July 07, 2005
Bloomberg news quotes one London fireman as saying that they've discovered five explosive devices in the London subway network. If this is true, and there were in fact seven bombs that went off, it would indicate than nearly half of the devices planted failed to detonate.
There also seems to be a relatively low number of fatalities considering the density of humanity in the areas targeted, and I am forced to think that these were low-grade explosive devices, quite possibly something like blackpowder pipe bombs like those used by American anti-abortion fanatic Eric Robert Rudolph. As horrible and tragic as the deaths and injuries are, the number and severity of wounds doesn't seem to indicate that military grade explosives were used. If Semtex or C4 or other military grade explosives had been used, I would think that the casualties would have been far, far worse.
This has all the earmarks of an unsophisticated homegrown attack. The low-grade materials apparently used, and the fact that so many of the devices failed to work, would seem to indicate a zealous but unsophisticated terrorist plot carried out by a small group with limited access and capability.
I doubt this attack was carried out by al Qaeda infiltrators as were the attacks of September 11. I'd be very surprised if these amateur bomb-builders, when captured, come from anywhere other than England's own “loyal” Muslim immigrant community.
UPDATE: Some are considering this a "typical al-Qaeda" attack. I think al Qaeda has more competent bomb builders than this group, where almost half the bombs reported failed to explode. I certainly think the group behind this attack sympathizes with al Qaeda, but that does not mean they are nearly as technically proficient.
ANOTHER UPDATE: A group calling itself "Secret Group of Al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe" is taking responsibilty for the attacks. Sounds like "wannabes" to me, though murderous wannabes, as the death toll has now surpassed 40 and 300 are reported injured.
A top British terrorism expert says that this looks like an attempt to recreate the Madrid bombings. I'd say that was rather obvious.
Michael Clarke, director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London, says that for the six bombs he thought there were at the time, that there would have to be 24 suspects to carry out the attacks. So using that ratio of four attacker per bomb, was there a cell of 48 terrorists operating here if there were indeed 12 bombs (seven detonated, five non-detonated)?
I'm sorry Mr Clarke, but I'm not buying your numbers. I see no reason why it would take 24 men to plant six bombs (and yes, that includes support roles)
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Wretchard and a few others have said that they feel that this attack is quite sophisticated due to the near-simultaneous nature of the attacks. Again, like Michael Clarke's “large cell” theory of a large number of bombers, I simply don't buy it.
It is far too easy to rig time-type detonators to go of simultaneously or nearly so, and for cell phone type detonators commonly used in Iraq and I believe in the Madrid bombing, one terrorist merely has to run through a speed dial to set off a series of explosions.
I am not a terror expert, nor do I play one on television, but those that do play expert seem to be prone towards giving complex explanations rather than simple ones. If you listen to the “experts” today, you will probably here that a composite view that this was a very sophisticated attack carried out by a well-trained and well-armed terrorist cell with excellent counter security to avoid detection.
Once all is said and done, however, I would find it far more likely that the attack will be traced back to no more than a dozen legal Muslim immigrants operating out of a fundamentalist London mosque.
They will simply know from living there when the morning rush hour was (that takes brilliant surveillance? Hardly), and we'll probably find that they were able to find pipe-bomb building instructions on the Internet. The only difficult part of this plan was obtaining explosives, and I'll be willing to bet that they explosives used were purchased legally or cooked up by the terrorists themselves.
Time may very well prove that these were indeed complex operations. It is undoubtedly good for the psyche to believe these kinds of attacks are difficult to pull off. But they don't have to be.
Terrorism need not be sophisticated, and it rarely is.
FURTHER UPDATE: The number of blasts has been revised down to three subway attacks and one bus attack. Trains were hit between stations, and as passengers exited from stations on either side it made it look like there were attacks than there actually were.
ABC News has confirmed that two unexploded bombs and parts of the timing devices from the bombs that detonated have been recovered.
This is down from the original claim carried by Bloomberg that five bombs had been recovered, and shows that at least 1/3 of the bombs used failed to work.
Does this prove my earlier contention that this was the work of al Qaeda "wannabes" and not experienced terrorists? Perhaps not, but the fact that bombs were recovered quickly and intact should help British authorities to narrow down a list of suspects rather quickly. Once they make arrests--and I have every confidence that they will--we'll see for certain who is behind these attacks.
Until then, my prayers and support are firmly with the British people.