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Bus bomb presents puzzle for London investigators

July 9, 2005

By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) – The bomb that blew up a double-decker
London bus, killing 13 people, was the “odd one out” among
Thursday’s four deadly attacks and throws up puzzling questions
that will be central to the investigation.

The number 30 bus was blown up close to Euston station, 57
minutes after three bombs exploded within seconds of each other
on underground trains near three other main terminals.

More than 50 people were killed in the four attacks, which
the government says bear the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

Security analysts seized on the time gap and the different
nature of the fourth target as indications that the attack
might have been improvised at the last moment or the device
might even have gone off accidentally while in transit.

“The most logical explanation is that one of the terrorists
was unable to board an underground train — probably because of
the rapid closure of the system — and ended up with a primed
bomb and no target,” said Dominic Armstrong, head of research
and intelligence at security group Aegis Defense Services.

“In the circumstances, it seems understandable that he
should seek another similar target quickly. Buses were
plentiful, and a convenient place to dispose of the ‘spare’
bomb.”

‘AGITATED MAN’

A witness, Richard Jones, told the BBC he had seen an
agitated man fiddling suspiciously with a paper sack on the bus
shortly before the explosion.

Security consultants Janusian Security Risk Management said
in an analysis for clients: “The bomb exploded at the back of
the upper deck of the bus. This would be the least effective
point from which to detonate the device — the more effective
position would be the center of the lower carriage.”

It added: “It is possible that the bomber got cold feet and
left the bomb on the bus for fear of being compromised. There
also remains a possibility that the detonator was a suicide
bomber.”

Janusian said militant groups would normally reserve
suicide bombers for harder and better protected targets, but
might see symbolic value in carrying out a first ever suicide
attack in the British capital.

Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick
said on Saturday that the possibility the bomber died on the
bus was not ruled out, but added: “The evidence we have so far
would suggest that it was a device in a bag rather than
something that was strapped to the individual.”

Police would not confirm or deny a news report that
fragments of a timer had been discovered at the site.

Forensic specialists, some in white and some in blue
bodysuits, could be seen on Saturday still examining the
wreckage of the bus in tree-lined Tavistock Square, not far
from the British Museum.

Police have removed the shattered roof and hidden most of
the square from view behind 5-meter-high (15-foot-high) plastic
sheeting.

Officials said debris was scattered over a wide area where
police would have to conduct fingertip searches. They said the
site presented big forensic challenges, albeit of a different
kind from the hot, dark, narrow and rat-infested tunnels where
the three underground trains were bombed.




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