Remain Vigilant, etc

by matttbastard

ZOMG CAR BOMBS IN LONDON!!11

Police have confirmed they are now investigating the discovery of two car bombs in the West End of London.

Police said the second device had been found in a Mercedes hours after the car was given a parking ticket in Cockspur Street and towed to Park Lane.

Another Mercedes, with a bomb made up of 60 litres of petrol, gas cylinders and nails, had been found outside a nightclub in Haymarket at 0130 BST.

Both bombs were similar, potentially viable and clearly linked, police said.

[…]

Police sources said it would have caused “carnage” if it had exploded.

“International elements” were believed to have been involved with the bombs, Whitehall sources told the BBC.

The ever-breathless Blotter sez it wuz teh Islamofascists fer sure:

British police have a “crystal clear” picture of the man who drove the bomb-rigged silver Mercedes outside a London nightclub, and officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com he bears “a close resemblance” to a man arrested by police in connection with another bomb plot but released for lack of evidence.

[…]

U.S. and British law enforcement officials tell ABC News it is increasingly clear Friday’s bomb plot in London involves multliple vehicles, and is described by a senior official as a “terror plot involving lslamic extremists.”

[…]

The car contained five or six propane and butane gas cylinders as well as 33 gallons of gasoline, all rigged to detonate with calls to two cell phones. Officials say the cell phones failed to initiate the explosions, even after each phone had been called twice.

But what would have happened if the dastardly plot had succeeded? Chaos! Devastation! 9/11 times a thousand!

The Times:

The “patio gas” bomb defused in Haymarket would have generated a fireball the size of a house and a shock wave spreading out over a diameter of at least 400 yards, explosives experts said today.

The propane cylinders and petrol used in the device would have triggered a huge conflagration, as well as causing shrapnel and blast injuries from the exploding car chassis and the nails packed around the bomb, according to Hans Michels, Professor of Safety Engineering at Imperial College, London.

Just one 13kg propane canister — the type sold by Calor under the brand name “Patio Gas” — would release a highly flammable cloud of vapour that would spread over an area of 50 to 60 cubic metres before igniting into a still larger fireball, he said.

“The vapour cloud from one cylinder would fill the order of a big room, and when it ignited the effect would be even bigger,” Professor Michels said. “In addition to the power of the explosion and the shrapnel, you would get a fireball the size of a small house.”

[…]

Professor Michels said: “It is almost certain that the explosive device itself would have been sufficiently powerful not to just fragment the gas cylinders, but to destroy the car and possibly the front of buildings, with missiles, shrapnel, nails and burning petrol flung at very high velocity in the wake of the shock wave and the whole surrounded by a massive fireball resulting from the instantly evaporated and exploded propane and/or butane.

Or would it? Scoffing at the media ‘hyperventilation’ in the wake of this latest near-incident, former CIA operative Larry Johnson dismisses the official spin:

You know what you call a vehicle with 50 gallons of gas? A Cadillac Escalade. The media meltdown over this incident is simply shameful.

For starters, gasoline is not a high explosive. If we were talking 50 pounds of Semtex or the Al Qaeda standby, TATP, I would be impressed. Those are real high explosives with a detonation rate in excess of 20,000 feet per second. Gasoline can explode (just ask former owners of a Ford Pinto) but it is first and foremost an incendiary. If the initial reports are true, the clown driving the Mercedes was a rank amateur when it comes to constructing an Improvised Explosive Device aka IED. Unlike a Hollywood flick the 50 gallons of gas would not have shredded the Mercedes into lethal chunks of flying shrapenal.

The fact that “officers courageously disabled the trigger by hand” coupled with the report of the smoke in the car leads me to believe that the mad London “bomber” tried to construct a Molotov cocktail of sorts and lit a cloth fuze. Fortunately he left the windows in the car up and there was not enough oxygen to really get the fire going. Looks like the brave British police reached in and snuffed the flame.

Ex-pat Brit Scot Cernig also thinks the technical expertise of the perpetrator(s)–and the supposed experts convinced a successful detonation would have caused mass destruction–leaves much to be desired:

…[T]he use of gasoline and propane point to an attempt at a fuel-air explosion – but if so the presence of nails shows the folks responsible don’t really get the dynamics of such explosions. As expert David Hambling points out, either the fuel-air explosion works or the nail-bomb element works – not both. That indicates they’re amateurs with knowledge gleaned second-hand rather than trained experts who understand the physics of explosives.

And David, not being a Brit insurance underwriter, may have missed one important fact. UK propane and other gas canisters don’t explode in all directions. They’re manufactured with a deliberate weakness in the base so that any explosion is channelled as the base gives way. The canister will shoot out like an underpowered rocket, but the explosive force of the detonation is far smaller and more directional (backwards) than if the whole canister failed all at once. That’s why the famous “Gas limos” scheme wasn’t quite all it was hyped to be.

[…]

The London Times has found an expert willing to deny logic and causation to make the bombs seem scarier. He says the explosion would have ” generated a fireball the size of a house and a shock wave spreading out over a diameter of at least 400 yards”. However, it’s clear from his explanation that for this to be true, the cloud of gas from the propane cylinders would have to expand to its fullest possible extent before igniting – something that would be impossible in the presence of burning petroleum – and that the original explosive charge would have to be big enough to fragment, not just pierce, the gas cylinders. Given the lack of evidence of such a large conventional explosive charge so far, he’s pushing the boundaries of possibility to their maximum.

More evidence that there’s no aptitude test required to become a (wannabe) violent extremist or a media-cited ‘expert’.

Update 07/01: ZOMG CAR BOMB IN GLASGOW!!11
UK counterterrorism officials make a wild leap of faith, saying this latest (inept) incident is likely connected to Friday’s attempted London car bombings (also hindered by extreme ineptitude).

Johnson and Cernig: still exhaling.

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