Nature of the Explosions/Explosives

Joined: Nov 25 2005, 11:41 AM

Jan 16 2006, 12:22 PM #1

One month after the attack on London and it was still unclear what type of explosives, detonators and timing devices were used in either on July 7th or July 21st, the day when the bombers had no bombs. And, at this time, it seems as though most of the information about the nature and type of explosives was coming from the New York Police Department! (Does London fall under the jurisdiction of the NYPD?)

This from the Financial Times, one month after the July 7th attacks:
Forensic experts seek clues to terror mastermind

By Bob Sherwood
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Posted: 01:41 PM EDT (18:41 London)

The precise make-up of the explosives, and the way they were triggered, are the crucial clues that investigators have been seeking to determine since the July 7 attacks.

While the manhunt for the July 21 would-be bombers was carried out with highly visible police raids, forensics experts working on the July 7 bombs have been focusing on the painstaking job of examining minute blast fragments.

There is plenty of evidence to work on. As well as the forensic items from the blast scenes, police seized material connected to the making of explosives during raids in Leeds days after the July 7 attacks. Bomb components were also recovered from a car left at Luton railway station by the bombers.
Scotland Yard said that so far there were only "surface similarities" between the two attacks, with no proof of a common bomb maker or guiding mastermind.

The home-made explosives were peroxide based, and the NYPD said the bombs used the explosive hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, known as HMTD, apparently made from the likes of hydrogen peroxide hair dye and citric acid food preservative.

That came as a surprise to explosives experts who had believed that the bombers had used the easier-to-make and less volatile triacetone triperoxide. Scotland Yard has confirmed only that the explosives were home made, such as TATP or "variations upon" it.

Professor Hans Michels, an explosives expert at Imperial College London, said: "I would be extremely surprised because TATP is easier to make and not as unstable as HMTD. If the bombs were made from this material, you would be really risking your lives even travelling with it.[/b]"

He said making a large quantity of HMTD in a house in a Leeds suburb would risk "blowing the whole street apart". However, it was possible a small quantity of HMTD could have been used, perhaps enclosed in a bottle, as an initiator, with another explosive packed around the outside to provide most of the force.

The use of HMTD would indicate the involvement of a highly trained, professional chemist."Whereas preparation of large amounts of medium grade TATP might conceivably be left to trained amateurs, any evidence of the use of HMTD would certainly point towards involvement of a specialist explosives chemist in preparation of these bombs," Prof Michels said.

John Wyatt, a counterterrorism explosives expert, said that, in spite of the proliferation of bomb-making instructions on the internet, few people are capable of putting together such volatile explosives. "The [July 7 and July 21 bombs] might not have been made by the same person, but I think there are probably only one or two people [in the country] capable of doing it."

Investigators say they are close to identifying the precise mix used in the first attacks. They will be trying to determine whether the July 7 explosives could have come from the same "recipe", or even the same batch, as the July 21 bombs that failed to go off.

Determining whether the explosives were made from the same instructions could be difficult. "Even if they were being made from the same recipe, different people would inevitably make it slightly differently," said Mr Wyatt.

The same batch of explosives for both attacks appears unlikely, as TATP becomes more, rather than less, volatile as it ages. Yet in the attacks two weeks later the bombs did not detonate. It would also be difficult to store HMTD for a long period, even in the kind of commercial refrigerator believed to have been used at the Leeds house.

A potentially more useful line of inquiry could be the "switching systems", the triggers, wiring and detonators, Mr Wyatt said.

"I think the switching systems are going to be extremely interesting to give the police an idea of what other cells might do."

The NYPD also said they had been told the bombs were triggered by mobile phone alarms set for 8.50am, rather than by the bombers detonating them manually. That is possible as the current from a phone alarm could easily be amplified and used to set off the blast cap. In addition, the devices would work underground as the phones would not be dependent on a signal.

If that proves to be true, it could suggest the men, who were carrying identification, had bought return tickets and left a car with explosive components at Luton station, did not intend to be, or did not know they were being used as, suicide bombers. Timers are used for planted bombs, whereas suicide bombers can trigger their devices manually when in the target position.

