International scientists to discuss explosives

Improvised explosives to be focus of parley intended to be "important milestone in the war on terror."

nablus explosives 2 298 (photo credit: IDF)
nablus explosives 2 298
(photo credit: IDF)
As improvised explosives continue to wreak havoc in battlefields from Iraq to the Gaza Strip, dozens of senior experts from around the world will arrive in Israel for an international conference on home-made bombs, set to take place in the North on Thursday. The conference will attract 29 foreign scientists from 12 countries, including the US, UK, Japan and New Zealand, and will also have representatives from all of Israel's security agencies, US Homeland Security and counterterrorism officials from other counties. It will aim to analyze and improve long-range detection of improvised explosives, Prof. Yehuda Zeiri of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the conference's organizer, said. Many of the most lethal forms of improvised explosives are based on the TATP chemical compound, first used by Palestinian terrorists in a Hebron bombing in 1980. Since then, terrorists have affectionately referred to TATP bombs as "the devil's mother." "What all of these explosives have in common is that they are based on peroxides, which, if you mix with a fuel such as sugar or coal, can turn explosive," said Zeiri, who also works at the Nuclear Research Center of the Negev, near Dimona. "For almost three decades, this material has turned into the most popular form of explosives for terrorist organizations here and around the world, especially for suicide bombing... from the double suicide bombing of the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem in 2001, to the 2005 London bombings," he said. "The London bombings saw peroxides mixed with flour, which resulted in an explosion almost on the same level as TNT," Zeiri said. "You can get these chemicals onto a plane, buy them in a store, or download bomb-making recipes on the Internet," he added. Improvised explosives were easy to prepare, he said, adding, "These forms of explosives are sensitive, which can be good because they are prone to accidents." "Ammonium nitrates are common in the US, while fertile nitrates are used in Gaza," Zeiri said. The Israel Police and professors from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have also helped get the conference off the ground. The organizers said in a statement: "Israel is the natural place to hold such a meeting, because we have gathered a great deal of knowledge on these issues over the past three decades." The organizers expressed hope that their conference will be an "important milestone in the war on terrorism, not only in the State of Israel, but in the entire world."