You can contact me at rogercdavies(atsquiggle)  If you have a comment and the system won't let you post it, ping me using the @ for (atsquiggle)

This blog has evolved into a review of historical and modern explosive devices, and responses to them. Links are drawn between historical activity and similar activity in the world today. Mostly I focus on what are now called IEDs but I have a loose personal definition of that and wilingly stray into discussions of more traditional munitions, the science and technology behind them, tactical employment and EOD responses. Sometimes it's just about interesting people in one form or another. Comment is welcome and encouraged but I do monitor it and reserve the right to delete inappropriate stuff. Guest posts are always welcome. Avoid any stuff that makes the enemy's job easier for them.

A note on moral perspectives. Throughout this blog there are descriptions of all sorts of people using IEDs, explosives, or suffering the consequences. Some of the people using IEDs are thought of as heroes by some and terrorists by others. One person's good guy fighting for a cause is another person's evil demon.  It's complicated, and history adds another series of filters too. All of us too live in a narrative made up around however we were brought up, what we were taught and what we learned along the way, rightly or wrongly. So if you sense moral ambivalence, one way or the other, well, I'm guilty and I'm not perfect.  By and large though, I have unapologetic sympathy for those dealing with the devices, whether they be soldiers, cops, or whatever, even those who are part of Nazi or other nasty regimes. That's the cool thing about EOD techs - we don't really care who the enemy is.


Entries in 2000-2010 (13)


Intriguingly Similar Designs of Improvised Munitions Over Decades

One of the most notable improvised weapons in the last 15 years has perhaps been the “IRAM”.  This “Improvised Rocket Assisted Munition” appeared in 2004 in Iraq, using the rocket motor of a 107mm rocket with a “bolted on” over-calibre warhead. This is a relatively short-range munition with more target effect than a standard 107mm, but quite difficult to range and target.  The IRAM munition came in various designs. Here’s one variant:
IRAMs 2004


Such munitions appear to be being used now by Syrian government forces and others in Syria. See this report from the excellent Brown Moses/Bellingcat website from 2013:  Sometimes the users seem to have not fired these from 107mm tubes (with the overcalibre warhead “left out the front”) but from tubes with a greater diameter. See: .  In this variant the rocket motor is "under-calibre", in effect.
When the IRAM appeared in 2004 it was commonly thought to be a new type of improvised munition. But as readers of this blog might already suspect, it wasn't new at all - the concept was used in the early part of the Vietnam war. Here's the image of Viet Cong overcaliber warhead that was fitted to a 107mm rocket, just as they are today. The image provider suggests that the warhead was cast iron, but the welds in what is probably rolled mild steel are clearly present.  These early Viet Cong "IRAMs" were fitted with what were described as WW2 Japanese impact fuzes. 
Viet Cong over-calibre warhead for 107mm rocketJapanese WW2 impact fuze on Viet Cong warhead
Now here’s another interesting thing - probably coincidental. The design of the Viet Cong over-calibre warhead is remarkably similar to a Provsional IRA mortar bomb warhead. This image is from a de-fuzed Mk 12 mortar bomb taken in 1991.  The IRA warhead was of course not on a rocket but on a mortar, but the design structure of the mild steel welded warhead looks remarkably similar to the Viet Cong warhead, does it not and is of an almost identical construction. The Mk 12 mortar of course is a horzontally fired anti-armour weapon with a copper cone liner, but the outer form of the warhead is remarkably similar.  
PIRA Mk 12 Mortar bomb with identical shaped warhead
Keen readers of this blog will recall too that Irish revolutionaries were firing rockets horizontally at the British Military as early as 1803, using a rocket designed in 1696. 




Oops! Bangkok terrorist plots have been known to fail before.

Today’s incidents in Bangkok have all the hallmarks of a bit of a disaster for the “terrorist” gang concerned. However this is not the first terrorist plot to go horribly wrong in Bangkok,. Back in March 1994 Ramzi Yousef is believed to have been involved in an attempted vehicle bomb attack on the Israeli embassy there.  He and his accomplices rented a truck, (strangling the delivery driver and leaving his dead body in the back of the truck) loaded it with a ton of explosives  and then the designated suicide bomber set off for the target driving the truck with the bomb and the dead body in the back.  On the way to the target, the klutz of a terrorist got involved in a road traffic incident, crashing into a taxi bike and a car at a busy intersection.  The terrorist driving the VBIED panicked … and ran off abandoning the vehicle, bomb and body included.

Police responded to the scene of the traffic accident, and without checking the back, took the vehicle to the police vehicle pound…  A week later the vehicle owner called to try and locate his truck … and was led to a very smelly truck in the vehicle pound where the police discovered the putrefying remains of the delivery boy, and a one ton bomb ready to go off at the flick of a switch.  By then Ramzi Yousef and disappeared but he did leave his fingerprints on the bomb.  Yousef, the man behind the first World Trade Center bomb in New York is often described as a terrorist mastermind and genius, but the facts of some of his exploits don’t bear that out. He nearly blew his hand off in an incident in Pakistan when a device functioned and set fire to his bomb making facility accidentally in Manila while planning Operation Bojinka.


Bombs in lavatories

The conviction of a team of radical would-be terrorists who discussed planting IEDs in the lavatories of the British Stock Exchange  reminds me that lavatories are a theme in many IED attacks, which I think is curious.  Here’s a range of previous “bombs in the bogs”"

Only a couple of days ago some sort of apparent explosive device was found in the lavatory of a Libyan plane in Egypt    For what its worth I don’t think it was an IED but the story is pretty cloudy for now.

