IED Manufacturing Laboratory Discovered in Saudi Capital

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 4 Issue: 5

Terrorist training materials are easily accessible on jihadi websites and forums and contain accurate information about military tactics, explosives, rocket technology and intelligence craftsmanship. The extent to which Islamist militants utilize these training materials is evident in the many cases of uncovered terrorist cells in recent months, the latest of which is the Saudi discovery of a deserted IED manufacturing laboratory in the capital. In February, Saudi security forces announced the discovery of a complete explosives and munitions manufacturing laboratory in a deserted resort in al-Azizia, a neighborhood in south Riyadh (al-Watan, February 24). The Saudi security forces said that they found different types of high explosive substances in the deserted laboratory, such as sodium nitrate and ammonium nitrate, along with the necessary equipment to mix the substances (al-Watan, February 24). The Saudi sources reiterated that the operators of the factory were not found on the premises.

Jihadi websites present a clear idea as to why terrorists had sodium and ammonium nitrate stored in a deserted laboratory. One jihadi website explains how to make pulverized ammonium powder for propelling projectiles and bursting powder (http://www.kataebaqsa.org, October 21, 2005). Another jihadi website talks about not only how to make IEDs with these and other chemical substances, but also how to set up an unsuspicious laboratory within an innocent looking location, such as a detergent manufacturing factory, and ways to camouflage IEDs (http://www.palintefada.com, November 20, 2003). Similarly, the al-Qaeda cell that attempted to blow up the headquarters of the Jordanian intelligence department with 20 tons of mixed chemical and conventional high explosives in April 2004 was preparing the bomb in a laboratory set up by the cell in an inconspicuous location north of Amman. The cell leader, Azmi Jayyousi, confessed that he purchased approximately 20 tons of chemicals over a period of 14 months from different local chemical companies, posing as the owner of a new detergent company and using a different alias for each purchase (http://www.newsarchiver.com, April 26, 2004).

In many of the instances of uncovered terrorist cells, the intelligence and security agencies of countries fighting terrorism have used effective methods of impeding or disrupting terrorist attacks. They have employed a variety of different counter-terrorism approaches such as intercepting and closing down funding channels or using international cooperation to track and arrest known terrorists. Since it has become easy for anyone to obtain chemical knowledge on the internet, Middle Eastern security and civil authorities will need to devise an effective international chemical regulation and tracking system similar to the one already employed in the United States. They should also employ other techniques that might prove practical in some cases, such as mounting chemical substance detection sensors around possible terrorist targets or other high risk areas.