Clues about Explosives Used May Prove Decisive
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
British investigators say clues about the bombs used in the attacks may prove decisive. It remains unclear the exact nature of the explosives. It is clear they were powerful and some experts suggest that they would require more expertise than the bombers had. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from London.
ANTHONY KUHN reporting:
After just two days of investigations, the Metropolitan Police said that the bombers carried backpacks filled with high explosives. Tony Burchell is a former British Special Forces demolitions trainer. He currently works with a security consultancy called the AKE Group. He explains that the damage to the trains and bus were consistent with the use of high explosives.
Mr. TONY BURCHELL (AKE Group): Low explosives, we think of gun powder and perhaps ammonium nitrates, fuel oil mixes. And these have a lifting effect whereas plastic explosives are designed generally for cutting steel, and they have a shattering effect as opposed to a lifting effect.
KUHN: Experts had previously said that it was likely that the bombs were made with plastic explosives such as C4 or semtex. But the BBC has now reported that authorities have found a homemade explosive called acetone peroxide in a house in Leeds where the suspected bombers came from. Acetone peroxide is a high explosive also known as TATP. It can be made with readily available ingredients including acetone and hydrogen peroxide. Andy Oppenheimer, a consultant with Jane's Information Group, says he's not surprised to hear this.
Mr. ANDY OPPENHEIMER (Jane's Information Group): Even though it was thought for the past few days that this was a plastic explosive because it's a stable and easy to fashion into a bomb, this is not entirely surprising because this is something that can be done at home. And terrorists have tried to use this material before and they have often used it before.
KUHN: Richard Reid, known as the shoe bomber, and his accomplice, British-Pakistani Sajid Badat, also used acetone peroxide in their failed plots to bring down airplanes in 2001. They obtained the materials and instructions to use them in Pakistan. Some experts say that last week's bombers could have been recruited and trained by the same people that guided Reid and Badat. Tony Burchell agrees with many experts' idea that the bombers and bomb makers were probably not the same people.
Mr. BURCHELL: The person who lays the device is not going to be the person who's constructed it because that man is far too important to actually lose.
KUHN: Jane's Oppenheimer points out that the important thing is that the explosives were conventional. He notes that al-Qaeda has threatened to use non-conventional, even nuclear weapons, and that UK emergency services are already preparing for such a possibility. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, London.
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