Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thoughts on London -- 7/21 

The following is 100% speculation. I have no expertise in antiterrorism except what I have picked up from reading Tom Clancy books and books like "The Cobra Event" by Richard Preston.

Fox News is reporting that there have been "incidents" in three subway stations in London, and one on a bus. Eyewitness reports are filtering in that a backpack exploded in the Warren Street tube station, but so far the crawler says only one injured. Reuters reports that the Warren Street explosion was a nail bomb, but with only one injured, that doesn't sound right.

A hazmat team has entered the station. That does sound right. If an explosion goes off but few people are injured by the blast, I would immediately think of chemical or biological agents. Since few people seem to be having symptoms of chemical attack, then biological goes to the head of the line.

A bomb blast in a subway would be an effective way to disperse an infectious biological agent. Crowds of people would be exposed, and they would disperse in a hurry. Since they would have no obvious injuries, they probably wouldn't be stopped by the authorities. If they were contaminated with a bio agent, they might disperse it even more as they make their way home or to work. Once at their destinations, the blast victims might disperse more agent to their families or co-workers. A few days later those exposed would get sick, and if the bio agent was infectious they'd infect others. Nasty situation!

Although it's known that AQ was working on bio agents in Afghanistan, and suspected that Saddam was doing so in Iraq, there's no indication that AQ or any other terrorist group has acquired a weaponized bio agent or the ability to use it. If this turns out to be a bio attack, it'll be a dark day for the good guys.

Another possibility is a "dirty bomb" used to disperse radioactive material that would render the subway useless until decontaminated, and might prove deadly to anyone who might have inhaled or ingested any radioactive dust. In a way, it might be much easier to pull off a radiological attack than a bio attack, but the radioactive substance would be easier to detect and I can't believe that the London tube system has sensors to detect such substances.

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