The BBC were rightly punctilious about naming any particular tendency behind yesterday’s car bomb attacks before they got the nod from the cops. But while the attacks weren’t up to the high comedy standard of the alleged attempt to blow ten planes out of the sky simultaneously through the agency of nail polish remover or the scheme to build a dirty bomb with the contents of thousands of security alarms, you only had to hear the details to know that the muppets of the apocalypse were back in town:
Ah, if it had detonated. Yes, it could have been a real horror. Only, the device could not have detonated. Not under any circumstances. You see, the terrorist wannabe clown who built it left out a crucial element: an oxidiser. The device was pure pre-teen boy fantasy.
"We'll heat up these propane cylinders with burning petrol, and they'll go off like bombs", boys the world over have remarked with glee. They don't realise that air is a poor oxidiser, and the only "explosion" they will get is when gas pressure inside the cylinders is great enough to burst them. Then the propane will ignite, and a nice fireball will blossom. A fireball, not an explosion.
Oh, the Piccadilly fireball would have blown the car's windows out, and popped its doors open, and sent various bits like mirrors and so forth into the air at velocities possibly fatal to people nearby. It would have looked really cool, that's for sure. But an explosive event...a detonation? Not in a million years. Sorry lads: you failed car bombing 101; you did not attend a single lecture; you did not even open the textbook.
Via.It’s not absolutely clear at this stage whether an actual device was involved or whether a car had just been loaded up with nails, petrol and patio gas and driven into some dustbins.
Something odd has happened to the al-Qaeda and affiliates' decision making loop at least out on the fringes of its area of activity. Up to the 7/7 attacks you could see a pattern emerging; mass casualty events on or utilising transport and communications networks, undertaken through established methods – highjackings , for instance– and using tried and tested forms of explosive.
Now the attacks themselves seem to combine the ludicrously apocalyptic with the ridiculously amateurish and the targeting strategy either makes no sense from a warfighting point of view (the Ministry of Sound) or is impossibly ambitious (ten airliners blown up simultaneously).
Maybe it’s just that the suicide terrorism strategy isn’t sustainable except by tightly controlled and centralized organizations like Hezbollah of old or the Tamil Tigers. By its nature, suicide terrorism will attract loons and perhaps they need to be kept under tight control if they’re going to be utilized effectively, that control not being available in Britain to al-Qaeda or imposable by remote means from Pakistan.
About a year ago I blogged about attempts by Jordanian intelligence to bring into question the integrity of Jihadist BBS forums. It’s not impossible that the apparent decay in jihadist thinking is down to something similar, a concerted attempt to orient thinking away from practical means of terrorism and towards apocalyptic guff. Oddly enough, the London attack was announced on the al-Hesba forum – the Jordanians’ specific target - before it took place.
I can’t help thinking as well that counter-terrorism operations usually involve infiltration at decision making levels and to maintain the credibility of the infiltrator it then becomes necessary to permit certain terrorist actions to take place. Given al-Qaeda’s liking for mass casualty attacks, that raises certain difficulties. But you could square that circle by promoting attacks which by their very nature you know won’t succeed.
Well, someone seems to be having a laugh. I hope he’s one of ours.
UPDATE: This is more worrying: an airport terminal attacked during the first day of the school holidays. Mass casualty systems attack: al Qaeda classic. Ramming a VBIED into the target before exploding it is an Iraq insurgency classic, too.
But they still seem to have forgotten the bit about how to make a bomb.
It's early days yet but I must say that a crisis does seem to be improved simply by not having John Reid around as a terror multiplier.