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Gifted doctors, stupid terrorists

We are lucky would-be terrorists chose method they know nothing about

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Clint Van Zandt

Police across the U.K. now have at least eight suspects in custody for the two failed car bombings in downtown London last Friday night and the inept attempt to attack the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, the following day.  Using two different high end vehicles, the suspects are accused of attempting to detonate the vehicles, filled with propane tanks, gasoline and nails, in a nightclub area of London by use of cell phones linked to detonators.  Neither vehicle, one of which had already been towed away for a parking violation, actually detonated, and both were recovered and have provided investigators with a so-called “treasure trove” of evidence. 

Most know that London has one of the most sophisticated video camera surveillance systems in the world, with roughly one security camera for every 14 people on the streets of London, making your chances of being seen by security personnel when you park a car bomb almost 100 percent.  This was the case on Friday night as two or more individuals were captured on video camera as they parked the two car bombs to be.  High resolution pictures of the vehicles were obtained and suspected bombers that quickly led police to the believed drivers and others involved in this attempted act of terrorism.  Others are likely to be identified in this plot in the days to come.

Police have indicated that at least three of their suspects are medical doctors, including one from Iraq and one from Jordan, and all of them were working in the U.K.  After their inept attempt at building and setting off their two car bombs in downtown London, and likely believing that police were watching them in order to connect them with other possible members of what security officials have described as “a loose U.K.-wide (terrorist) network,” two of the suspects unbelievably filled yet a third vehicle, this time a Jeep SUV, with a similar concoction of gasoline, propane and nails (another attempt at building an anti-personnel bomb designed to kill and maim, and headed off in a panic, looking for any type of target of opportunity before police could attest them. 

They found that target at the Glasgow airport, but had they done any type of homework on the airport they would have realized that anti-car bomb barriers would stop them from ramming their car into the airport’s main terminal.  They tried it anyway, and the barriers worked just as intended.  Having failed a third time to detonate their bomb on wheels, one of the suspected terrorists poured gasoline on himself and in the Jeep, again a desperate attempt to detonate the volatile contents of their vehicle, and, perhaps, to commit suicide, going out in a loud explosion. 

Strike three was called as now the third car bomb again failed to blow up and the terrorist who had set himself aflame - the believed doctor from Iraq - was punched out by a civilian as he attempted to fight off police.  Not only could they not set off their car bombs, but they couldn’t even commit suicide.  So much for their medical training…

U.K. security officials are now investigating the possibility that a group of radical Islamic fundamentalists within the foreign medical community resident in the U.K. have joined the so called “holy war” against the West.  Although we have seen a number of medical doctors involved in the leadership of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, this is the first time that we have seen so-called gifted medical doctors throw away their careers and lives in so stupid and so inept a pursuit.  This is, however, just another example of why terrorism isn’t as simple as some media analysts would have you believe.  Since Friday, many television talking heads have said how easy it is to build car bombs based upon information found on the Internet.  Information is one thing, application, in this case, is something entirely different. 

This case also seems to speak volumes about the level of desperation on the part of radical Islamic fundamentalists to carry out another act like the 9/11 attack on America, or the 7/05 attacks on the London transportation system.  Although the chatter on the Internet related to possible terrorism is at one of the highest levels since 9/11, the ability of al-Qaida and other groups to carry out such a large-scale attack has been negated by international law enforcement and intelligence groups, especially here in the U.S.  The ill-fated attempt to attack a military base in New Jersey by terrorist pizza deliverymen and by others to attack JFK by trying to set a fuel pipeline on fire like some kind of giant fuse all met with failure, just as the recent car bombings did in the U.K.  There is, of course, a fine line between success and failure, just like in the case of the medical doctors believed involved in these recent failed attacks, a fine line between genius and madness.

Some have suggested the need for the U.S. to have the same level of closed circuit security camera coverage as our friends in the U.K. do, but this would take about 22 million such cameras in America.  Major cities and transportation hubs seem to stay on the bulls eye of terrorists, this as evidenced by the attempted car bombings in London and at the Scotland airport, but with a medical background and access to so many chemicals agents and potentially radiographic devices, one can only be thankful that the three doctors who aspired to be terrorists and their group in the U.K. chose something they apparently knew nothing about, i.e., car bombs, as opposed to something they could pull off, like chemical, biological or radiological terrorism.  Should they be guilty of what they will invalidly be charged with, it would appear that these doctors will now have a new population group to treat, their fellow prisoners, while the symbolism of the Fourth of July still looms before all of us here in America.

Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI Agent, behavioral profiler and hostage negotiator as well as an MSNBC Analyst. His web site provides readers with security related information.

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