July 21st 2005 London bomb attack trial - hydrogen peroxide, chapati flour, TATP detonators

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No doubt more speculation and some more actual details will emerge from the trial of the six men who are in court over the failed July 21st 2005 bomb attacks on the London Tube and Bus system.

Panic during the ensuing manhunt, led to the shooting to death of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes by the Metropolitan Police.

The Times reports a few details of the home made bombs:

The Times January 16, 2007

How high street ingredients 'could become weapons for mass murder'
Sean O'Neill

The ingredients of the July 21 bombs were acquired in the high street and required little more than a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry to make up. The shopping list of the alleged bombers included hydrogen peroxide — widely used in hairdressing — chapati flour, nail polish remover (acetone), sulphuric acid, batteries, torch bulbs, electrical wires, cardboard and half a dozen food storage tubs, Woolwich Crown Court was told yesterday.

The components were taken to the flat of Yasin Omar for assembly into improvised explosive devices.

That one-bedroom council flat, on the ninth floor of Curtis House, a tower block in New Southgate, North London, was described at the court as the alleged terror cell’s “bomb factory”.

There, three members of the gang are said to have spent long hours sweating over the electric cooker in the small kitchen, boiling huge panfuls of liquid hydrogen peroxide to reduce the chemical into a stronger concentration.

Mr Omar, who has studied for a GNVQ in elementary science at Enfield College, Muktar Said-Ibrahim and Manfo Kwaku Asiedo were said to have worked in shifts from 5am until 11pm each day.

Two large saucepans and a frying pan that were recovered from the building revealed, after scientific examination, clear traces of concentrated hydrogen peroxide.

The liquid peroxide was the most important ingredient. Increasingly it is used in the hairdressing trade as a cream but the gang was said to have identified outlets in Finchley, Tottenham and Finsbury Park where they could buy it as liquid in an 18 per cent concentration. Between the end of April and July 5, 2005, they are alleged to have bought 443 litres in either one-litre or four-litre containers.

Therefore this was not an improvised "copycat attack" following the July 7th bombs.

The peroxide was to form the bulk of what Nigel Sweeney, QC, for the prosecution, described as the main charge of the bombs.

Mr Sweeney said: “The explosive was intended to consist of liquid hydrogen peroxide, concentrated, mixed with chapati flour, the flour being the fuel that would burn and the hydrogen peroxide providing oxygen, so that when fired by a detonator the mixture would explode.”

This concoction was placed inside a series of 6.25-litre plastic kitchen storage tubs that were sealed with a lid. A hole was cut in the bottom of the container, into which a detonator was inserted.

443 litres of 18% hydrogen peroxide solution.

5 x 6.25 litre plastic tubs

Could they have made rather more than 5 bombs with this amount of hydrogen peroxide ?

The detonator was made from a small carboard tube packed with the homemade explosive triacetone triperoxide, better known as TATP.

This was, in turn, to be set off with a small torch bulb attached to one end of the TATP tube and linked by wires to a 9-volt battery, the court was told.

[...]

If they could make TATP for the detonators, why not for the whole bomb like the July 7th bombers ?

There seems to be reports of anything like the industrial refrigerator unit which the July 7th bombers installed in their Leeds bomb factory.

How they did not set themselves on fire just using a saucepan or frying pan and an electric cooker, to concentrate the hydrogen peroxide solution, is a mystery.

Extensive tests were carried out by the Forensic Explosives Laboratory using the bomb recipe that was allegedly deployed on July 21 and a variety of detonators. In all cases the devices proved to be “functional”.

[...]

Is the Forensic Explosives Laboratory still at Fort Halstead near Sevenoaks in Kent , part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, i.e. the bit of the UK Government's military research and development that was not privatised as Qinetiq ? Conceivably the new Counter Terrorism Centre at Porton Down (.pdf) in Wiltshire, also under the DSTL, might also have been involved in analysing or trying to replicate the bombs.

On July 21, it was alleged, something had gone wrong with the mixture of the main charge in all four bombs that the gang tried to detonate. Another bomb was abandoned.

With one of the accused having left the country 6 weeks before the attack, and another having ditched his bomb on the day of the attack, the possibility of deliberate sabotage of the main explosive charge chapati flour (any finely divided fuel might have done instead) and concentrated hydrogen peroxide oxidising agent should not be ruled out.

There has been a quite a bit of reporting and speculation as to what extent the July 7th bombers had been under police or MI5 surveillance, but there has been much less about any actual surveillance of this gang of East African refugees and immigrants.

14 Comments

See Postman Patel re refrigerators etc., Monday 15th 2006.

A search of Postman Patel site using the names of the accused will provide links, information to the defendents, their bank records, previous convictions, etc., etc., trade in Qat.

Look fwd to reply from the JIC about the MI5 e-mail fuck up. Not that anyone expects any sensible answers.

  1. "If they could make TATP for the detonators, why not for the whole bomb like the July 7th bombers ?"

    Extremely good point. (They may something about refrigeration units but that is only part of the answer).

  2. "How they did not set themselves on fire just using a saucepan or frying pan and an electric cooker, to concentrate the hydrogen peroxide solution, is a mystery."
    It would be interesting to do a 'Hazop' on their process.
  3. "any finely divi[e]ded fuel might have done instead"
    You need to distinguish between: explosion; conflagration etc ... There is a difference and it will help with your analysis (as would a hazop).

TATP sublimates at room temperature so it must be kept cool all the time or it simply disappears. It's manufacture has to be done below 10'C. It is highly friction and shock sensitive and cannot be stored in metalic containers or containers with screw tops.
It is utterly unsuitable for the alleged purpose. Far better to compound and use
a fulminate or one of the tetradecanes or diamines. As for using chapati flour as a substrate the less said the better, even cowshit is better than chapati flour and would yield a better deflagration, it's all really quite laughable and just shows that people will believe anything they are told by the powers that be.

Any knowledgeable schoolboy could formulate an IED of far greater efficiency far more easily and safely with less risk to themselves than this fiasco alledges.

You cannot concentrate hydrogen peroxide by boiling it - it decomposes at an accelerated rate with increasing temperature. Addition of organic material to the sort of hydrogen peroxide you can buy causes it to decompose - flour and peroxide will just cause a big wet fizz. You'd have more success trying to explode cow shit.

@ PhDman - conceivably they could have used a retort to try distillation, rather than an open saucepan on the electric cooker, but there do not seem to be any media reports of any such laboratory equipment having been found or purchased.

Hot hydrogen peroxide solution in contact with a metal saucepan seems to be a recipe for disaster.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_peroxide

As you point out, if they managed to avoid the H2O2 vapours from igniting anything else in the kitchen, In theory, they could have actually weakened the concentration of the 18% H2O2 hair bleach by simply boiling it.

The Forensic Explosives Laboratory seems to have demonstrated chapati flour and hydrogen peroxide detonations, but, not by using the alleged TATP detonators because that would somehow be "too dangerous".

One would have thought that they could have used remotely controlled robotic devices to assemble such an experiment safely.

Whether they actually demonstrated that the precise concentration of chapati flour and hydrogen peroxide solution, with the impurities and additives present in the 18% hair bleach that the failed bombers used, would actually explode like their experiments shown to the jury on video, is another question, which has been glossed over in the media reports of trial.

Earlier evidence from the forensic scientists demonstrates exactly what one would have expected to happen, i.e. that the some of the water in the chapati flour and hydrogen peroxide mixture preferentially evaporated over time, locally concentrating the H2O2 causing the mixture to nearly catch fire in storage.

I never was any good at science so I shall stand in awe of those who are.I'm just glad his flashpoint wasn't reached. Surely the main issue is that these dangerous people are living amongst us with at last report 1,200 under surveillance from MI5?
The public needs to have confidence in robust government, a government not constantly consulting "community leaders" or the MCB for permission to interview or detain suspects. The police service appears more and more like the old toothless guard dog (no disrespect to individual officers) During the frightening scenes of the cartoon protests they appeared to have perfected that cringing smile dogs have when reprimanded.Political Correctness has reduced the once proud police force to the scourge of motorists and those who sell antique collectable toys now deemed offensive. I feel I'm living in a parallel universe when guardians of the state and the citizen are so shamelessly stupid and ineffective......at worst traitorous.
It appears the government and laughably named "opposition" (which opposes nothing) are in the grip of global warming orgasm while the biggest threat to our traditional freedoms goes unchallenged and positively protected.

This information may help. Media reports on the exact make-up of the bombs have been deliberately kept vague as to the proportions and concentrations of ingredients (particularly of the hydrogen peroxide) to prevent anyone getting hold of a recipe easily. And the 7/7 bombs were not made entirely of TATP, they were in fact quite similar to the 21/7 devices. Again, full information has not been released in the interests of public safety.

@ Bob - There is no evidence that the two sets of bombs were very similar in construction at all, except that they come under the heading of Improvised Explosive Devices, carried in rucksacks.

Unlike the 21st July 2005 bomb trial, there has never been any mention of chapatti flour as the fuel for the main charges of 7th of July 2005 bombs. The implication has been that they were entirely made of TATP "Mother of Satan" or perhaps HMTD.

It seems that "full information" about effective bomb making recipes is already widely available via the internet, mostly on websites in the USA, which will present John Reid and Franco Frattini with insuperable problems if they try to censor them via existing UK or proposed European Union laws.

The properties of Hydrogen Peroxide, and what it does at various concentrations, and in contact with various organic substances, with and without the presence of metal ion catalysts, is well known, and is uncensorable, unless you want to create industrial and laboratory accidents, by banning all the legally mandated Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) information and other health and safety regulations.

@ wtwu: What you say is true, full information can be found elsewhere. But that doesn't stop the prosecution in the 21st July case asking national newspapers not to print the full details in the interests of not making it even more available than it already is. Media organisations have so far complied, given that to get into detailed discussion of whether 58 per cent hydrogen peroxide mixed with chapatti flour will explode using 5g of TATP.
And for your information, the 7/7 bombs involved hydrogen peroxide mixed with 'a different organic material' (as said in court), detonated with TATP.
The reason being that TATP is very unstable and it's not a good idea to wander around with large amounts of it (ie more than 5g) because you will probably blow up before you get to your proposed target.

Hi Bob

If I said that the 'different organic material' used in the 7/7 bombs was pepper would you collapse laughing or agree?

Yeah pepper. Well thats what I heard too, but I don't know for definite. Then again you could be the person who told me that in the first place... [ie someone in the media]. We might finally find out when the new 7/7 suspects go on trial (probably not until 2009 at this rate).

The original charges in this case were reported as:

CHARGES
1. That, between 1 Jan and 30 July 2005, the men conspired together "and with other persons unknown to murder other persons"

2. That they "maliciously conspired together" to cause "explosions of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property"

source:BBC 15/01/07

The second charge of 'conspiracy to cause explosions' was dropped towards the end of the court trial, a fact that only the BBC reported in its report of expert (defence) witness testimony of Professor Hans Michels of Imperial College London (who apparently funded his own experiments - because "he wanted justice to take place").

So if the 'conspiracy to cause explosions' charge was not viable (as the explosive devices themselves were not 'viable'), what was the murder weapon?

And who are these 'persons unknown'? They cannot be any of the other 'known' 37 persons charged & detained as a result of the police investigations into this case.

I find it amazing that citizens rebuke the police and intelligence agencies but do nothing to help them. If the government is inefficient and not doing the job the people need to stand up and fight for what is right on their own behalf. Arguing about whether a bomb is equal to cow shit or not serves no purpose and is an example of academic anemia. The larger issue being overlooked is the people who drive and perform acts against the UK. Most are not rocket scientists, just martyrs. Remember the word martyr. It has nothing to do with logic, science or normalcy.

@ Brian - true enough, however, by stoking up mainstream media hysteria with "anonymous briefings" by Whitehall or Police or Security sources, and by exaggerating the actual danger posed by the evil if incompetent plotters, the "police and intelligence agencies" or their political masters, are actually helping the terrorists to terrorise the public.

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Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers