A tabloid in the UK posted an inflammatory article this morning, claiming that they had purchased a “jihadi bomb kit” like the one used in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack off of Amazon for only £95 ($128), with no “security check” or “warning to the authorities” that the purchase was made.
People may recall that the Manchester Arena attack in May was conducted with a bomb made with a homemade explosive called TATP, or acetone peroxide. This explosive has been trending in terrorist attacks, to include those in Paris and Brussels within the last two years, due to its relatively low-tech building requirements and readily available components that can be purchased easily in hardware stores or online.
When the contents of the “bomb kit” were displayed, it was simply a small assortment of chemicals necessary for the explosive mixture, some wiring, a pressure cooker, a timing device, a battery, and some metal nuts and bolts to serve as shrapnel. Despite the sensationalist headline purporting this to be a “bomb kit,” these are all completely innocuous items that have legitimate uses in everyday life. The article then went on to quote politicians and explosives experts who lambasted Amazon for allowing such a transaction to occur, even going so far as to say the internet retailer is “aiding and abetting terrorism.”
Acknowledging for a moment that a tabloid is by design a sensationalist “fake news”-style media outlet, the article serves to illustrate a larger point: that many people do not recognize and appreciate how easy it has become to construct low-grade explosive devices that can kill and maim. A simple Google search will yield article after article containing recipes for the kinds of explosives that have killed dozens across Europe in Islamic State-inspired attacks. Videos on YouTube showcase people experimenting with TATP in their backyard.
Homemade explosives have been a key component of domestic and foreign terrorist attacks for decades. Even mass killers are in on the game. The Aurora, Colorado mass killer rigged his apartment with a variety of poorly constructed explosives to blow once first responders came to investigate. The original intent of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 was to have two large propane bombs rigged by the attackers detonate during lunchtime. The guns, which became a fixture of the national debate on violence and gun control, were meant to shoot down survivors fleeing the scene of the main event. The bombs failed to explode, and were thus quickly forgotten about. Had they exploded, potentially dozens or hundreds of kids would have been killed.
Now is as good a time as any to remind our citizens, the tools in which terrorists and killers use to conduct their vicious attacks are easily obtainable and readily available. All it takes is the will to cause mayhem and destruction. What should be more alarming for people, rather than the fact that Amazon sells chemicals and batteries, is that the large majority of terrorist suspects and mass killers are known to authorities well before they execute their attacks.
Image courtesy of the FBI
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