Tuesday, April 26, 2005

RCMP warns of remote-control bombs risk

Could become terror weapon

Stewart Bell
National Post

An RCMP intelligence report says more than 90 incidents involving remote-controlled explosive devices have been recorded in Canada since 1993 and warns police must be prepared for their potential use by terrorists.

Ninety-two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) rigged to detonate by remote-control were found across Canada from 1993 to 2004, it says. The figures include bombings, attempted bombings, fake bombs and the recovery of bomb components.

Remote-controlled bombs have long been a principal weapon for criminal organizations such as the Hells Angels but police are concerned that terrorists are showing increasing interest in the deadly devices.

The Irish Republican Army was the first terrorist organization to perfect the technique of electronically triggering bombs but other extremist groups have since adopted the method, notably al-Qaeda and its followers.

The al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah used a cellular phone to set off a bomb at the U.S. consulate in Bali in 2002, and cell phones were similarly used in the 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid. Iraqi insurgents and pro-Taliban forces in Afghanistan have made extensive use of such bombs, which "have the benefit to the perpetrator of being initiated from a standoff distance, without needing a physical link to the device, and affording not only blast survival but also increased expectation of escape from capture," the RCMP report says.

While Middle Eastern terrorists are best known for their suicide vests and truck bombs, "many of the devices delivered by martyr or by vehicle are also remote detonated or have a remote detonation backup," it adds.

The report, Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices, was written by the RCMP's Criminal Analysis Branch and a de-classified copy was released to the National Post under the Access to Information Act.

Canadian security agencies have been on the alert for terrorist bomb attempts since Osama bin Laden called for attacks against Canada in 2002. Since then, Canadian police and intelligence have found what they believe are incidents of target scouting by terrorist operatives.

In addition, a list of Canadian targets, most of them in Ontario, was found in the pocket of an al-Qaeda member captured in Pakistan in 2003. The targets of interest to al-Qaeda in Canada include mass transit, financial buildings and shopping malls.

"All RCMP members need to be aware of the capabilities of explosives in order to properly respond to suspicious packages and situations and to recognize the materials used in the construction of IEDs and detonators," it says. "They also need to remain current on the latest technology being employed in the construction of explosive devices."

The report says such bombings tend to be planned months or even years in advance, giving police the opportunity to detect and disrupt the plots. "However, this is only true if adequate information collection and analysis skills and processes are in place."

Another way to prevent such attacks is by using jamming devices that interfere with radio signals. Signal jamming has been credited with saving the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who escaped an assassination attempt in December, 2003. A jamming device in his car delayed the remote-controlled bomb until his motorcade had passed.

Among some of the incidents in Canada involved remote-controlled bombs: In 1995, 11-year-old Daniel Desrochers was killed in Montreal when a Jeep was bombed as part of an ongoing gang turf war; three teens were arrested in Gatineau, Que., in 1999 as they were about to detonate a powerful pipe bomb they built using instructions on the Internet; in 1993, a pipe bomb bomb was spotted attached to the undercarriage a car in Montreal and was defused.

© National Post 2005
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