Excerpts from an investigation of a terrorist bombing campaign

Case explosives. Excerpts from an investigation of a terrorist bombing campaign

It is 10 pm on a busy Friday night. In a district of the city known for it’s restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, a small explosive device has detonated outside a nightclub. By initial accounts, the device was in a plastic rubbish bag left near a rubbish bin. Uniformed police patrol personnel, the fire department, and several ambulances arrive with a few minutes and secure the site of the bombing.

• As is normally the case with a terrorist improvised explosive device, one of the first concerns is whether or not a secondary device or some other means of exploiting the initial attack is a hazard.

The explosive device squad of the police and his fellow bomb squad technicians are working to determine the following:
• How was the device constructed?
• What explosive(s) were used?
• What was the power source in the device? (Nearly all IEDs have some sort of power source, such as a battery or a mechanical timer)
• What was the initiator / detonator?
• How big was the device?
• How was the device set off?

The night becomes a long one
The night is not a short one for the police and their allies in the intelligence services. The technician is still tied up at the bombing site. The inspector is now back at headquarters. He has five minutes to get himself up to date before his 2:30am briefing to the chiefs. He then has a number of detectives to brief at 3am. On his desktop, he is able to pull up his supervisory dashboard on ChemDash and can quickly inform himself as to the status of the investigation so far. He notes with satisfaction that the central crime lab has now logged into ChemDash, so he hopes that some information will be forthcoming soon. The inspector goes down the hall to brief the Chief and his staff.

Putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together
The ChemDash overview dashboard provides the following interesting evidence from the first bomb scene:

• Crime scene photographs of the first bombing
• Photographs of fragments of the device, including an AA battery and badly kitchen timer
• A partial fingerprint from the AA battery in the kitchen timer
• A Raman spectra indicating that the explosive is TATP
• A photograph, from the crime lab, of a 9mm pistol shell modified for use as a detonator
• Witness statements from the first bombing.

Similar information is available from the second bomb site. In addition to information gathered in the field and entered onto ChemDash, additional information from multiple sources.

The Climax and Conclusion
The use of Raman, and more importantly, the use of ChemDash as a wide-ranging information management tool have allowed the police to share and evaluate evidence in a coordinated manner across a wide variety of users. The perpetrator was found and has been tied convincingly to the criminal acts by several types of evidence.

This case is based on actual events, experienced by Dan Kaszeta. Dan has served as a chemical weapons specialist with the U.S. Army and Department of Defense and now runs the consultancy Strongpoint Security in London.