Its a gas, gas, gas

Site of failed NYC attack

The recent failed car-bomb attempt in NYC appears to be a clear example of the issues I discussed in this post relating to the difference between learning the theory of making bombs and actually doing so with the materials you have to hand in the local environment.

Reportedly a street vendor spotted smoke coming out of an SUV which had been abandoned in Times Square, alerted a police officer who then called in the bomb squad. When the VBIED was made safe and dismantled it was found to be made up of three barbeque propane tanks, eight bags of ‘non-explosive grade’ fertilizer, petrol and some commercial firecrackers. The detonator appears to have been connected to couple of alarm clocks, suggesting this was not intended to be a suicide attack. It seems that the intent was to use the firecrackers to explode the fuel containers. As will be seen below, this is an unlikely way to try to cause gas canisters and fertilizer to explode.

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Burmese suicide bomb?

AFP reports that a man being questioned by police in Burma detonated an explosive device, which killed him and injured four of the officers.

“A man about 30 years old exploded the bomb and killed himself. Four police beside him were injured during the blast at the police station,” a resident of Loikaw town in Karenni state told AFP, requesting anonymity.We do not know how he exploded the bomb,” he said.

The report does not make clear why the man had been detained by police. Burma has been hit by a spate of explosions in recent weeks in the run-up to controversial national elections. Perhaps he detonated a grenade or a device he was on his way to plant and the police failed to search him?

To the best of my knowledge this is the first time this has happened in Burma, so it may well be a one-off.

Attack in Iran

The BBC is reporting that several members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have been killed in a suicide attack on a meeting with tribal leaders. The targets appear to have been senior officers:

The deputy commander of the Guard’s ground force, General Noor Ali Shooshtari, and the Guard’s chief provincial commander, Rajab Ali Mohammadzadeh, were among the dead, Irna state news agency reported.

The attack took place in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan and the Iranians seem to be blaming it on Sunni militant group Jundallah which has a track record for attacking IRG targets.

This is not the first time a suicide attack has been used in Iran. In December 2008 a VBIED was used to attack a security base in Saravan, killing four and wounding 12.

There was also a purported attack in May 2008, at a mosque in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchistan. At the time, I have to admit I was skeptical, wondering if it was staged as a pretext for cracking down on opposition figures, but with hindsight perhaps not. Iran might be facing the development of a suicide attack campaign.

Failed attack in Milan

I was holding off posting on this until some more details emerged, but it does now look like yesterday’s attempt to bomb a military barracks in Milan, Italy was a failed suicide attack.

Reportedly, one Mohammad Game, a Libyan, managed to get into the perimeter of the base but was spotted by a sentry before he got near the main building. When challenged he detonated (or threw, its not quite clear) a toolbox containing an explosive device which partly exploded seriously wounding Game (he’s apparently had an arm amputated and lost both eyes) and the sentry was lightly wounded.

It has been reported that the 35-year-old failed businessman had at least two accomplices, who have been arrested. One was Egyptian, and is alleged to have transported Game to the barracks, while the other, another Libyan, assisted with the explosives.

One hundred kilos of fertilizer and other material was allegedly found at their home. The target of the attack, the Santa Barbara barracks, is home to some of Italy’s forces who are deployed in Afghanistan. Last month, these forces suffered a major blow, when a suicide VBIED killed six of their personnel in an attack in Kabul.

I reckon this is a pretty significant incident, in that, as far as I can recall, it is the first attempted suicide attack (i.e. one that got as far as trying to detonate a device) in Western Europe since May 2008, when British man Nicky Reilly injured himself in a failed attempt to bomb a restaurant in Exeter, UK.

While its early to say much more about this latest incident, it demonstrates yet again that downloading instructions, making home-made explosives and manufacturing a viable device out of them is not as simple as some would have us believe. As I highlighted in this post, the lack of access to skilled personnel and resources makes jihadist cells potentially much less competent than they might otherwise be.

Dual suicide bombings in Ramadi kill 23

Looks like an initial strike against a police station, followed up by a second attacker targeting responders and onlookers at the site of the first blast. From the BBC:

Three blasts have rocked the Iraqi city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, killing at least 23 people and wounding several others, police have told the BBC.

A car packed with explosives ploughed into a concrete wall at the police headquarters. A motorcycle bomb then went off among the crowd that gathered.

The third blast, an apparent car bomb, went off outside a hospital. A curfew has been imposed in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, which was once a centre of the Sunni insurgency.

Suicide attack on Indian embassy in Kabul

AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq

AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq

It looks like the Indian embassy in Kabul has been hit again. The BBC reports that a suicide attack (probably a VBIED but not yet confirmed) occurred at 03:53 GMT this morning, killing at least seven and injuring more than 60 – apparently all civilian bystanders. AP suggests that the casualties are higher, with 12 dead and 84 wounded. Indian’s Foreign Minister has confirmed it was a suicide attack, saying:

“I believe the suicide bomb was directed at the embassy since the suicide bomber came up to the outer perimeter wall of the embassy in a car loaded with explosives.”

The building was targeted in June 2008 by another suicide VBIED. Forty-one people died in that attack, including senior embassy staff who had been in vehicles near the embassy gate (and may have been the primary targets of the attack).

Presumably this attack will also be attributed by some to the ISI or the Taliban acting at their behest. Since the fall of the Taliban, India has been making consistent efforts to develop a meaningful presence in Afghanistan, something that is anathema to arch-rival Pakistan.

Attack on Iraqi funeral

AP reports that Iraq has had its first suicide attack of the month, killing at least six and injuring 15 in an attack on a funeral being held for a member of the al-Daghaytha tribe. Reportedly:

The bomber detonated an explosive belt..inside a tent for mourners in the mostly Sunni area of Haditha, about 140 miles (220 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad.