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Friday, June 29, 2007 

Terror! returns.

Now get this, this is insider information, so don't go spreading it to widely, but you know that car bomb that was dealt with by a controlled explosion? Definitely the work of those Islamics. You know the sort? Beards, veils, beheadings, allah akbar, all that. Who else could it possibly be than al-Qaida? Alright guv, you got it all down?

That was presumably what "Whitehall" and "police sources" have been briefing to the thirsty hacks demanding information about the attempted attack outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket. This is despite us being similarly reliably informed that like 7/7, this was another attack that has come completely out of the blue, with no intelligence suggesting that any attempt at mass murder was forthcoming.

The only instant link to similar plots by Islamic extremists was that our old friend Dhiren Barot examined the possibility of using gas cylinders in packed limos in attempts to bring down buildings, and that those arrested under Operation Crevice had discussed the possibility of attacking the Ministry of Sound, although they hadn't seemed to have settled on any particular target. It doesn't fit with any of the other foiled alleged plots, including last summer's "liquid bombs" or the Birmingham beheading conspiracy. We're already being told that it's similar to car bombs used in Iraq, but up until recently most of the explosives used in suicide bombings were taken from left over Ba'athist stockpiles, or those created by the insurgent groups' own well-trained explosives makers. Neither does it appear to have been a suicide attack, unless the "martyr" chickened out at the last minute, the most favoured method of demolishing markets, checkpoints and police quarters in that poor, benighted country, with cars being dumped while full of explosives being preferred for attacking US troops or where security is of a higher level.

All of the above was written before it was confirmed that that a second device had been found, in the other Mercedes in Park Lane, where it had apparently been impounded following being given a ticket in the early hours of the morning in Cockspur Street. The existence of a second device instantly evokes the tactics previously used by jihadists in striking multiple targets at the same time, but it should also be remembered that the IRA used to plant multiple devices.

The point I was going to go on to make was that we shouldn't immediately rule out the possibility that this could be the work of a republican splinter group, either the Continuity IRA or the Real IRA, who planted bombs in London as recently as 2001, although they seem deadlier devices than are usually their handiwork, or the work of a lone, disgruntled individual such as Timothy McVeigh or David Copeland, but as this shows, speculating and guessing at such an early stage of an investigation when we don't know by any means the full facts is fraught with the danger of getting it horribly wrong.

The existence of a second device almost certainly rules out the possibility of these being suicide attacks where the bombers had second thoughts about going through with their mission, instead seemingly planted to either detonate at kicking out time or shortly after it was dumped, with the second then either exploded at the same time or to target the emergency services which would have arrived to treat the victims of the first bombing.

To speculate once again, the second bomb appears to have failed to explode, if the first itself was noticed and defused in time as it might well have been. The very nature of dumping cars in such a way leaves those doing so highly exposed, and you'd expect that we'll shortly have CCTV pictures of those doing so, although if they've got half a brain in their head you'd expect them to be suitably hooded or covered. Creating such improvised explosive devices which then fail to explode is also going to leave a large amount of fingerprints or DNA behind, which should be helpful to the police.

Again, as just mentioned on Newsnight, we should perhaps take comfort from the fact that there seems to have been no actual explosives found, at least in the first car; this seems to have been the work of amateurs, without the training of the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers for instance, hoping that the combination of gas and petrol would almost explode of its own accord. Whomever's responsible, we shouldn't be scared of these people, if anything we ought to be mocking them for their abject failure. What we can expect is that the usual suspects will be ramping up the fear, and pointing towards the need for further new anti-terror laws. They need to be resisted with the same vigour as if this hadn't taken place.

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