Saturday, July 09, 2005


Investigation of London bombings underway; Britain refused to extradite Garbuzi, now sought by investigators

At this stage of the investigation, it appears that the bombs used in the London terrorist attacks may have been small, homemade, relatively crude devices:

The bombs that destroyed three London Underground cars and a double-decker bus each weighed less than 10 pounds and could be carried in a backpack, police said Friday. Police said the bodies of 49 people had been recovered, but warned that the number of deaths would rise.

An explosives expert said they were likely crude homemade devices set off with a simple timer.

Experts say Thursday's attacks had all the hallmarks of an al-Qaida strike, and authorities were gathering evidence on the ground and investigating a purported claim of responsibility.
Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, said no arrests had been made but officials have "lots and lots" of leads.

According to an unnamed “law enforcement official”, one possible link to an al Qaida operation comes from a high-ranking al-Qaida figure grabbed up by the Pakistanis in May:

A U.S. law enforcement official said authorities had vague information from Abu Farraj al-Libbi, reputedly No. 3 in the al-Qaida terror network, that al-Qaida was seeking to mount an attack similar to the 2004 train bombings in Madrid.

Al-Libbi was arrested by Pakistani agents on May 2. The information contained no specifics about location or timing, the official said.

It is, of course, possible that the London bombings are not connected, and Al-Libbi's information pertains to another attack, possibly still being planned.

It appears that the bombs were made from cheap, low-grade plastic explosives readily available on the black market throughout the former Soviet bloc:

The bombs were probably made from simple, relatively easy-to-obtain plastic explosives, not the higher-grade military plastics like Semtex that would have killed far more people, said Andy Oppenheimer, a weapons expert who consults for Jane's Information Group.

"Any crook with ready cash could obtain this stuff if they knew where to look for it," said Alex Standish, the editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest.

Plastic explosives are readily available on the black market in the Czech Republic and other central and eastern European countries or through the Russian mafia, Standish said. Large amounts of plastic explosives untagged by the chemical markers that enable dogs to detect it are missing from Czech stocks, he added.

There are other indications this may have been a locally organized, somewhat less than thoroughly expert operation:

Oppenheimer said the bombers likely used a fairly basic timer that would have been set a half hour or less in advance. More sophisticated detonators like those the Irish Republican Army has used can give far longer lead times, up to several days.

"You wouldn't need very advanced knowledge to make one of these," Oppenheimer said.

Law enforcement officials declined to respond to questions about a U.S. official's statement that evidence indicating timers were used was found in the debris. London police also played down the possibility the devices were detonated by remote control using cell phones.

Some experts believe the bomber on the double-decker bus may have blundered, blowing up the wrong target and accidentally killing himself. Media reports have quoted an witness who got off the crowded bus just before it exploded as saying he saw an agitated man in his 20s fiddling anxiously with something in his bag.

"Everybody is standing face-to-face, and this guy kept dipping into this bag," Richard Jones, 61, of Berkshire, west of London, told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Standish said the man may have intended to leave his bomb on the subway but was unable to board because his co-conspirators already had shut the system down. He may have gotten on a bus instead and detonated the package sooner than he meant to, killing himself.


He said the bombers' choice of targets reflected a lack of knowledge about the mechanics of explosions that suggests they were not highly trained or experienced.

Bombing a tightly enclosed space like an Underground train is likely to kill fewer people than targeting a more open space where debris can fly through the air and devastate a wider area, he said. In a crowded Tube train, the primary force of a blast is likely to be absorbed by a small number of people around the explosion and by the train itself, he said.

A massive investigation is now underway. Police are apparently pursuing a number of leads, as well as, no doubt, taking a look at the British population of known Islamic militants:

Britain is home to a number of known militants whom police will likely scrutinize as they seek clues to the perpetrators' identities.

Among them is Mohamed Guerbouzi, convicted in absentia in his native Morocco in 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with the Casablanca bombings.

French officials consider Guerbouzi, who has British and Moroccan nationality, to be the founder and principal recruiter of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.

Morocco has sought his extradition but Britain has not complied, French judicial officials say.

IF it turns out that this Guerbouzi (also spelled Garbuzi in some reports) IS involved in, or responsible for these attacks, there will likely be some very hard questions being asked about why he was at large in Britain, and not in a Moroccan prison. The British government may have some explaining to do on their refusal to honor the Moroccan extradition request.

For further information, there is a good post on the status of the ongoing investigation at the Jawa Report, including the interesting detail that the British apparently lost track of Guerbouzi some months ago, and are asking continental law enforcement authorities for help and information as to his whereabouts.

One has to wonder why a known Islamic militant convicted of a terrorist bombing in Morocco was not extradited by the British, was allowed to roam free in Britain, and then allowed to disappear. The British government had better hope it doesn't turn out that this guy is behind the deaths of those innocent British citizens.

UPDATE: Spanish authorities are also looking for Garbuzi in connection with the Madrid bombings.

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