Citing the results of the first 24 hours of inquiries, Andy Hayman, a senior police officer, said that the four bombs each contained less than 10 pounds of "high explosive," and that the bombs on the three trains were left on the floors of the cars where they exploded, around 100 yards from the stations at King's Cross, Liverpool Street and Edgware Road.
The bomb on the bus exploded either on the floor or on a seat, he said.
The bombs were probably made from simple, relatively easy-to-obtain plastic explosives, not the higher-grade military plastics like Semtex that would have killed far more people, said Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert who consults for Jane's Information Group.
``Any crook with ready cash could obtain this stuff if they knew where to look for it,'' said Alex Standish, the editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest.
One wonders how much effort various European intelligence and police agencies put into running down all the black market plastic explosives.
What is the range of black market prices for Semtex and similar explosives in London, Madrid, and other European cities? Ditto the United States. Is it harder or easier for terrorists to get bomb material in the United States than in Europe?
The Madrid bombs weighed more and more bombs were used. So the Madrid bombings used about 220 pounds of explosives.
Ten pounds is a relatively small bomb, although a blast's power depends more on the type of explosive than the amount. The 10 bombs that killed 191 people on commuter trains in Madrid, Spain last year averaged 22 pounds each; the bombs that killed 33 bystanders and 12 suicide attackers at five targets in Casablanca, Morocco, two years ago were 18 to 22 pounds each.
Why didn't the London bombers use more bombs or bigger bombs? Did they have less money? Is the explosives black market smaller in Britain than in Spain?
Paul Cornish, the head of the international security program for the London research center Chatham House, said such answers would be the result of slow, steady investigation.
"This doesn't look to be a particularly involved plan - simple bombs, hardly exact timing," he said. "It could have been as simple as four friends eating breakfast in central London, then agreeing to head off and look for buses and trains. There may not have been much planning, and there may have been only a few people involved."
The Czech company Explosia that makes Semtex has a web page defending themselves against charges that their manufacture of Semtex creates dangers for others. For investors they point out that they have a broad product line and are not dependent on Semtex sales for their survival.
A 2002 profile of Semtex inventor Stanislav Brebera in Christian Science Monitor reports experts put worldwide Semtex stockpiles in the tens of thousand of tons.
Semtex became infamous when just 12 ounces of the substance, molded inside a Toshiba cassette recorder, blasted Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky above Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, killing 270 people. A year later, after the Czech Communist regime was toppled, the new president, Vaclav Havel, revealed that the Czechs had exported 900 tons of Semtex to Col. Moammar Qaddafi's Libya and another 1,000 tons to other unstable states, such as Syria, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Some experts now put worldwide stockpiles of Semtex at 40,000 tons.
After the Lockerbie tragedy, Brebera added metal components and a distinct odor to make Semtex easier to detect. But that did not stop terrorists from using it to bomb the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998, or prevent the IRA, which received about 10 tons of Semtex from Libya, from continuing its attacks.
Substantial quantities of the explosive have been stolen from industrial enterprises in the Czech and Slovak republics for sale on the black market. Shortly before the most recent ban was lifted, Czech police seized 100 kilograms of industrial Semtex from a group of Czech citizens who were planning its illegal sale abroad. In Slovakia in October 1993, some 900 kilograms of the explosive were stolen from the warehouse of a private firm, together with more than 2,000 detonators. Czech officials candidly admit that they have no idea how much Semtex has been stolen or illegally diverted, and the continued black market trade in the explosive seems certain.
But Semtex is far from the only choice available. C4 and many other explosives could have caused the damage seen in London.
The Brits are in a difficult position. Much of the black market explosives trade takes place in other European countries. The sheer volume of goods imported from those European countries into Britain makes bringing in some explosives fairly easy. Therefore the illegal explosives trade can't be stopped enitirely. Still, a bigger effort coordinated across Europe against black market arms trading might reduce the rate of future attacks.
At the same time the people side of the equation would be extremely difficult to fix. A lot of the angry British Muslims were born in Britain as citizens. So deportation isn't going to get rid of them unless the Brits start revoking citizenships based on measures of loyalty. But even then they'd have to identify who rejects the legitimacy of their society thoroughly enough to want to plant bombs.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 July 09 12:00 AM Terrorists Activities|