Not a lot of detail in the public statement today from the Secratary about the foiled bombing in central London last night.Â You can view the statement at the bottom of this post.Â Following is a summary and analysis from London-based Exclusive Analysis.Â They gave me permission to share this proprietary document here on HLSWatch.com.Â It beats any newspaper update at this point and I’m grateful to them for allowing our readers to get this kind of detail.
At approximately 2am GMT, officers defused a bomb on The Haymarket in the Piccadilly Circus area of central London. Police responded to reports of a Mercedes driving erratically; the driver was reported to have crashed the car near Tiger Tiger nightclub before fleeing the scene. The device found in the car is so far reported to have utilised gas canisters, petrol and nails.
Analysis and Forecasts
The level of sophistication of the device has yet to be determined; evidence revealed in the investigation will be a key indicator of the level of capability of the bomber.
Police reports so far suggest that the vehicle contained canisters of gas and petrol and that there were nails found in the car. The intended method of initiation of the device is as yet unverified. For instance, whether explosives were to be used to initiate the device with a timer, or whether the petrol was to be set on fire to trigger the gas canisters to explode, will be an important indication of the potential scale of damage. An ambulance that arrived on the scene early reported that the car was full of smoke. The presence of smoke means that it is possible that the device was scheduled to detonate on a timer and that it had gone off early or malfunctioned. Indeed, it may have been the smoke that caused the driver to begin driving erratically and flee the scene.
Though a densely populated nightclub in central London would certainly be a prime target, this also suggests that the car might not have been left at its intended destination (i.e. that the would-be bomber stopped the car and fled prematurely). The nails do suggest that civilian casualties were a goal; exploding canisters would also produce shrapnel. Gas cylinders have been used frequently by terrorist groups, particularly the IRA within the
UK in the past and FARC in Colombia more recently, because they are simple to use and easy to obtain. However, the blast area would not be of the same radius as a large fertiliser bomb.
Both the method and the target of this incident suggest that home-grown terrorists are learning from and influenced by one another.
Our analysis suggests that home-grown European networks are making contact with one another for the purpose of learning from one another and coordinating attacks. Moreover, would-be attackers learn from remotely observing the plots and mistakes of others. For instance, Dhiron Barot, who was imprisoned in the UK in November 2006 for plotting attacks, planned to detonate limousines wired with gas canisters outside the London Stock Exchange. The members of the group arrested for a “fertiliser bomb” plot in 2004 had discussed targeting nightclubs, and nightclubs also feature as a target on extremist websites. Increased collaboration will at first expose individuals to detection, but over time learning will occur, and through social connections knowledge will be passed on, increasing capability over the one- to two-year period.
In this case, the police have stated that there was no specific intelligence about an upcoming attack and that this was a reactive operation, not intelligence-led, showing that the bomber had at least managed to evade surveillance. It is possible that the individual(s) involved were known to intelligence services, but that they, like the 7/7 bombers, had not been prioritised for surveillance out of the large volume of information and leads the security services are grappling with (information overload has become a problem following the expanded definition of ‘terrorism’ under the Terrorism Act 2006).
The target set for UK attacks is likely to focus on large capacity venues in order to maximise casualties and media attention.
Though it is not yet confirmed that any of the bars or clubs in the area of the incident were specific targets, such a target set is certainly consistent with past plots and threats. Sunni extremist groups wanting to carry out terrorist attacks in the UK are likely to choose targets that will maximise casualties. Whilst economic disruption is a desirable side effect of an attack, killing large numbers of people is likely to be the priority. The death toll of an attack, as well as being a gauge of how successful it has been, would also be viewed as justified revenge for those Muslims killed in the War on Terror. Evidence given during the trial of the 21/7 suspected bombers claimed that several of the bombers had repeatedly talked about wanting to pay back the UK for the deaths caused by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Venues that represent perceived ‘ills’ of Western society, such as bars, clubs and concerts are also likely to be appealing to extremist groups. The ‘fertiliser plot’ bombers, who had talked about targeting the Ministry of Sound nightclub, were recorded saying that none of the casualties in an attack on a London nightclub would be ‘innocent’ as they would all be ‘slags’. Although it is clear that terrorists in the UK are prepared to carry out suicide bombings, it is not necessarily the only tactic that terrorists would use. Venues that have large capacities, such as transportation hubs, airport check-ins, nightclubs and bars, or those with both large capacities and that are accessible by car (e.g. city-based skyscrapers or Canary Wharf) will all be at heightened risk.
Â And now the press release:Â
From: DHS Employee Communications
Sent: Friday, June 29, 2007 10:46 AM
Subject: STATEMENT BY SECRETARY CHERTOFF: LONDON INCIDENT
STATEMENT BY SECRETARY CHERTOFF ON LONDON INCIDENT
We have been in close contact with our counterparts in the U.K. regarding the suspected explosive device discovered in a vehicle in the London Haymarket area.Â Our law enforcement and intelligence officials are closely monitoring the ongoing investigation.
At this point, I have seen no specific, credible information suggesting that this incident is connected to a threat to the homeland.Â We have no plans at this time to change the U.S. threat level.Â DHS and the FBI have been in touch with our state and local homeland security and law enforcement partners to convey available information.
We encourage the public to enjoy the upcoming holiday but ask, as always, that they be vigilant and report any suspicious activities to authorities.