The last thread was getting unwieldy so let’s play two. The latest scoop from CNN, clarifying their earlier erroneous report that the burned suspect in the hospital had died, is that in fact it was a third suspect who died — inside the Jeep, which explains why one of the suspects was apparently seen trying to open the back door frantically after the crash. A reader who watched the Scottish police presser e-mails with a good point, though: according to the police spokesman, they haven’t been able to approach the vehicle yet. Unless the CNN scoop is very late-breaking, how can they tell what’s inside? On the other hand, how do Scottish cops know that this is linked to the car bombs in London if they haven’t had a chance to inspect the evidence? (Likely answer: one of the suspects has already confessed.)
So there’s one subplot. The other big one right now is what the “suspect device” was that the burned jihadi who’s now in critical condition was wearing when he got to the hospital, and which necessitated the building being evacuated. Obviously suspicions are that it was a suicide vest, one which he must have tried to detonate when the police approached after the crash. I guess they weren’t any better at building that than they were the car bomb.
Finally, if you haven’t seen the Blotter’s scoop here yet, do so now. And here’s Ace on crack terror analyst Larry Johnson, who’s laughing his moron ass off over the fact that today’s bombing didn’t rise to the level of a mushroom cloud.
Plenty of updates to follow, no doubt.
Update: A bit of corroboration for CNN from Sky: “Some witnesses told Sky News they saw three men in the Jeep, and they were all wearing boiler suits. Police said they do not know if there was anyone else in the vehicle.”
Update: The AP zeroes in on the link between today’s attack and yesterday’s fizzled plot: “A British government security official said the methods used in the airport attack and Friday’s thwarted plots were similar, with all three vehicles carrying large quantities of flammable liquid.” Was the liquid meant to go boom, though, or for another purpose? An eyewitness:
Witness Jackie Kennedy told the BBC that a man got out of the car, went to the back and pulled out a can of fuel, which he poured on himself and ignited.
“The guy was in flames and seemed to be enjoying himself,” Kennedy said.
Another link between the plots from the Telegraph: “Travellers watched in horror as one of the two men was said to have tried to pull gas cylinders from the vehicle’s boot before it exploded.” And from the same article, a quick glimpse at that “suspect device”:
[T]he BBC was last night reporting that a bus driver passing the hospital had witnessed a police officer carrying what appeared to be a suicide bomb belt into the middle of a cricket pitch opposite the hospital.
Local police also suspect a suicide belt.
Update: New details from the Daily Mail. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that these guys weren’t trained Al Qaeda operatives.
Security guards, initially believing the car had been involved in a straightforward accident, grabbed fire extinguishers and tried to put out the flames.
But one of the men, both in their 30s, leapt out and attacked the guard, screaming at him that a bomb was about to go off…
One of the men soaked himself in petrol, set himself alight and ran into the main terminal area, carrying petrol cans.
The flames were extinguished by an airport worker, but even though the would-be terrorist’s clothes were practically burnt off him, he started fighting with police officers and passers-by.
Update: It must be 45 minutes to an hour now since CNN first broke the story about the third suspect and it has yet to appear on their website. Are the CNN.com people just slow on the draw or did CNN crap the bed on this one and sent it down the memory hole?
Update: Can’t find it on the wires yet but Fox and CNN are reporting that the AP claims two arrests have been made in northern England in connection with the attack. Update: All right, here’s the link. There’s nothing more than a sentence about it thus far. You’ll remember from the previous thread that a counterterror official told the Blotter the cell in this case could reach 20 people. If all the reports so far are true, we’re up to at least six: the Mercedes driver yesterday, the three(?) jihadis today, and now the two arrestees. The Observer claims that police sources tell them “they were now investigating the existence of an Islamic terror cell in the capital. One major branch of the inquiry is tracking down a number of terror suspects who have slipped their control orders, a development that raises fresh questions over their effectiveness.” That number, according to the Independent, is three, including a suspect of Algerian descent who “talked about wanting to blow up a nightclub.” You’ll recall from the Scotsman piece mentioned in the previous thread that they’re also looking for an Iraqi suspect who skipped out on his control order a few weeks ago.
