QUANTICO, Va. -- Kirk Yeager makes bombs from the stuff found under kitchen sinks. He does it to help the FBI defend against what officials say is the next frontier for terrorists in the United States.
Ten years ago, peroxide-based bombs were mostly the work of young pranksters. But the easy-to-make-yet-deadly chemical cocktails were embraced in the late 1990s by Palestinian militants and suicide bombers bent on killing large groups of people.
Now, Yeager said, the "Mother of Satan" explosives are considered the most likely weapon that terrorists would use against the United States, more so than a nuclear or radiological "dirty" bomb.
"Every serious terrorist group knows about them and knows how to make them," Yeager said. The forensic scientist heads the explosives unit at the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Va., about 35 miles south of Washington.
The bombs are made by mixing chemicals that are used in common household items, including hydrogen peroxide and paint thinner, and easily found at drugstores or hardware stores. Experts know them as TATP, which is short for triacetone triperoxide, and HMTD, or hexamethylene triperoxide diamine.
Recent cases of explosions or thwarted attacks with TATP or HMTD in the United States include:
Millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam. He was carrying HMTD among the 124 pounds of explosives in the trunk of his car when he was arrested near the US-Canadian border in December 1999.
Richard Reid. The would-be shoe bomber tried unsuccessfully to detonate 8 ounces of TATP hidden in his high-top sneaker during a Paris-to-Miami flight in 2001.
University of Oklahoma suicide bomber Joel Henry Hinrichs III. He used TATP to blow himself up near a packed football stadium in October 2005.
College student Matthew Rugo in Texas City, Texas. He was killed last July when a plastic storage container of TATP exploded after being mixed in his apartment. The FBI has not found any connection in the case to international terrorist groups, but the investigation continues.
Additionally, counterterrorism authorities say terrorists planned to mix a solution similar to TATP in last summer's thwarted attacks on as many as 10 London-to-US flights -- leading to the crackdown on bringing liquids aboard airlines.
Also, authorities believe that ecoterrorists and animal rights extremist groups such as Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front use peroxide-based explosives.
Yeager, 41, who helps the FBI solve bombing cases by investigating the crime scene debris, is the only US official who makes TATP and similar explosives in mass quantities.
His interest in bomb-making began at Cornell University, where he earned his doctorate in organic chemistry.
Yeager's brews are used for testing and training police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs. Until recently, authorities knew little about peroxide-based bombs because they are too volatile to handle casually. Also, TATP in particular is hard for dogs to detect.
Over the past year, the FBI and Transportation Security Administration have trained dog teams to sniff out the chemical cocktails at 75 airports and on subway, train, and bus systems in 13 cities.
"It's a threat that's not here right now, but we see it coming," said Dave Kontny, director of TSA's national explosives detection canine teams.