Due brevi analisi della Stratfor
United Kingdom: London’s Crude Incendiary Device
British security forces deactivated what appeared to be a crude firebomb in a vehicle that crashed into a trash bin in central London’s Haymarket district early June 29. If the device was intended to cause casualties as part of a militant plot, however, its amateur construction and the way it was placed suggest the plotter or plotters have no connection to a major militant organization.
The incident began shortly before 2 a.m. local time when an ambulance crew, responding to a call about an injury at a nearby nightclub, noticed a Mercedes E-190 with what appeared to be smoke pouring out of it. Bouncers working the doors of nightclubs in the area reported that the vehicle was being driven erratically before it crashed it into the trash bin. Afterward, the driver and several other people reportedly fled the scene.
Police called to the site cordoned off the area, while explosives experts examined the vehicle, finding what a police spokesman described as "a potentially viable" explosive device. Police manually disabled the device and later were seen removing gas canisters from the vehicle.
The Mercedes reportedly contained several canisters of propane gas, a large amount of gasoline, nails — presumably to act as shrapnel — and a means to detonate the device. The amount of gasoline was so great that the fumes it emitted looked like smoke rising from the car.
After the device was rendered safe, the vehicle was removed intact from the scene for a forensic investigation. It is unclear how much explosive material, if any, was recovered from the device.
Although London Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Peter Clarke said early on in the investigation that the device could have caused "significant" loss of life had it detonated, several factors make this improbable.
The device possibly was meant to be an explosive-actuated incendiary device. Such devices — more commonly called firebombs — work by using a relatively small low-intensity explosive charge to ignite a more volatile flammable material. This results in an intense, rapidly spreading fire that can quickly engulf a confined space such as a building, rail car, subway car or airplane. A firebomb would not be as dangerous in an open outdoor space like the one in this case.
Furthermore, powerful explosive-actuated incendiary devices are extremely difficult to make, and getting the explosive charge to ignite the fuel is challenging. In many cases, the initial explosion merely hurls the tanks or otherwise fails to puncture the containers or ignite the gas — or it damages the tanks to the point that the gas leaks out harmlessly. The amount of flammable gas apparently recovered in this incident would have been sufficient to create a massive fireball, though in order for the device to reach its full explosive potential, it would have to have been carefully designed with a precise mixture of fuel and air.
The bombmaker and the car’s driver (assuming they are two people) erred in deploying the device. By crashing into the trash bin, the driver brought attention to himself and the vehicle, while the escaping gas fumes also called attention to the Mercedes. In any case, with so much forensic evidence remaining intact, British authorities have a good chance of identifying the culprit or culprits soon. Furthermore, the heavy closed-circuit TV coverage in London should allow authorities to obtain video and still photos of the would-be attackers.
Initial reports of the discovery of a "massive" car bomb indicate the level of tension in London regarding potential militant plots. Coming on the heels of several high-profile terrorism convictions and arrests of suspected militants in the United Kingdom, this incident will serve to increase tensions — and vigilance — in London. Following the Haymarket incident, British police cordoned off another area in central London, Park Lane, to investigate reports of a "suspicious vehicle" believed to be connected to the Mercedes.
Remarking on the incident, new Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed that the United Kingdom faces a "serious threat" from terrorism. Vigilance will likely increase in the rest of Europe as well. Before this, German authorities already were reporting elevated threats of militant attacks after receiving intelligence from U.S. authorities.
U.K.: Burning Car at Glasgow Airport Raises Suspicions
June 30, 2007 17 38 GMT
Two men described by witnesses as South Asian are in custody June 30 after trying to drive a burning Jeep Cherokee into the main terminal building at the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, at 3:15 p.m. local time. Flights have been canceled and the airport has been evacuated as a precaution because of the purported car bomb attack. Airport officials report that emergency vehicles are on the scene to contain the burning car and fire and smoke damage to the terminal building. It is unclear at this time if this was an attempted militant attack, but at this point, it looks like the incident was not completely innocent.
Eyewitnesses June 30 reported that two men of South Asian decent drove a green Jeep Cherokee sport utility vehicle (SUV) into security barriers at Glasgow’s international airport, 8 miles from the British city’s center. Although the British government is not treating the incident as a national security event at this time, just one day after British police foiled two attempted car bombings in central London, the Glasgow incident would appear to feature the same poor tradecraft as the London incidents.
The reported South Asian background of the two men in the SUV raises the question of a connection to the United Kingdom’s growing radical Islamist community. After the SUV collided with security barriers, the two men inside jumped out. One was on fire and was wrestled to the ground by bystanders who put out the flames. An eyewitness said the other individual tried to open the trunk of the vehicle but was not successful. Police subsequently tried to restrain him, and he started fighting them. He was eventually taken into custody.
If it was an attempted militant attack, and the fire was caused by some kind of improvised explosive device or explosive incendiary device, the device was malfunctioning. This would be consistent with the poor tradecraft we saw with the devices left in central London on June 29. It is currently unknown if the Glasgow incident was related to the London incidents, but the poor tradecraft and the use of incendiary, rather than explosive devices, may suggest that the two individuals in the SUV have some connection to whoever planted the devices in London. If it was an attempted militant attack, it was most likely an attempt to place a car bomb, and not an attempted suicide bombing. (Two drivers are not needed in a suicide bombing.)
In London, there is a large outdoor concert at London’s Wembley Arena to commemorate the late Princess Diana’s July 1 birthday, with thousands in attendance. Security undoubtedly will be high. With the elevated tensions in London, there will undoubtedly be false alarms connected to the event, though an incident similar to bombing at Centennial Park during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics cannot be ruled out.