Semtex-Style C4 Explosive 'Widely Used by Al Qaeda'; Campaign against Terror

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS

ALTHOUGH C4, the explosive which could have been used by the mid-air attacker, is one of the most potent and dangerous explosives known, it is surprisingly available.

For anyone with an End User Certificate - a licence granted to legitimate operators such as mining companies and quarries - it can be bought from various manufacturers and is even sold over the internet. This wide availability leads to the explosive finding its way on to the black market, but for terrorists there are other sources.

The C4 plastic explosive is of the same type as Semtex, a favourite of the IRA and other terrorists. The IRA is believed to have three tons of Semtex and the material is often traded between clandestine organisations across the world.

The training manuals of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network go into detail on how it is used most effectively and even how it can be manufactured. The material has two main components: RDX, or Cyclonite, the explosive similar to that found in fireworks, and PETN, or Pentaerythrite. When the two are combined the mix turns from a powder to a puttylike substance.

In the tribal lands of Pakistan, on the Afghanistan border, plastic explosive is sold over the counter at a number of outlets specialising in the cash sale of weapons and military equipment. …