In light of the information emerging from the foiled London attack, the terrorists involved in the operation planned on destroying commercial aircraft by mixing together explosive chemical substances while aboard the planes. The chemicals necessary to create such explosions are easily attainable. More concerning, however, is the fact that the technical information on how to create such explosives is accessible on many jihadi forums and websites. The most significant and frequently discussed subjects in the jihadi forums are topics pertinent to military tactics and how to create deadly explosives.
The website of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (https://www.kataebaqsa.org), for example, carries links to a colossal amount of data on creating explosives, part of a more extensive training document called “The Preparation Encyclopedia—All the Mujahid Needs.” The training manual contains whole sections on topics such as:
– Types of explosives, mines, detonators, explosive engineering and electronics;
– Chemical and biological weapons;
– Nuclear weapons;
– How to make rockets;
– How to make silencers;
The encyclopedia also includes informative topics on U.S. and British weaponry, radar jamming and regular military operations. Furthermore, some training materials are very well prepared with illustrative drawings and actual photos, especially in the explosives section.
Concerning the latest terrorist threat in London, a closer look at the chemicals section and what the terrorists are capable of and willing to do to elicit explosive substances could explain how and why this threat is very serious. In these training manuals, the jihadis are learning how to extract a wide range of explosive components from readily available material. Most of these chemicals are very hazardous, such as: hydrochloric acid, potassium permanganate, potassium cyanide, information on how to extract potassium from goat excrement, red mercury, sodium nitrite, hydrogen peroxide, ammonium nitrite, nitroglycerin and hexamine (which is a very combustible white crystalline sand-like solid or powder), in addition to other acids. In addition, the manual lists the ingredients for many types of explosives and how to mix them, in addition to diagrams that display different ways of packaging and transporting them.
To what extent do jihadis benefit from and try to utilize this knowledge? It is clear how useful these documents are to jihadis since many of them post inquiries in other forums requesting further explanation or information on the manufacturing of specific types of explosives. For example, one forum, called al-Bramj (https://www.bramjnet.com), explains to inquirers, in plain language and thorough details, how to make the highly explosive acetone peroxide as a main explosive charge and how to make a detonator from the same substance. The jihadi who posted the instructions was also aware of the precautionary details necessary when handling or mixing the components.
In the same context, Matiur Rehman, who apparently worked as an explosives instructor in al-Qaeda’s camps, is allegedly one of the mentors of two of the suspects who plotted to blow up the jetliners, explaining to them, in detail, how to produce and use the explosive device (ABC News, August 9). If Rehman proves to be the mastermind and mentor of the suspected plotters, it appears that al-Qaeda operatives could be implementing the training found in the jihadi forums. Further corroboration of this hypothesis is the fact that the intended explosives appear to be analogous to those mentioned in the training manuals, and the confiscation, by British authorities, of materials related to the investigation from internet cafes in the United Kingdom.