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Latest British bombing attempts

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 30, 2007

Here’s a rather well-done, not to mention on-the-spot analysis of the latest attempted bombings in Britain, which can be found here on the Guardian UK website.


New face of the bomber

Jason Burke analyses eight key issues already emerging from the attacks
Sunday July 1, 2007

1. Islamic militants are almost certainly responsible.
This will become finally clear when the identity of the men arrested at Glasgow airport becomes known. The police are still working on gathering images of the London attacks, but will hope the Scottish strike will lead them to any fugitive bombers.

2. The attacks are linked.
They are probably the work of the same loose network. The strike on Glasgow is unlikely to be the result of the pure ‘copycat effect’ for the simple reason that it takes longer than 36 hours to assemble in secrecy a car, petrol and gas canisters.

3. The bombs are amateurish.

We are a long way from the technologically advanced devices and the painstaking preparation work of 9/11, the 1998 bombings of US embassies in east Africa, or even the 7 July attacks on London. This is good news, in that it means Islamic militants are short on expertise and find running sophisticated operations very difficult, not least due to public vigilance and the work of the security services. But it is bad news in that it means that the threat is coming from the people who are hardest to stop: ordinary citizens angry or disturbed enough to become radicalised. Terrorist organisations can have a highly trained, structured, disciplined body of very competent militants or a diffuse network of less skilled and less disciplined individuals, but not usually both. The former is more effective, the latter more resistant.

4. No suicide bombings.

The fact that the London attacks, at least, did not involve the death of the bomber points to a domestic source. Almost all strikes directly commissioned by the al-Qaeda ‘hard core’ of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri involve the death of the bombers. This change may be the result of a lack of long-term psychological preparation of the attackers.

5. Plots involve British citizens or immigrants who have spent some time in the UK.

However the cell behind the recent attacks could be heterogeneous: one emerging theme is a new mix of ethnicities and even languages within groups. The internet remains extremely important to the radicalisation process, with British security services desperately trying to track the moment when ‘the virtual goes real’. Following recent trends, the bombers are likely to be young (possibly in their late teens) and radicalised very rapidly.

6. Too much can be made of the ‘Iraq link’.

Yes, vehicle bombs with gas cans and petrol have been used extensively in Baghdad, but car bombs are hardly an innovation. There were massive vehicle-borne bombs in Pakistan in the Nineties, in Lebanon in the early Eighties – and of course in the UK.

7. Bands of brothers.

Though not yet identified – reports about a ‘clean image’ of one bomber were not correct – officials say there is a strong chance that anyone involved in last week’s events will be linked to other plots. Islamic militant terrorism works through personal associations, which means that everyone eventually has a connection to everyone if you follow enough links.

8. Message to the UK.

The attacks are something that say: what we are engaged in is far bigger than politics. This is about a battle between good and evil. The timescale is long, the cause is far greater than the arrival or departure of a Prime Minister or even a single war, even those in Iraq or Afghanistan. The threat will remain high for the foreseeable future.

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