Swedish attack update

Swedish police this week released details of their investigation into the failed Christmas 2010 suicide bombing in Stockholm. On 11 December 2010, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, a Swedish citizen of Iraqi origin died in an explosion in central Stockholm. His body was discovered with abdominal blast injuries along with a bag containing explosive material. Al-Abdaly had previously lived in Luton in the UK, along with his wife and two children. At the time it appeared that one of his devices exploded prematurely. The new information from the Swedish investigation suggests that a faulty trigger mechanism prevented the main charge he was carrying from detonating. This would appear to tally with reports at the time of the incident, which referred to a suspected attacker who had died from abdominal injuries.

Al-Abdaly was carrying two devices, one in a backpack comprising some 10kg of explosives, the second, made up of 6kg of explosive was wrapped around his waist. The Swedes also revealed he had placed a device in a vehicle with a remote detonator,but this also appears to have malfunctioned. Apparently the car bomb was  made up of ‘ fireworks, gasoline and liquid gas tanks’, something that has been seen several times before – notably in the Times Square and Glasgow Airport bombings (see this previous post).

The video below, a news report from around the time of the attack, shows first the blazing car and then, just off-screen, the explosion when al-Abdaly’s device detonated. The aftermath shows he was fairly far away from the main shopping street, suggesting he may have detonated prematurely or had suffered a technical failure. The Swedish police also reported that his two devices were augmented with a large quantity of nails.

One theory is that he intended the device in the car to explode, drawing in emergency services and bystanders, and he would then set off his device amongst this crowd. A Swedish prosecutor stated that:

“A possible scenario is that the car was supposed to attract people and that the bomb was supposed to explode. The perpetrator planned to walk into this environment and trigger his bombs,”

Interestingly there is little detail about how al-Abdaly went about constructing his devices. He had apparently purchased materials and equipment in the local area, but the investigation has yet to discover where he manufactured and assembled the devices. It also appears that al-Abdaly was operating by himself within Sweden, although one man was arrested and charged in Luton in the UK. At the time of the attack there was speculation that al-Abdaly may have had help from others in Sweden. Al-Abdaly had also reportedly travelled to Syria and Iraq in 2007 and 2009, so it is possible be received some form of training in explosives while there.

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Article on 2 Rifles in Helmand

Anthony Lloyd, a British war correspondent who has also written some pretty good books (My War Gone By and Another Bloody Love Letter), has a searing article in The Times this week, describing the experiences of a the British 2 Rifles battlegroup in Helmand.

“In April this year it became 2 Rifles’ dubious fortune to be sent to Sangin on a six-month tour. By mid-August their battle group, a composite force from various units built around a core of several hundred riflemen and fusiliers, had the worst casualties of any British brigade sent to Helmand, with just over 100 soldiers killed or wounded: a fifth of their total patrol troops”

Note that – a 20 per cent casualty rate. Not strictly related to the main topic at hand, but well worth a read.

Alleged Overt logistical supporters go on trial

Abdulla Ahmed Ali

Abdulla Ahmed Ali

Three men went on trial yesterday, accused of assisting the cell of British jihadists who sought to smuggle liquid explosives aboard commercial aircraft with the intent of conducting suicide attacks onboard while in the air (also known as Operation OVERT, the name given to the police operation which interdicted the cell). The trio are Adam Khatib, 22, Mohammed Shamin Uddin, 39, and Nabeel Hussain, 25.

Uddin is accused of helping the plotters by researching how to manufacture explosives using hydrogen peroxide while Hussain is accused of providing financial support. Khatib appears to be accused of having provided general assistance to the plot’s ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali who was convicted in a second trial last month, along with two other accomplices.

This simply reinforces the point that such plots and attacks are not necessarily simple, and beyond the bombers themselves there may be a wider support and logistical infrastructure.