A Short Recent History of Pressure-Cooker Bombs

Authorities are now saying the explosive devices used in the Boston attack were fashioned from pressure cookers. Here's the bomb's nefarious history in counterterrorism circles

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Navesh Chitrakar / REUTERS

A member of a bomb-disposal team holds on to a pressure cooker after a bomb scare in Kathmandu on June 9, 2011

Authorities are now saying the explosive devices used in the Boston attack were fashioned from pressure cookers. Yes, like the kitchen pot you might use to cook rice at home. As it happens, pressure cookers have a nefarious reputation in counterterrorism circles. In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was concerned enough about pressure-cooker bombs to issue an alert to federal and state security officials: “A technique commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps is the use/conversion of pressure cookers into [improvised explosive devices],” the bulletin warned.

That bulletin cited several plots from 2002 to 2004 to use pressure-cooker bombs in France, India and Nepal. But more recently there have been at least three other instances of would-be terrorists in the West, all of them Islamic radicals, in possession of pressure cookers for reasons that seemed not to involve having friends over for dinner. One was an Army private linked to the 2009 Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, who had reportedly been taking bombmaking tips from al-Qaeda’s short-lived (literally) online magazine Inspire and had various weapons and explosives along with his cooking pot. (The magazine reportedly recommended pressure cookers as explosive devices.) A 2010 suicide bomber in Stockholm had rigged a pressure-cooker bomb that failed to detonate. And as a newer DHS warning about the kitchen devices noted, the failed 2010 SUV bomb in New York’s Times Square was a pressure-cooker device containing 120 firecrackers. The same DHS memo refers to a March 2010 bombing with a pressure cooker at a Western Christian aid agency in Pakistan that killed six people.

Counterterrorism officials are surely well aware of these facts and studying any related leads. But it’s important to bear in mind that the ability to make these bombs is hardly unique to al-Qaeda and its sympathizers. Members of at least one prominent white-supremacist website have shared terrorist tips from Inspire, which one called “highly recommended reading.” Pressure-cooker bombs are also discussed in detail on this anarchist site, which describes how to build what is “affectionately known as a HELLHOUND.”

Nor do these devices require much money or special training. As DHS put it in 2004:

Typically, these bombs are made by placing TNT or other explosives in a pressure cooker and attaching a blasting cap at the top of the pressure cooker. The size of the blast depends on the size of the pressure cooker and the amount of explosive placed inside.

Pressure-cooker bombs are made with readily available materials and can be as simple or as complex as the builder decides. These types of devices can be initiated using simple electronic components including, but not limited to, digital watches, garage-door openers, cell phones or pagers. As a common cooking utensil, the pressure cooker is often overlooked when searching vehicles, residences or merchandise crossing the U.S. borders

The identity of the Boston bomber or bombers remains very much unclear, and it would be foolish to jump to conclusions. It would also be foolish to ignore the twisted recent history of the pressure cooker as a method for killing innocent people.

158 comments
HershelDSmith
HershelDSmith

The pressure cooker illustrated was not the type used.  Not large ennough.  The 6 quart size with several screw-down clamps on the top is the one with enough capacity to cause damage.

girlinfilm
girlinfilm

@eheat pressure cookers cool things fast. crockpots cook things slow.

JackKlenk48
JackKlenk48

Forgive me, but explain to me how expanded background checks would keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill? That's a circular argument - and you know it.Felons are usually felons through violence, which means that they would not be felons when they are legal gun owners. As for the mentally ill, did you know that a war veteran or citizen, for that matter, with PTSD who is taking medication and seeing a counselor for anxiety issues, relationship or sleep issues is considered "mentally ill"? I'm one of those veteran's. This by no means makes me a threat. The people who want to kill people are going to. This bill was designed only to do one thing - create a database of people whom can be identified as owners so we can disarm them in the future. It was a small piece of a much larger puzzle...a stepping stone if you will.I will say this. It sure as hell took the public's attention off the fact that our administration can't do the one thing it was elected to do - balance the damn budget.

DavePonder
DavePonder

Nothing more to say "mantismoron91"?

DavePonder
DavePonder


      The teachers and officials at Newtown were defenseless, because their right to self defense and the defense of innocent childrenhad been usurped by the "state", which failed to provide any alternative, then abrogated any responsibility for the results. 
Had one trained individual been able to meet deadly force with deadly force the outcome would certainly have been very different. 
It is a known FACT that the news media covers up the truth that over 6,600 incidents a day occur in the United States where an armed citizen stops a crime against themselves or another person. 

DavePonder
DavePonder

Well, "mantismoron91" cat got your tongue? In a battle of wits, you are coming in un-armed!!! LOL!!

DavePonder
DavePonder

By the way, Feinstein is not the only elected official calling for "gun grabbing" who carries a gun themselves. As well, many of these hypocrites also have private bodyguards, and are provided with individual protection by the police, secret service, and other law enforcement personnel at taxpayer (us "low born" types) expense. 

DavePonder
DavePonder

I notice that these commentators who call me an idiot all seem to have grammar and spelling issues. This is known as being "ILLITERATE".

In other word they are poorly educated. Should someone who is poorly educated and obviously semi-literate at best even be allowed to vote?

The NRA does not try to force those who choose to be "sheeple" to carry a gun. But the Feinstein hypocrite lovers would force others to be "sheeple" against their will. Who then are the ones who apparently love tyranny? The answer is obviously illiterate poorly educated gun grabbers!!! 