What’s Gordon Brown going to do about all these guys slipping the noose? A lot, maybe:
The Prime Minister has already asked his policy officials to devise a way of extending from 28 days the time that terrorist suspects can be detained without charge. He favours a limit of 90 days – a controversial move that in 2005 led to the Government’s first defeat in the Commons. To try to win over sceptical Labour MPs, concerned that locking up terror suspects without charge for almost three months severely breaches their civil liberties, Mr Brown is planning to bring in a number of safeguards.
He will offer Parliament and the judiciary more powers to oversee detentions and allow the courts to review the incarcerations weekly, while introducing an independent review process and annual reports to Parliament to boost accountability. In a clear indication that the new Prime Minister is prepared to curtail personal liberties in order to catch the most dangerous terror suspects, Mr Brown is planning – in the case of terrorism – to lift the ban on questioning suspects after charges have been brought.
He is also to look again at allowing phone-tap evidence to be used in court if it can help convict terrorists. This would please civil liberties campaigners, who have argued that terror suspects should be put on trial rather than be held under virtual house arrest.
Update: Meanwhile, the Telegraph looks on the bright side:
The decision not to use suicide bombers is regarded as noteworthy because it makes the planning of operations far more complex. It may also suggest a shortage of volunteers prepared to die in al-Qaeda’s pursuit of global holy war…
The type of bombs used suggest that al-Qaeda militants have been unable to get hold of Semtex, the high explosive that was commonly used by the IRA. Had the car bombs detonated, however, they would have created a fireball the size of a large house and spread a shockwave for 400 yards.
The Observer explains the lack of suicide bombers yesterday this way: “[A]lmost all strikes directly commissioned by the ‘al-Qaeda hardcore’ of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri involve the death of the bombers. This change is unlikely to be a deliberate tactic, but probably indicates a lack of long-term psychological preparation of the bombers who, if recent trends are anything to go by, are likely to be young, (possibly in their late teens) and to have been radicalised very rapidly.”
Update: CNN’s finally added the bit about the third suspect to its story on this and includes and adds a detail to the arrests of the two new suspects — they’re wanted in connection with both today’s attack and the car bombs yesterday.
Update: The Observer names the Algerian suspect — Lamine Adam, along with his brother Ibrahim and another guy who skipped out on his control order named Cerie Bullivant — and explains how British intel could have missed this plot. Put simply, too many jihadis, too few MI5:
Initial concerns suggest that the security services may have switched surveillance from the car bombers on to other suspects, leaving them at liberty to hastily create, plan and target London clubbers early on Friday morning.
The security services concede it was ‘possible’ they had been monitoring those involved in the double car bomb cell at some stage, which will also fuel the debate on whether MI5 has sufficient resources. Police candidly accept that they cannot monitor everyone they believe is a threat. In reality, only those whom they believe are involved in ‘attack planning’ are accorded serious attention, with a continual ‘managing of risk’ between the danger posed by individuals. People can move in and out of surveillance, depending on that analysis…
Around 50 Islamic extremist cells are ‘active’ in the UK, with about 300 extremists under constant surveillance… About 1,500 Britons are known to the police and security services as possible terror suspects…
Other control-order fugitives among the suspects are Bestun Salim and Zeeshan Siddiqui, who trained in Pakistan with the London bombers.
Update: The Times of London is reporting that an intelligence analysis prepared last April warned of terror attacks that might coincide with a changeover in British leadership. The Tories are naturally demanding to know why the terror alert wasn’t raised preemptively then, but good luck convincing anyone that that would have helped. As for this:
The JTAC document highlighted intelligence that Al-Qaeda cells in Iran were in contact with operatives in Britain. The report stated there was no specific intelligence of an attack on British soil, but added: “Recent reporting has described [Al-Qaeda’s] Kurdish network in Iran planning what we believe may be a large-scale attack against a western target.
It’s a fine piece of alarmist rhetoric, but needless to say, a joint AQ-Iran operation would have run a lot more smoothly and packed a considerably bigger wallop than these attacks did.