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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics

Sunday, July 10, 2005

More News from Britain 

London

Adding to the list of inconsistencies in early media reports of the London blasts, investigators have found that all three bombs in the London Tube detonated simultaneously, not spread over a 45 minute period as previously reported. The package bombs consisted of 5kg of high grade explosives detonated using timing devices. The explosives were presumably imported into Britain or, as in Madrid, purchased on the black market. They would not have been cooked up in a home lab.

In an interview with ABC News Radio today, Aldo Borgu of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute claimed that the simultaneity of the attacks and the use of timers suggested that several different 'teams' carried out the attacks. I disagree.

Al-Qaeda and related groups have previously demonstrated that it is possible for a single team, or even a single individual, to place several timed explosives on different vehicles. For example, we know of Ramzi Yousef's "Bojinka Plot", a sophisticated plan to plant bombs on board ten different aeroplanes, all of which was later scheduled to fly over the Atlantic to the US more or less simultaneously. Although this was thwarted when Yousef's home bomb laboratory caught fire, the plans recorded on his laptop demonstrated that the plan was quite viable.

The London bombs could have been placed under train seats by a single plotter who simply changed trains repeatedly, perhaps being met at prearranged rendezvous points by an accomplice carrying the bombs in a car or van. More likely, three or four individuals of the same team could have taken different trains that morning, each of them planting their bomb on a particular train.

There is no need to jump to the conclusion that this cell has enough members to operate several multi-member teams.

One of these plans apparently ran into some sort of hitch, resulting in the bus bombing slightly later. The discovery of a dead suspect on board the Tavistock bus more likely suggests an accident on the terrorists' part, rather than a deliberate suicide bombing.

Birmingham

20,000 people have been evacuated from the centre of Birmingham amid a credible bomb threat. One suspect package aboard a bus has been destroyed by a controlled detonation.

Authorities have reportedly said that this incident is unconnected to the London blasts. It is difficult to know what to make of this at such an early stage. Is it perhaps a different cell? Is it a copycat, a prank attack, or just a bag left on a bus? Are the authorities playing down the connection until they know for certain that one exists?

No doubt we will find out in coming days.
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