Source: Financial Times
"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you." -- Immortal Technique

"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." -- Malcolm X

"The eternal fight is not many battles fought on one level, but one great battle fought on many different levels." -- The Antagonist

"Truth does not fear investigation." -- Unknown
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Joined: Nov 25 2005, 11:41 AM

Jan 22 2006, 12:43 AM #2

Former CIA man Robert Kiley was in charge of running the underground on the day of July 7th and, as if by magic, another former CIA man informs the Guardian about the nature of the explosive devices involved on July 7th:
Police denied that they had recovered any unexploded devices. But a source told The Guardian that three controlled explosions had been carried out on "suspect devices".

Furthermore Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, told The Guardian that "two unexploded bombs" were recovered as well as "mechanical timing devices".
...

Scotland Yard said the four devices had been "conventional explosives", not containing chemical or biological material, but could not initially say what size the devices were, whether they had been carried by suicide bombers or whether they had been left in packages on the trains and the bus.

Source: The Guardian
"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you." -- Immortal Technique

"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." -- Malcolm X

"The eternal fight is not many battles fought on one level, but one great battle fought on many different levels." -- The Antagonist

"Truth does not fear investigation." -- Unknown
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Joined: Nov 25 2005, 11:41 AM

Jan 22 2006, 08:05 PM #3

Working on the same basis as Scotland Yard, from the point of view that 'you start with all the possibilities and narrow down the certainties', here's some information about Dust Explosions.

A link to the full and very interesting article is given below the quoted passage:
Dust Explosions
http://www.chemeng.ed.ac.uk/~emju49/SP2 ... intro.html

In the last 20 years industrial dust explosions have accounted for several hundred deaths
and hundreds of millions of dollars of insurance money and yet they are one of the least
recognised of industrial fire hazards. They can occur within any process where a combustible
dust is produced, and can be triggered by any energy source, including static sparks,
friction and incandecent material.

There are a few basic rules to observe to see whether a dust is capable of causing a dust
explosion:

    * The dust must be combustible.
    * The dust must be capable of becoming airborne.
    * The dust must have a size distribution capable of flame propagation.
    * The dust concentration must be within the explosible range.
    * An ignition source must be present.
    * The atmosphere must contain sufficient oxygen to support and sustain combustion.

London Underground does not recognise tunnel dust as a potential fire and explosive hazard.

Source: Danger of dust explosions on the London Underground
"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you." -- Immortal Technique

"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." -- Malcolm X

"The eternal fight is not many battles fought on one level, but one great battle fought on many different levels." -- The Antagonist

"Truth does not fear investigation." -- Unknown
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Joined: Nov 25 2005, 11:41 AM

Jan 24 2006, 01:43 AM #4

Science responds to reports that the explosives were home-made in a rather reactionary way, even though other experts who also purport to know about such things suggested that, despite the 'home made' tag, just one or two people in the country would be able to produce TATP without killing themselves in the process.

What happened to the Egyptian chemist?
Scientists Respond To News That London Terrorist Attackers May Have Used Explosives Made From Household Chemicals
15 July 2005

Dr Marina Murphy, News Editor, Chemistry & Industry magazine, said:

"The ingredients used to make acetone peroxide: hydrogen peroxide, acetone and sulphuric acid, are very common chemicals and easily accessible in quite large quantities to anyone working in a chemistry lab. They can also be found in products found on the high street, but getting large quantities that way might be more difficult. It's not surprising that it was used, because it is so easy to make and you can do it at home. All you need is some ice and a fridge to keep you reaction mixture cool and to store the final product. What's worrying is that there are numerous other explosive compounds that are as easily made."

Dr Andrea Sella, Lecturer in Chemistry, University College London, said:

"I'm a bit surprised by the fact that the media have talked about the specific explosive so extensively. This compound has been known since the late 19th century and its flammability and explosive properties are well-documented. My concern is not about terrorists making/using it - the information has long been out there. What concerns me more is that now every budding chemist in the country who wants to make "bangs" now has a specific name of to look up. And as it can be made from fairly common ingredients, it would not surprise me if we see a few lost fingers or eyes as a result of kids fooling around trying to make it."

To speak to these contacts or for further reaction please call Claire Bithell on 0207 670 2976.

