Liquid bomb idea originated…. just across the road?

SITTING in a Belfast cafe earlier reading the papers, a couple of stories on the terror alert referred back to the case of Abbas Boutrab, described in as a terrorist with Al Qaida links. The Newtownabbey resident was jailed for six years after being convicted of downloading instructions on how to blow up a plane with home-made liquid explosives. The FBI recreated a viable bomb using his instructions, which he had downloaded in Belfast’s central library, just across the road from where I was reading about it in the paper. Nearly choked on me bagel.

  • Moochin photoman

    How much are Clements charging for a bagel these days?

    I was a regular user of the free internet at the library until relatively recently.The biggest problem when using the service, was that the language settings were quite often reset. Thats the greatest inconvenience i ever encountered tho i suppose its indicative of the changing demographic of NI and if anything is a welcome gripe. New blood new thinking

  • Pete Baker


    No, Gonzo, the individual who identified himself as Abbas Boutrab did not come up with this plot.. he was looking at similar ideas though.. btw, where were you when it was covered here on Slugger?

    The description of the plot does, however, echo another plot from 10 years ago, as detailed here by the LA Times

    Might also be worth keeping an eye on ABC’s The Blotter Blog

  • Pete Baker

    Actually there’s a better article on the detail of, and who was behind, the much earlier plot at The First Post

  • Occasional Commentator

    This isn’t really relevant, but that git Douglas Alexandar was on Newsnight tonight and I just have to vent my spleen somehow. When asked whether the invasion of Iraq had put Britain in danger, he replied with an non-answer about how discontentment with foreign policy isn’t a justification for any such attacks. The scumbug wasn’t asked whether the attacks were justified, he was asked whether they had become more likely. Why can’t he just give a simple yes or no answer?

  • Pete Baker


    It’s worth keeping in mind how the global media affects these things – as soon as such a question is asked, the propagandists for Islamist fundamentalists, such as Anjem Choudary, try to think of another way to say “Ah, it’s your involvement that makes us target you!”

    Reflecting the self-obsessed concerns of the public here back upon themselves.

  • rapunsel

    Amy questions on Radio 4 tonight featured a response from one of the panelists which was along the lines that ” we really have to work out what causes people to commit violence in support of their religious convictions” , I thought — exactly– what is it about Blair and Bush that leads them to this course of action.

  • Pete Baker

    It’s probably also worth pointing put that the apparent solo nature of ‘Abbas Boutrab’ activities would suggest an approach closer to that of Richard Reid rather than a complicated plot involving multiple planes/persons suggested in recent reports.

  • Garibaldy

    What sort of a moron comes to NI to be an Islamic terrorist?

  • rapunsel

    Funny thing is — after these recent years with th removal of the checkpoint etc at Aldergrove , I expect we are likely to see all of that coming back again with greater rigour. If that’s what’s needed its a great pity but despite concerns expressed about the situation being overhyped , on balance I’m in favour of the extra security

  • Pete Baker


    You did see how invitations have been extended to the likes of Anjem Choudary?

    After all, what better place to sit tight and not have anyone voice suspicions about your activities to the authorities[sic]?

  • na


    Wha? Seriously.

    Gonzo writes (with a link to a Daily Record piece connecting the current allegations to Boutrabs case in Belfast – not his connection but theirs)

    SITTING in a Belfast cafe earlier reading the papers, a couple of stories on the terror alert referred back to the case of Abbas Boutrab, described in as a terrorist with Al Qaida links.

    You dispute this with (and self referencing links)


    No, Gonzo, the individual who identified himself as Abbas Boutrab did not come up with this plot.. he was looking at similar ideas though.. btw, where were you when it was covered here on Slugger?

    Sometimes you seem a bit of a moaning minnie. What exactly is your problem with Gonzo showing that other media sources had linked the two stories? Do you have a point?

  • Pete Baker


    Glad to see you on the ball as usual, na.

    “not his connection but theirs”

    And the point evidenced in the subsequent links is that their connection is false.

    And your point is?

  • Garibaldy


    I dunno. Hardly like he wasn’t going to stick out like a sore thumb, and that anti-terrorist surveillance was going to be less than say deepest darkest Wales. And note I said Islamic terrorist. Had he stood in elections or had a thriving drug business to be weaned off he might have got away with it

  • Occasional Commentator

    Pete et al,
    Isn’t Anjem Choudary your man who was on Newsnight tonight?


