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 2010-2020 (12)


Revolution and Invention - Comparing Syria in 2012 with Ireland in 1803

1803 saw an attempted revolution in Ireland, that has some interesting parallels with today’s conflict in Syria.  Robert Emmet  (1778-1803) was the leader of the revolution and was sponsored to some degree by other regional states (France under Napoleon and individuals from the USA).  Emmet and his fellow revolutionaries had been inspired by the revolutions in both those nations (perhaps similar to the Arab spring revolutions inspiring events in Syria).

Emmet was an enthusiastic inventor who developed innovative home made weapons and probably the first Irish IEDs.  While in Paris trying to encourage Napoleon’s support for Irish revolution he met Robert Fulton, and seems to have been inspired by his use of explosives (I’ve discussed Fulton before, here)

Emmet returned to Ireland to plan the revolution. He designed rockets to be launched in salvoes from special batteries, and so called “infernals” which were hollowed-out beams packed with gunpowder to be pulled into the middle of streets to halt cavalry charges.  The devices were crafted by Emmet’s assistants in Marshal Lane South and Patrick Street. Essentially, the infernals were bored and plugged logs packed with black powder and readied for initiation by burning fuses. Each log was rendered more lethal by hammering deal strips to their length that held small stones, metal scraps and nails in place. Emmet decided to bind two infernals to each other and mount them together on small carriages from which the wheels had been removed. Thus elevated, immobilised and sited in confined, narrow streets, the initial blast wave would have dispersed splinters, stone shards and jagged metal with good effect.

Emmet also designed and had made numerous grenades. In one depot alone Emmet had 240 hand grenades made to his own design, formed of ink bottles filled with gunpowder and encircled with buckshot; 100 larger grenades made from wine bottles covered with canvas; numerous rockets and flares; explosive beams; and fire balls made of flax, tar and gunpowder which would stick to walls when thrown and burn fiercely when ignited.

Subsequently the revolution failed when key potential supporters failed to commit – in particular key parties of United Irishman revolutionaries from Kildare and Wicklow failed to join the fight.  Emmet failed to control other revolutionaries and the effort rapidly descended into farce.

Nonetheless the concept of Emmet’s “infernals” seems to have inspired Irish revolutionaries for a couple of centuries. And revolutions today in Libya and Syria are still characterized by innovative use of home made explosive devices and other weapons.  Brown Moses posts some excellent analysis of improvised weapon systems in Syria and frankly some of them wouldn't have seemed out of place in Dublin in 1803.




Combined EOD and munition repurposing!

Bizarre video here but appears to be true.

Further evidence of a remarkable improvised weapon industry in Syria.


Explosives protecting surveillance devices and micro IEDs

Interesting development reported here and elsewhere   Basically a covert electronic surveillance device was discovered somehwere 'interesting" in Iran which seemed to have had a Victim operated explosive penalty integral to it.  Poses interesting theoretical challenges for security staff and potential EOD response needed to a find of a suspected surveillance device. 

Reportedly similar devices were discovered over the past couple of years in Lebanon, monitoring phone lines, and an associated explosive incident occurred, but it's not entirely clear if the explosion in that case was directly integral to the surveillance device or dropped from the sky.

Of course there is a common likely perpertrator in both the Lebanese and Iranian incidents, but the potential threat of an explosive device to reduce the evidence associated with the electronic eavesdropping remains whoever the perpertrator is.

I think there are also some intreresting deeper aspects to this, namely:

a. Is the purpose to deter searchers?

b. Or to destroy sensitive components? - if so what's so sensitive that it needs destroying?

c. How would your design a surveillance device with an associated explosive payload so that it was certain to destroy the component you are concerned about.

d. What are the EOD implications of such a design.

Seperately, the fascinating accusations that Siemens components sold to Iran had small quantities of explosives (and presumably an initiation system) hidden within them is intruiging. Siemens deny even selling the components. But let's guess that someone in the West provided a component with hidden micro devices in them for sabotage.... and that's a fascinating concept.


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.


Ripples from Iran

Two IEDs in the last 24 hours, one detonating in India and one rendered safe in Georgia, both allegedly linked to Iran or possibly Hezbollah. In both cases the targets appear to be Israeli diplomatic officials and their families.  A colleague over at IMSL Insight discussing possible plots in Azerbaijan in a post a couple of days ago points out that the knee-jerk response of blaming Hezbollah, even on the anniversary of the assasination of Imad Mugniyeh, may be incorrect and suggesting the plot in Azerbaijan was directly the work of the Iranian regime.

The Georgian attack sounds as if it was simply a grenade fastened to the underside of the diplomats vehicle with, at a guess, a simple string to a wheel to pull the pin or the grenade from an enclosure.   The Indian attack could very well be the same sort of incident, looking at the damage to the car. (But note I haven't yet the details to confirm this assessment). Both seem a little amateur for either Hezbollah or Iran.

Last month Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, the spokesman for Iran's Joint Armed Forces Staff, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency last month as saying that Tehran was "reviewing the punishment" of "behind-the-scene elements" involved in the assassinations in Iran in the last few months, so a motive - retaliation- is clearly present.

Note that the vehicle attacked in India was bearing "diplomatic" plates.