Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Explosives link made to July 7 attacks

A FORENSICS GOLD MINE London investigators are finding the devices used in last Thursday's failed attacks bear a `striking similarity' to those in the July 7th bombs

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

People on the London underground during evening rush hour on Friday. A suspected suicide bomber was shot dead by London police at the Stockwell station at around 10am that morning. Stockwell station was evacuated and a 200m area was cordoned off around it. This comes a day after four bombs failed to detonate at three tube stations and on board a London bus.

PHOTO: AFP

Devices recovered from the scenes of Thursday's failed terrorist attacks in London bore striking similarities to material found in the wake of the July 7 bombings.

Forensic experts have not yet established the exact chemical make-up of material found in Leeds and Luton in the wake of the bombings two weeks ago that killed 52 victims and the bombers. But security sources told the Guardian that it was markedly similar in appearance to the material found in containers inside four rucksacks carried by the bombers involved in Thursday's attacks. A source described the substance as "liquid mixed with a lump of matter."

The material used in the July 7 attacks was at first rumored to be military or commercial explosives. But the discoveries in a car abandoned by the bombers in Luton and in a flat connected with the bombers in Leeds shifted the emphasis to home-made explosives.

It was then suggested that the substance could be acetone peroxide, possibly TATP, nicknamed Mother of Satan because of its extreme volatility. However, police sources say the substance still has not been positively identified.

Professor Hans Michels, a bomb expert from Imperial College, London, said there were thousands of different variations of home-made explosives. He said that over-the-counter acetone products could contain impurities that could set off unpredictable chemical reactions, rendering the explosives very unstable and making it harder to ascertain the exact ingredients.

He said the material in the bath in Leeds would have to be kept at minus 10?C and removed with extreme care, because it could still be highly volatile. But home-made explosives such as TATP degrade over time, which could explain why Thursday's bombs malfunctioned.

It is believed that the detonators on three of the bombs recovered on Thursday exploded, but failed to ignite the main explosives, while the detonator in the fourth device did not even go off. If the explosives do turn out to be made from the same recipe it will not necessarily prove a definitive link between the two bomb gangs, but would suggest that they may have been a part of the same loosely connected network.

Police refused to give details of the detonators used in Thursday's attacks, but typical home-made bombs use a small amount of high explosives to set off a large quantity of less volatile material.

Forensics experts tracking the people responsible for the latest bombs are working on two main leads: the design of the devices and clues left behind by those who made and carried them. The scenes on the three tube trains and the London bus this time have been described as a forensics gold mine.

"The bottom line is that you've got four crime scenes which are relatively undisturbed," said Jim Fraser, head of the forensic science unit at Strathclyde University.

"In some respects this is straightforward stuff. It's let's look for fingerprints, let's look for DNA, let's look for hairs and fibers. Let's look at anything else that happens to be in the bags. Where did the bags come from and how many people own them? How does that fit in with the CCTV and any other intelligence?"

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