In May 2008 there was the very peculiar incident in Exeter, UK, where a decidedly odd individual detonated a device while he was in the lavatories of a fast food resturant.

In 1957 an elderly man blew himself up in the lavatory of a passenger aircraft over California. A good investigation report is here    The device was constructed by dynamite and blasting caps with the blasting caps initiated by matches and burning paper.  Only the perpetrator was killed.

A similar dynamite IED functioned in the lavatory of an aircraft in 1962 over Iowa, this time killing all aboard.

A Canadian passenger aircraft  blew up after a device exploded in the lavatory over British Colombia in 1965. The crime was never solved.

In 1939, as part of a significant Irish terrorist bombing campaign in England a bomb was planted in a public lavatory in Oxford street. Disaster was averted when the lavatory attendant dumped the IED in a  bucket of water (not a good response, but a brave man).  Several other incidents in this campaign were IEDs left in lavatories. The attendant was awarded £5 for his bravery

In 1884, during another Irish bombing campaign in England, (yes there have been a few) the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, Scotland Yard, was severely damaged in an explosion caused by a large IED being left in a public lavatory next door to the police Headquarters.  Here’s a picture. 

There’s an interesting aspect to this story. Several months earlier, in 1883, an Irish revolutionary organization , the Irish Republican Brotherhood sent a letter to Scotland Yard  threatening to 'blow Superintendent Williamson off his stool' and dynamite all the public buildings in London on 30 May 1884. The Met Police largely ignored the warning, and then on the very day promised the explosion at Scotland Yard occurred, as did two other explosions elsewhere in London.  The failure of the Met Police to protect their own headquarters, as well as the occurrence of several other IED attacks across London embarrassed the police severely and led indirectly to the formation of Special Branch.

There are numerous other IED attacks on lavatories, too many to list.


The media and terrorist bomb making

There's an interesting NPR article here about how the media report bomb making details.  The general thrust is that the genie is already out of the bottle and if a terrorist wants to make a bomb he doesn't require education or prompting from press reporting to be able to make the final step.  As readers of this blog will know I don't hold the press in high regard anyway for reporting useful facts in this domain!  (Note the comment from the CNN expert who clearly doesn't know the difference between a fuel component in an explosive and an "accelerant" component in an incendiary.)   In general I would hope the point that making the public more aware of precursors is working - several recent cases have been reported to the police to start with by retailers of fertiliser or Hydrogen Peroxide who were suspicious of people buying the material from them.

Despite that I'm still a little amazed that in incidents such as the Glasgow airport incident and the Times Square effort that well educated terrorists mounted an attack with large devices that were never going to "detonate" in a million years. Wishful thinking gets you a long way but not far enough. It indicates strongly that these were lone wolf attacks without the training and  resources of an effective terrorist organisation behind them... which is good.  There is another argument though... from a terrorist's perspective both attacks "succeeded" in terms of raising awareness of their cause.....Discusss...


Collar Bombs and the Media

The recent collar bomb incident in Australia (link here; (a hoax) highlights to me the role that modern media can play in designing both IEDs and indeed in designing the criminal operations associated with them. I’m treading a fine line here between discussing my concerns and avoiding adding to them. But I’m working on the basis that even the most stupid terrorist has access to a TV and the internet and has worked out the joys of google. And I’m not going to discuss much at all about the technicalities of construction or render-safe. My discussion focuses on the widespread coverage of such events and the ideas they give miscreants.

For background, collar bombs are not new, and normally associated with extortion or hostage situations. In 2000 there was a well-documented case in Colombia, that resulted in the death of a victim and a bomb disposal operator. Less well reported was an earlier case in Venezuela that I suspect was indirectly linked. The Colombian case was unusual for the complexity of the device and surprisingly small amount of money being extorted – if I recall correctly about $6000.

In 2003 there were more cases in Colombia and perhaps Venezuela again.

In 2003 a well publicized case of a collar bomb occurred in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The concept has been used frequently and often by TV producers. The movie “Miami Vice” in 2006 featured one and the TV show CSI Miami also used such a story in 2002, An episode of Hawaii five 0 (season 1 episode 12) used a similar story. One episode of (“1000 ways to die”) also featured a device of this nature.

A film released 2011, called 30 minutes or less featured a neck bomb.

Other films featuring collar bombs include:
  • Swordfish
  • The Running Man
  • SAW 3
  • Battlefield Earth
Other TV shows that featured the concept include:
  • NCIS
  • Nikita
  • Flashpoint
  • MacGyver
  • Torchwood
  • Criminal Minds
  • Law and Order: Criminal Intent
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • Alias

A short drama film was made called PVC1 received widespread attention which featured a collar bomb.

The video game SAW also featured a collar bomb detonating.

The concept also fascinates documentary makers… The following have featured examination of the Erie device:
  • America’s Most Wanted have featured the case three times
  • Anderson Cooper 360
  • Fox News Channel “In the line up”
  • The 99 most Bizarre Crimes

I think significantly, a very detailed analysis of the Erie case was published in Wired magazine 8 months ago.

So in truth, there is no shortage if inspiration for evil people….but perhaps TV and movie script writers do lack imagination and like copying each others ideas more than terrorists do.