Monday, March 19, 2007

London Chapati 'bombers' a real threat?

It's been a weird week in the war on terror - seriously there's been the news that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad has basically ‘fessed up to everything, ever (including the turban on the grassy knoll). Coupled with this is the continuing trial of the London Chapati Posse, better known in the press as the "July 21st 'bombers'", which is an odd name since the one thing they didn't have that day is a single working device between them

So basically, if the interrogators at Gitmo are right, the main man for al Qaeda has been captured, and all we have to worry about now are the kind of incompetent bundlers, that would try to start a bombing campaign with half the ingredients of a curry, and the contents of their sister's bathroom cabinet

Easy life – finally we can go to beige alert or whatever colour signifies no longer being arsed

But wait, NO!!

‘Scientists' reveal the July 21st terrorists were just that – terrorists, not the patisserie fixated fools we had them pegged for, apparently unbeknownst to the rest of the populace, Chapati flour is the modern underground army's equivalent of fertiliser.

Bugger me – who'd of known? Quick someone warn Gordon Ramsey before his pie-top brings disaster to us all

Hang on?


Further reading of the Telegraph article and you get to the bit “Mr Todd said he conducted the quarry tests using different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and different ratios of peroxide to flour”. Clever bloke that Mr Todd by all accounts.

I am no scientist in truth but after an afternoon on the internet I present my highly polished research….

Exactly what concentration was required to go boom? Hydrogen Peroxide does indeed go boom, lots of very successful bombs have been made using it in the past notably during the 2nd World War. However its worth noting that the percentages in those bombs was around the 80% mark

The Hydrogen Peroxide these guys bought was 18% according to the police (it was hair colouring cream) – to increase its strength these Jamie Oliver activists boiled it – quite possibly on a ‘low heat letting it simmer gently' – odd that, since everyone else seems to agree that exposing it to heat would decompose the Hydrogen Peroxide (see the line “Heat, U.V. light and contact with any organic substance and certain minerals will cause h2o2 to decompose in the following advert for 'Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide')

Presumably they were hoping the decomposition would happen quickly if they included a detonator (i.e. it would explode), but as far as I can figure it would have gone off in the pan (partly decomposed – partly evaporated) and in the mixing with an organic substance (flour) long before…

So back to the question – did the scientists get the rogue chef's device to explode? No – they created a device using similar ingredients in different proportions, which they didn't detail, and it went bang. They did the science equivalent of stating “the gun was a replica your honour, but in tests shooting someone in the face with a real gun looked like….”

In the article in the Telegraph a ‘large cloud of white smoke could be seen rising yards into the air' – call me a cynic but, could that be flour by any chance?

I can strap 5 pounds of TNT to my cat and detonate it – this doesn't make cats an explosive ingredient (in this case the cloud would just be a slightly different hue)

I think what is annoying me most about these stories is that in failing to challenge such blatant absurdity, our press is clearly either sleeping, in the governments pocket or engaged in activities involving a different white powder… Everything they have heard, they have written down and ‘reported' on with little or absolutely no corroboration – this isn't so much journalism as propaganda by apathy

In doing so they are failing us again and creating more scare stories – as far as I can tell the following are all true

  1. The London Chapati Posse ARE terrorists – they clearly intended to cause terror, they just aren't bombers or vaguely competent
  2. Chapati flour does not equal TNT, it equals chapati
  3. The continued over-reaction of our officials and press to almost every minor event undermines their credibility
  4. If you boil Hydrogen Peroxide, chances are it will flare up in the pan and start a small fire (the ‘bombers' neighbours were lucky)
  5. It is still safe to piss off hairdressers without them blowing you up
  6. It is probably still not a good idea to annoy chefs as they have easy access to meat cleavers

All in all I am back to beige alert…. Apparently the home office disagrees and is still on ‘severe'

Other Reading:, Dick Destiny