    Anjem Choudary [.. then tries to use that question ..] to think of another way to say “Ah, it’s your involvement that makes us target you!”

    Why doesn’t everyone just accept the obvious fact that the country is attacked because of its foreign policy? They appear to be following the twisted logic that if you predict something you are automatically justifying it.

    Is a doctor who predicts that a patient has a 50% chance of living to be condemned and sacked for hoping for the patient’s death? Perhaps instead doctors should assume that all patients should survive. Contemplating giving life-saving treatment is tantamount to killing the patient so oughtn’t to be attempted by any doctor!

    Also, I predict there will be dozens of murders in the UK next year.

    Prediction != justification

  • Pete Baker

    You’re ignoring the argument I put forward, OC [not to mention the evidence] that Choudary et al reflect back the conerns of the public in order to heighten those concerns.

    And he may well have been the person on Newsnight.. but considering his organisation has just been banned for glorifying terorism that doesn’t say a lot for Newsnight if he was.

  • Rory

    Look! please rememeber the point of the thread. It’s a one-up, a world first for Newtownabbey. Let’s all stick together on this, a bit of cross-community unity here. Newtownabbey needs all the positive publicity it can get.

  • Pete Baker

    Let me paraphrase your argument..

    If only we would withdraw from Iraq/Afghanistan/Israel/The Middle East in general/and, indeed, everywhere else…and just let them get on with it.. we’ll be safe from suicide attacks from the fundamentalists..

    Isolationism – you might as well call it as you see it – and that’s being polite.

    But it hardly fits with the idea of generating acceptance of global human rights..

  • Garibaldy

    Global human rights like national sovereignty you mean Pete?

  • Pete Baker

    As long as we do it within our own self-defined political arena.. then it’s OK, garibaldy?

    Funny, that’s the argument Saddam used… and Castro [both of them.. the other farmer seems innocuous] still use..

    But no. National sovereignty is not an individual human right.. it’s an assertion by a government.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I never said any such thing, and that’s a totally innaccurate attempt to paraphrase my comment.

    Look at it this way: When the Allies declared war on the Axis in WW2 did everybody from Churchill down to the average member of public genuinely believe that the country would be in exactly the same amount of danger as it would be if it had made peace? Of course they didn’t, that was the whole point of the war – trade lives and infrastructure in the short term for long term freedom.

    I haven’t said anything justifying or attacking the foreign policy of the UK, nor have I justified or condemned these attacks. I’m just stating the obvious and am amazed at the reaction. It really just shows how the government can confuse people really easy.

    For the third time – prediction != justification

    The government spend all the fecking time now predicting terrorist attacks, yet they would be disgusted if I said they themselves were in favour of the attacks.

  • Pete Baker


    “I never said any such thing”

    I know.. that’s why I said it was paraphrased..

    And I know you think you have a killer anaolgy [Curchill and the Allies]… but it isn’t – and it’s, perhaps, not the best analogy to use..

  • na


    Whatever. Of course you know better about how Gonzo should blog his experiences of reading the newspapers on the biggest current story and how they linked to a location he was just across the road from in downtown Belfast.

    How dare he be personal, relevant and interesting without having cross referenced all your blogs. More to the point how dare the Daily Record.


    And how do you know it wasn’t the same plot? If there was one? Has there been a trial and evidence I missed in the last 30 seconds? The Daily Record have shown as much evidence as anyone else – none. But at least the link to them had something to do with Ireland.

  • Rory

    Pete Baker is right National sovereignty “is not an individual human right”.

    Pete Baker is also wrong it is not “an assertion by a government”.

    It is a sovereign right of nations to form their own national sovereign government without interference as recognised by the League of Nations at its inception. But only on paper of course.

    Neither the League of Nations nor its successor, the United Nations have ever done anything to support the sovereignty of nations or human rights within long established nations, especially those which were members of the Security Council, colonised nations were left to establish that right by armed revolt of their own peoples. Human Rights violations by the USA, Britain, France and later, China were always ignored.

