging threats. Just as flexibility and sustainability are key components to a layered security plan, the ability to adapt to the current explosive threat spectrum and anticipate the future threat is key to a canine program.

Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) were not historically trained to detect TATP which is currently one of the explosive materials of choice. This is due to the difficulty of safely manufacturing and utilizing such a highly sensitive material in a training environment. In 2010, MSA became one of the first private companies able to obtain TATP training aids in a safe, non-explosive state in compliance with federal, state and local regulations. Since that time, MSA has remained at the forefront of the industry, imprinting, training, and annually testing all EDCs on Home Made Explosives (HMEs) including TATP, HMTD, Urea Nitrate, Ammonium Nitrate mixtures, and Potassium and Sodium Chlorate mixtures. This capability is in addition to the full range of commercial and military explosives. If future threats present new improvised explosives, you may be assured that MSA and its EDC program will meet those threats. With this capability, canines have consistently been proven to be the most effective and efficient method of explosive detection, working against the evolving global threat spectrum.

MSA Security has the unique ability to support the Explosive Detection Canine program with real time intelligence analysis provided by the MSA Intelligence division and the direct support of a full time Chief Forensic Chemist. These additional resources allow MSA to thoroughly analyze events in real time and replicate the device down to the locally sourced materials used to create the device. MSA can take this analysis and replicate the devise within hours and determine if our processes and procedures used during imprintation and operational training can address the threat.

TATP Case Studies

  • 2015 Paris, France: eight militants armed with AK47 rifles and identical suicide belts carried out synchronized attacks at six locations across Paris. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the violence and vowed to carry out additional attacks in coming weeks. Investigators later reported that the suicide vests were packed with triacetone triperoxide (TATP), is made using easily obtainable, household chemicals.
  • 2009 New York City Subway Plot: Najibullah Zazi was arrested for plotting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction aboard the 1, 2, 3 and 6 subway trains between Grand Central Station and Lower Manhattan. Zazi admitted to traveling to Pakistan in 2008 for terrorist training at an al Qaeda camp. He returned to the U.S. with plans to build bombs using backpacks and peroxide-based explosives and TATP detonators. Prior to his arrest, he conducted preoperational surveillance of his targets over the summer with two co-conspirators.
  • 2009 Attempted Bombing of Northwest Flight 253: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled a PETN based “underwear bomb” aboard NW 253 and attempted to detonate the charge utilizing an “incendiary” firing chain composed, in-part, of TATP. The firing train functioned, detonating the TATP but failing to initiate the PETN main charge.
  • 2006 Transatlantic Airline Plot: British police foiled an advanced al Qaeda plot to detonate liquid explosives disguised as a sports drink aboard at least 6 commercial aircrafts traveling from the UK to the U.S. and Canada. The militants reportedly planned to smuggle the soft drink bottles on-board and detonate the liquid explosive with a concealed TATP detonator utilizing a small light bulb connected to a disposable camera.
  • 2005 London Transportation Bombings: Al Qaeda-affiliated suicide bombers attacked buses and subways in London, killing 52 passengers and the four bombers. The peroxide-based explosives were concealed in backpacks and detonated with a 9-volt battery and TATP and HMTD detonators. It was later reported that the bombers bought large quantities of hydrogen peroxide in the months leading up to the attacks.
  • 2001 Attempted Shoe Bombing: British national, Richard Reid, attempted to detonate an explosive hidden in his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami. A passenger and flight attendant observed Reid trying to use a match to light the fuse attached to his shoe, and subdued him. A chemical analysis of the device determined that it was composed of a plasticized pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) main charge and a paper wrapped TATP detonator. Reid later admitted that the “shoe bombs” had been designed to be smuggled onto airplanes.


Joe Atherall is a retired Marine Corps Infantry officer and is currently the VP, Operations for MSA Security with 25 years of mitigating security threats.

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