The Science Media Centre is an independent venture working to promote the voices, stories and views of the scientific community to the news media when science is in the headlines. The Science Media Centre is housed within the Royal Institution but independent from it. Over 20 sponsors , including scientific institutions, companies and individuals, fund the Centre with donations capped at 5% of the running costs to preserve its independence. The team at the Centre is guided by a Science Advisory Panel and a Board . Please e-mail the Science Media Centre with your comments on our service.

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"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you." -- Immortal Technique

"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." -- Malcolm X

"The eternal fight is not many battles fought on one level, but one great battle fought on many different levels." -- The Antagonist

"Truth does not fear investigation." -- Unknown
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Joined: Nov 25 2005, 11:41 AM

Mar 12 2006, 07:58 PM #5

Explosive used in bombs 'was of military origin'

London Independent | July 12 2005

The bombs used in Thursday's terrorist attacks were of "military origin" , according to a senior French policeman sent to London to help in what has become the biggest criminal investigation in British history.

Christophe Chaboud, head of the French Anti-Terrorism Co-ordination Unit, told Le Monde newspaper that the explosives used in the bombings were of " military origin", which he described as "very worrying". " We're more used to cells making home-made explosives with chemicals," he said. "How did they get them? Either by trafficking, for example, in the Balkans, or they had someone on the inside who enabled them to get out of the military establishment."

He added that the victims' wounds suggested that the explosives, which were " not heavy but powerful", had been placed on the ground, perhaps underneath seats.

...

Forensic science specialists and anti-terrorist officers were continuing yesterday to examine the four crime scenes for traces of the bomb and a possible suicide bomber. This includes X-raying bodies to see if any bomb parts or timing devices, which could be vital clues, are embedded in them. It remains unclear if a terrorist died in the bus bomb, which went off an hour after the Tube explosions.

Detectives are checking all the victims from the bomb scene. An anti-terrorist source said they had recovered useful pieces of evidence, but were keeping an open mind as to whether a suicide bomber had been involved. Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Met, described the areas of investigation as "the biggest crime scenes in English history".

Source:  The Independent
"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you." -- Immortal Technique

"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." -- Malcolm X

"The eternal fight is not many battles fought on one level, but one great battle fought on many different levels." -- The Antagonist

"Truth does not fear investigation." -- Unknown
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Joined: Jan 14 2006, 10:43 PM

Mar 13 2006, 01:08 AM #6

For what its worth:
I heard from someone in Leeds that the person taken into custody for ten days (Naveed Fiaz I think, whose brother Jacksey or Elias Fiaz has vanished it seems) was accused by the police of having supplied the fertilizer from the 'head shop' (cannabis shop) in Beeston. Which I had always understood to be a bookshop Iqra, but I suppose it could do both.

There is suspicion in some quarters that Naveed with his links also to Hamara may have been a Londonistan-type police informer or agent of some kind, in which case the 'fertilizer provision' suspicion would merely have been a cover for debriefing.

Until the forensic reports are released (assuming they are honest) no one will know the degree of burn versus blast involved, which could settle this home made versus military explosives question.
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Joined: Nov 25 2005, 11:41 AM

Mar 17 2006, 01:30 PM #7

Brian Paddick, four days after July 7th:
"All we are saying is that it is high explosives," Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick told a news conference on Saturday.  "That would tend to suggest that it is not home-made explosive.  Whether it is military explosive, whether it is commercial explosive, whether it is plastic explosive we do not want to say at this stage."

Source: World Tribune
If Brian Paddick is to believed, and for what it's worth I think he's one of the few trustworthy senior policemen in existence (which is perhaps why he's leaving the force in the wake of July 7th, even after managing to weather a storm about his open admission on Urban 75 a few years ago that he found aspects of anarchy and anarchism appealing), then there is some considerable explanation required from the authorities to clarify how they could have got it so wrong for at least four days in 'the largest criminal inquiry in English history'.
"The problem with always being a conformist is that when you try to change the system from within, it's not you who changes the system; it's the system that will eventually change you." -- Immortal Technique

"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." -- Malcolm X

"The eternal fight is not many battles fought on one level, but one great battle fought on many different levels." -- The Antagonist

"Truth does not fear investigation." -- Unknown
Quote
Like
Share