  • Garibaldy


    I think it’s wrong to try and separate individual rights from that of the people as a whole. After all, part of the social contract as we understand it is the right to play a part in the formation of (either personally or through our representatives) our own government. However, if another society decides it does not like your government and changes it by force, your fundamental human rights have been violated.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I can honestly say you were a million miles off in your 12:31am comment – I would often be in favour of more intervention, not less, in Africa for example.

    But anyway, the laws of cause and effect will remain true no matter what you, I, Osama, or Tony believe is justified or not justified.

    Your complete failure to see where I’m coming from and your (inadvertent) use of a straw man just shows how successful the government’s twisted propaganda is.

    For the fourth time: prediction is not the same as justification.

  • Pete Baker

    Oh where to begin with this..

    na.. keep reading.

    Rory.. “It is a sovereign right of nations to form their own national sovereign government without interference as recognised by the League of Nations at its inception.”

    As I pointed out, that will depend on recognition by the UN… and why would they hold their breath over human rights..?


    I wasn’t trying to separate those rights.. I was attempting, in the face of opposition, to tie those rights into an understanding of what was at stake..


    Really.. you haven’t even come close to addressing my arguments.

  • Harry Flashman

    As I recall Vietnam violated the national sovereignty of Kampuchea to overthrow Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge (of course Vietnam’s Communists had a long history of violating their neighbour’s national sovereignty, but we’ll leave that aside for a moment).

    Given the horrific nature of what was going on in Kampuchea, progressives and tories all supported what was done, were we wrong? If after overthrowing the Khmer Rouge a low level internal conflict had erupted in in two or three provinces within Kampuchea, would that have meant Pol Pot should have been left in place?

  • Occasional Commentator

    Considering the following 3 questions:
    Q1) Was the war in Iraq justified?
    Q2) Were the bombings in London on 7th July last year justified?
    Q3) Were the bombings made any more likely by the Iraq war?

    I cannot for the life of me see why some people can’t give a straight answer to number Q3. They always start talking about Q1 or Q2 instead.

    Any combination of Yes and No answers to any of those questions is possible, and it’s quite possible for a sane person to believe any of those 8 possibilities (remember sanity does not preclude evil).

    I’m not trying to argue for or against any particular answer to any of the above questions. I’m just asking anybody to logically explain to me how discussing Q3 (the sort of morally neutral question a bookie might consider while calculating the odds on bombings) necessarily leads to having certain opinions on Q1 or Q2 (that same bookie might go on an anti-war march or a pro-war march after shutting down his betting shop for the day).

    Imagine a bookie in London adjusted his odds on bombings because of the Iraq war to reflect his opinion that bombings in London became more likely because of that war. (Not that any bookie would offer such a bet, but you know what I mean) Now imagine that bookie goes on a pro-war march.

    Now can you tell me why you think those opinions simultaneously held by the bookie are incompatible? I don’t care about whether either opinion on its own is correct or not, just why they seem to be incompatible to you.

    I’m arguing what may seem a very minor point of logic, but it’s very important to showing up the nonsense spouted by the government and others. I’m sure others will argue the pros and cons of the war or the bombings, so I’m not going to bother.

  • Garibaldy


    It seemed to me that by you were counterposing the two. And possibly to others also.

  • Crataegus

    Religious fundamentalists including the Christian variety worry me as they provide useful cannon fodder for those with wealth to play their games for power.

    This is not some 21st century crusade being fought by either side it is simply about control of resources and it is a war that we are loosing. Who benefits if Iraq or Iranian oil production falters? I often wonder what our strategic objective in this region is and is it achievable? What are our interests and who exactly are our allies and opponents? Some of our allies strike me as having questionable loyalty and much of what we are being told simply does not add up, it lacks coherence and those with wealth always have coherent objectives.

    Did our involvement in Iraq increase the possibility of attack on us? Of course it did.

    With regards the recent arrests it strikes me that the inconvenience is all too convenient for some. The hype is beneficial in shaping public opinion, a worried electorate questions less.

    As for the arrests, if guilty, truly good to see the arrests, but again let me be the cynic for I remember certain Irish gentlemen who were arrested for bombings in England and how long it took for them to be acquitted.

    Yes we have enemies, but sometimes the enemies of public interest are from within our own ranks, they are people single-mindedly following their own objectives be it wealth, fame or glory.

