How Did Moscow Bomber Elude Airport Security?

Here's how terrorists get past airport security: don't bother to go through it.

Danger Room‘s Spencer Ackerman offers plausible speculation as to how bombers could have avoided airport security:

Russia’s Novosti news service cites eyewitnesses claiming “two terrorists blew themselves up as passengers emerged from the international arrivals zone.” If so, then they picked the softest target that airports have: a place where lots of people congregate, in anticipation of their loved ones’ arrival, without passing through machines to detect chemicals or metallic objects.

These are early reports; much can change. The security analysis organization Stratfor tweets that the location of the bomb isn’t so clear. Admittedly, I’ve never traveled through Domodedovo; maybe there’s a security procedure in the arrivals terminal there I’m not aware of. But the above video of the aftermath, uploaded to YouTube and noticed by the New York Times (thanks, guys) looks like it’s at either an arrival area or a baggage claim.

If Novosti’s early account is correct, then the terrorists who carried out the Domodedovo attack have demonstrated that it’s not necessary to get an explosive on board an airplane to kill and injure lots of people and throw air travel into turmoil. That’s important to consider as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security installs expensive and privacy-infringing “naked scanners” at airport security gates and keeps traveler liquids off of flights. Terrorists of all affiliations have proven that they’ll aim for whatever targets security officials don’t or can’t harden: in 2004, two Chechen terrorists boarded a plane at Domodedovo,killing 88 passengers in a suicide bombing and prompting airport officials to toughen security measures; now they hit the airports rather than the planes.

That’s just conjecture, of course, but it’s a good one.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    That’s interesting. The later wrap-up from RIAN, which I cited, omits the report of two terrorists. Russian news coverage being what it is I don’t know whether that means the report of multiple attackers was premature or they’ve decided to try to hold that back. I’m guessing the former.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I gather the “two attackers” thing was one eyewitness’ account. Under general circumstances, much less these extraordinary ones, those have to be taken with a grain of salt.