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Thursday, September 24, 2009 

The jihadist threat to train security

Following the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, there's been a renewed alert in the US for railway security (via Michelle Malkin):
A 24-year-old Afghan man at the center of an unfolding FBI investigation into a possible U.S. terrorism cell was ordered held without bond in Colorado Monday as authorities raced to learn more about an alleged plot using hydrogen peroxide explosives and who else might have been helping to carry it out.

Meanwhile, authorities in Washington and elsewhere were stepping up safety patrols on mass transit systems in response to an advisory issued in connection with the probe.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI sent a bulletin to transit agencies Friday repeating past warnings to be on guard for attacks on mass transit systems, and identifying hydrogen peroxide-based explosives as a specific risk…Local officials in Washington said the bulletin specifically mentioned Grand Central Station in New York City, but said they have nevertheless increased the number of random patrols. [...]

Counterterrorism experts said U.S. officials were taking the case “very seriously” because of the apparent similarities to recent plots in the United Kingdom linked to al-Qaeda.

The Zazi investigation has focused on a type of improvised liquid explosive involving hydrogen peroxide — HMTD — that was involved in several plots in Britain traced to operatives linked to al-Qaeda, including the London transit bombings on July 7, 2005, that killed 56 people; a failed copycat attack two weeks later; and a plot, foiled by authorities in August 2006, to blow up at least seven transatlantic airliners.

The transit bombings involved people with backpack bombs, and all plots had ringleaders or other key participants with legal residency in the United Kingdom and who had traveled to Pakistan.

“The explosives element, the training and the backpacks — all are part of the core al-Qaeda bomb-making curriculum as we’ve seen in two specific incidents in the United Kingdom, and if you take out the backpacks, the last three significant U.K. incidents,” said Bruce R. Hoffman, a counterterrorism analyst at Georgetown University.

Unlike in recent U.S. plots — which federal authorities often described as “aspirational” and whose leaders’ search for expertise or weapons often unwittingly led to them to consult FBI informants — Zazi may have been trained to work with explosives.
As Michelle reported earlier, however, Obama's administration dismantled the country's best-trained counterterrorism squad for rail security. Even now, they're still handling security with a 9-10 attitude. If that's how they're doing things, the country could be even less safe.

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