In Anticipation of the Boston Trial: How Easy is It to Make IED

July 28, 2014

Runners continue to run towards the finish line as an explosion erupts at the finish line of the Boston MarathonEven before the smoke cleared that April day in Boston, authorities were busy claiming it was a terroristic act committed by, well, terrorists. Even US President Obama went on national television and declared it an “act of terrorism.” And that was before law enforcement had any suspects.

Many conspiracy theories have swirled around the Boston Marathon Bombing. Was it Islamist’s? Maybe an inside job? Maybe a false flag evolution perpetuated by the American government? One persistent rumor that has often been pointed to as “proof” of a conspiracy are the manufacturer of the bombs themselves.

With one side saying the bombs could easily be made from online instructions and the other side claiming that the bombs were more sophisticated than what could be made by two foreign national students more interested in chasing beer and girls, what is the truth?

Could the bombs have been made by anyone with an internet connection?

Despite The Radioactive Boy Scout, David Hahn, who was able to almost succeed in building a homemade breeder nuclear reactor in his mother’s shed in 1994, most people are only vaguely aware of what can be built using items found around the home. A pressure cooker bomb is easily made and has become the “weapon of choice” for many combatants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The ubiquitous kitchen device is favored because they have a tight-fitting lid. The snug fit allows bomb-makers to pack shrapnel and gun powder — or other explosive material — tightly, maximizing its impact after an explosion. Depending on the size of the cooker chosen, it could fit easily into a back pack or sportsman’s duffle bag.

A pressure cooker bomb is an improvised explosive device, or IED. Made by placing explosive material inside a standard pressure cooker and attaching a blasting cap, pressure cooker bombs have been used in several attacks in the 21st century.

Nick Wooldridge, attorney for Azamat Tazhayakov who was just found guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy by hindering the investigation into bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, advises that before the Boston Marathon bombings, pressure cooker bombs were the IED of choice in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings, 2010 Stockholm bombings (although that device failed to explode) and the 2010 Times Square car bombing — another failure.

Pressure cooker bombs are fairly easy to build. Most of the material needed can be found around the house or area department stores. The bomb can be ignited with something as simple as a digital watch, cell phone or pager.

Step-by-step instructions for making pressure cooker bombs were published in Inspire, an Al-Qaeda linked magazine, in 2010. Analysts believed the publication was the work of Anwar al-Awlaki. Inspire’s goal, according to their masthead, is to encourage “lone wolf” Jihadis to attack what they see as the enemies of Jihad, namely the United States and its allies.

The Boston Globe reported the two pressure cooker bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombings were filled with nails, ball bearings and black powder. The IEDs were triggered by remote control. NBC news reported that the bombers allegedly obtained instructions for building pressure cooker bombs from al-Awlaki’s Inspire magazine.

William Weimer, vice president of Phantom, in Seabrook, NH told NBC news that Tamerian Tsarnaev bought two large fireworks kits in his store on February 6, 2013. Weiner said that Tsarnaev bought two for $199.99 during a buy-one-get-one-free sale.

Department of Homeland Security Warning

In 2004, DHS was mindful enough about the potential of pressure cooker bombs that they issued an alert to state and federal security personnel.

“A technique commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps is the use/conversion of pressure cookers into IEDs,” the bulletin warned. The bulletin went on to advise that pressure cooker bombs can be as plain or complex as the maker chooses. The bulletin also pointed out that since a pressure cooker is a common cooking utensil, it can be easily overlooked when vehicles or residences are searched.

The Alleged Bomber

Tsarnaev, of Chechen origin, is a naturalized US citizen. While Tsarnaev was hospitalized following his capture, he was charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. He also was charged with one count of malicious destruction of property.

Court records show that Tsarnaev agreed to voluntary detention but refused to answer questions about bail. The trial of three, alleged co-conspirators started July 1 with jury selection and Tsarnaev is tentatively slated to go to trial in November 2014.