    Britain needs to become self sufficient in energy production it is an urgent strategic prerogative. The Middle East is a quagmire let the locals fight over it, and they would if we were out. Many are united only in opposition to us we need to be able to leave.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pete said:


    No, Gonzo, the individual who identified himself as Abbas Boutrab did not come up with this plot.. he was looking at similar ideas though.. btw, where were you when it was covered here on Slugger?

    A agree Boutrab probably had nothing to do with this plot, though you have no way to prove otherwise. The questions is largely rhetorical, since none of us can answer it for definite.

    As for “the apparent solo nature of ‘Abbas Boutrab’ activities”, I doubt it. While he may have been in NI on his own (probably), he was definitely in contact with people in London. The authorities know so much about him, they don’t even know his real name, so I don’t think we can surmise too much about this guy.

    Reid struck me as a wannabe. Boutrab struck me as the real deal.

    My post was merely an offhand observation about how an international terrorist event could find resonance at a personal level.

    Synchronicity, Pete. Look it up.

    Asking where was I at the time is rather fucking cheeky though.

  • Pete Baker


    You asked the question in the post title.. I answered it.. there is nothing – not even in the tabloid coverage – to suggest that those accused in this most recent plot had anything, at all, to do with the individual named as Abbas Moutrab. If fact that plot dates much further back than Abbas’s appearance – unless you know otherwise?

    BTW.. Reid actually attempted to blow a plane out of the air… Boutrab never got that far.

    As for my offhand observation on the lack of reference to Slugger’s archive, it is a bugbear of mine in regard to posts here admittedly, but I’m sure you’ll get over it.

  • Nevin

    Good Lord – the Lucan connection

    [i]A KEY al-Qaeda bomb-maker, who devised the original plot to bring down airplanes over cities in the US, lived in Dublin for four years.

    MI5, the British security service, believes the man, whose identity has never been fully established, carried out dummy runs at Dublin and Knock Airports.

    The MI5 operation which led to last week’s dramatic events in London began with the man’s arrest in Belfast in 2003, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

    Information on his computer showed he had advanced a method of adapting ordinary electronic devices to detonate explosives in a passenger aircraft.

    ‘Abbas Boutrab’, the identity which was used in his court case last December, was convicted of possessing information on bomb-making at Belfast Crown Court and sentenced to six years. Boutrab is now in prison in Belfast. ….. [/i]

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Two things Pete.

    I agree. There is nothing to suggest Boutrab was linked to the recent plot. However, I never suggested there was. I thought it an interesting possibility to consider though, and I thought the readers might enjoy the offbeat personal anecdote and coincidence that accompanied the story.

    My bugbear certainly isn’t people linking back to other past blogs, which is useful, it’s posters who talk down to others to in a tone that implies they are stoopid, which is tedious.

  • Dave Newman

    The bomb plans probably would not work. How can a small amount of liquid explosive (even nitroglycerine or TNT) damage an aircraft enough to bring it down?

    To get a strong explosion you need to enclose it in a strong casing, not just a plastic bottle. If you set fire to most explosives in the open, they burn rather than explode. That’s why people throw pipe bombs instead of glass petrol bombs these days.

    Now any strong metal casing will be picked up in the hand baggage screening, so why not concentrate on that? Without a bomb casing, you might start a fire, or injure the next passenger, but not cripple the aircraft structure enough that it would fall out of the sky.

    Now all this is based on theory, as, unlike our leaders, I did chemistry at school, so I don’t treat science as a set of magical spells to download from the Internet and memorize. No doubt there are readers of Slugger O’Toole with more expertise in high explosives who could correct this.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    In Boutrab’s trial, the FBI recreated a bomb from instructions he downloaded off the internet as part of the evidence against him. Pictures were released at the time of the bomb exploding in part of an old aircraft. It was blown to pieces.

    So it’s already happened. I doubt it’s too hard either.

  • Crataegus


    The bomb plans probably would not work. How can a small amount of liquid explosive (even nitro-glycerine or TNT) damage an aircraft enough to bring it down?

    Agree with you in general, but I would be a bit concerned about a sprite bottle of nitro-glycerine in the luggage rack. It would make a right mess though that said those trying to make the unstable stuff would probably meet their maker long before they got it out of the garden shed.

    I have severe doubts about the actuality of what we are being told, feels wrong! Time will tell.

  • Nevin