Times Square bomber joins the growing list of inept terrorists
Like the Christmas Day 'underwear bomber,' the Times Square bomber apparently bungled the job. The 9/11 attacks might have led to a false sense of terrorists' competence.
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Al Qaeda would love to mount another spectacular, 9/11-style attack on Western interests, note terrorism experts. But the counterterrorism efforts of the US and its allies have made the organization and deployment of multiperson terrorist teams much more difficult.Skip to next paragraph
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Trained in Pakistan
There may still be plots out there that reflect a more patient approach. Najibullah Zazi, the Denver airport shuttle bus employee arrested last September and charged with plotting to bomb the New York subway, appears to have received fairly extensive training in explosives while at an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in 2008, for instance.
US authorities allege that Mr. Zazi was planning to use hydrogen peroxide-based bombs, and had amassed a stock of raw material in preparation for the assault. He had cased the New York subway system as well.
Zazi fled New York last September after he became aware he was being watched. He was arrested in Denver on Sept. 16 without incident.
Mr. Shahzad recently also spent five months in Pakistan, according to news reports. It’s not clear whom he met. But the gasoline-and-fireworks bomb allegedly made by him was much more amateurish than Zazi’s approach, note experts.
In a way, what the US is seeing now may be judged a return to more usual terrorist tactics.
After all, terrorism, by definition, is an attention-getting strategy employed by those without the ability to mount conventional military attacks.
“Terrorism is a tool of the less-powerful, and they use what they have at hand,” says Gary LaFree, a professor of criminology and director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland in College Park.
The deadly successes of the 9/11 attacks perhaps have made Islamist terrorists appear more competent than they are, in general. Mr. LaFree counts some 50 or 60 thwarted attacks linked to Al Qaeda or its allies since 2001.
“Terrorists use readily available, low-tech weapons, and they often screw up,” says LaFree.