Experts to address IED threat

Published 19 May 2008

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have proven deadly against ground transportation in Iraq and other theaters; experts believe the day is not far when terrorists would use them against rail and ground transportation in Europe and the United States

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have proven a major threat to ground transportation. So far they have killed and maimed soldiers and civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, southern Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip, but DHS experts believe that day is not far when the deadly technology will be used against ground transportation in Europe and the United States. We note that dozens of senior experts from around the world will arrive in Israel for an international conference on home-made bombs, set to take place on Thursday. The conference has attracted twenty-nine scientists from twelve countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and New Zealand, and will also have representatives from all of Israel’s security agencies, U.S. DHS, and counterterrorism officials from other counties. It will aim to analyze and improve long-range detection of improvised explosives, Professor Yehuda Zeiri of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the conference’s organizer, said.

Many of the most lethal forms of improvised explosives are based on the TATP chemical compound, first used by Palestinian terrorists in a Hebron bombing in 1980. Since then, terrorists have affectionately referred to TATP bombs as “the devil’s mother.” “What all of these explosives have in common is that they are based on peroxides, which, if you mix with a fuel such as sugar or coal, can turn explosive,” said Zeiri, who also works at the Nuclear Research Center of the Negev, near Dimona. “For almost three decades, this material has turned into the most popular form of explosives for terrorist organizations here and around the world, especially for suicide bombing… from the double suicide bombing of the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem in 2001, to the 2005 London bombings,” he said. “The London bombings saw peroxides mixed with flour, which resulted in an explosion almost on the same level as TNT,” Zeiri said. “You can get these chemicals onto a plane, buy them in a store, or download bomb-making recipes on the Internet,” he added. Improvised explosives were easy to prepare, he said, adding, “These forms of explosives are sensitive, which can be good because they are prone to accidents.” “Ammonium nitrates are common in the US, while fertile nitrates are used in Gaza,” Zeiri said.

The Israel Police and professors from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have also helped get the conference off the ground. The organizers said in a statement: “Israel is the natural place to hold such a meeting, because we have gathered a great deal of knowledge on these issues over the past three decades.” The organizers expressed hope that their conference will be an “important milestone in the war on terrorism, not only in the State of Israel, but in the entire world.”