DavePonder
DavePonder

The right to self defense has NOTHING TO DO with the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or any other "constitution" of any U.S. state, or territory, or any other country in the world. Totalitarian regimes routinely deprive their citizens of this basic right. In the United States the police are not obligated to  protect an individual citizen (this means you). If a person chooses to put themselves at the mercy of criminal psychopaths that is their choice. However, when these self same individuals try and force others to do the same they are stepping beyond what any sane person or society should allow. The right to self defense is a universal right, but any right is meaningless if it cannot be expressed or enforced. 

DavePonder
DavePonder

Dianne Feinstein carries a gun! But us "low borns" are supposed to be (according to her) disarmed. Obama should call for an immediate ban on high capacity hypocrites, institute hypocrite registration, and conduct instant background  checks and psychological evaluations of all hypocrites.

DavePonder
DavePonder

Obama should call for an immediate ban on high capacity pressure cookers, institute pressure cooker registration, and conduct instant background checks on all pressure cooker buyers. 

PaulEricDuffy
PaulEricDuffy

they will be putting castor beans in pressure cookers next

AceCarolla
AceCarolla

What happened to the FIVE "Unexploded" Bombs. This one stinks. Perhaps a police "Drill" gone horribly wrong?

JaredHuddleston
JaredHuddleston

For all the gun comments on here; My university allows concealed carry by both faculty and students everywhere accept dorms. We have had no problems and if anything we feel safer. What psycho path would shoot up a armed university?

DaveTempleton
DaveTempleton

Ban rocks and bricks - they can be tossed from overhead bridges and decapitate people.  Or maybe we can have the Homeland Security, ICE, Border Patrol, FBI and CIA do their job and keep illegal aliens, know terrorists, people with a bombing record like Bill Ayers, and the mentally ill locked up and out of society.  The choice is the Obama Administration's.  But so far, high calorie lunch food, Big Gulps, stupid cops and Tea Party flag waivers seem to his focus - what a waste of time and money.  The country has taken a step back to the year 1999 when it comes to the security of American taxpayers and I want a new, effective president for a change! 

VictorGarcia
VictorGarcia

God bless the NRA
The Senate delivered a devastating blow to President Obama’s agenda to regulate guns Wednesday by defeating a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks.
 

fitty_three
fitty_three

Maybe the NRA nuts are pushing for legalize bombs too?

Why am I not surprised?

MoxPowers
MoxPowers

@broylesa I wonder how long until pressure cookers are banned? Screwed up people will use anything to do evil :(

grubreport
grubreport

@broylesa I just don't want to see any pressure cooker recipes as food site promo like Epicurious' Boston misstep yesterday.

annabellep
annabellep

Who in the world cooks RICE in a pressure cooker?

Humthaj
Humthaj

@mediacrooks Hi CROOKS, America bleeds, the pains is the same if crooks bleed bleed too.

HershelDSmith
HershelDSmith

Why are you afrraid of being disarmed.  If you have a gun for hunting and you need more than 2 or 3 shots without reloading you should either give up the sport or take lessons because 2 or 3 shots are all you get at any game worth shooting. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder What should I say to you. A man doesn't look smarter arguing with a chimp. And you seem to be even dumber then the chimp in question.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder Yes nothing like coming up with an insulting variation on some one's screen name to make your self seem like a genius.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder The fact that you keep talking about "gun grabbing" show that you have no clue about what you are talking about. Was Regan gun grabbing when he instituted a much harsher ban on assault guns in the 80's?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder So tell me again why the NRA is fighting to allow felons and the mentally ill to get guns as well as to reduce the penalties on gun trafficking?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder Really so every other industrialized nation on earth is a Totalitarian regime? I'm sure that would come as a surprise to the citizens of such noted dictatorships as Israel, Germany, France and Japan.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder If he did call for a ban on hypocrites than the NRA and their supporters would be the first casualties of it.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@DavePonder You are an idiot. The reason pressure cookers were used is because other more lethal explosives like fertilizer, c4 and others are harder to obtain and leave a paper trail, due to regulation and oversight. If that oversight wasn't there, they may have been used and the death toll would have been higher, Similarly if there was more oversight and regulation on semi automatics, perhaps the death toll at Newtown and Sandy Hook would have been less. But thanks for making the case for sensible gun control even if accidentally.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@JaredHuddleston The psycho path that attends the university is allowed weapons and doesn't care if he lives or dies. BTW most mass shooters don't care of they live or die. Better argument please.

PaulKempin
PaulKempin

@53_3 The best way to stop a bad buy with a bomb is with a good guy with a 30 round bomb magazine.

RobGR
RobGR

@53_3 You sir are reckless and disrespectful.

No one is condoning this, in fact, gun owners look to preserve our Bill of Rights while you openly accepted destroying your Rights as an American. The NRA isn't looking for more Rights to gun ownership, they are simply attempting to block the passage of ridiculous laws (besides the background checks, which you all act like is teh only thing being presented) that are currently going through the legislature. NYC just past a 7 round mag capacity, as if that is any different form a 10 round mag. But what it does is ban all semi auto handguns b/c no manufacturer makes 7 rnd mags. See what you are doing? That is what we are fighting, more ridiculous laws that do nothing to stop crime, but make law abiding citizens criminals. Soon it'll be 1 rnd mags, but it only takes 1 rnd to kill anyway? You actually don't even need a bullet, you could use the gun as a club, or forget the gun, just use your fists.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@MoxPowers @broylesa 

I wonder when nutjobs like you will learn what decency is.  This has nothing to do with gun control.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@MoxPowers @broylesa  

Maybe you can help insulting the victims of the bombing by STFU.

broylesa
broylesa

@grubreport What embarrassing tweets! I had a pressure cooker story on the books for later this month that I've postponed indefinitely...

curt3rd
curt3rd

The 2nd amendment has nothing to do with hunting. It was put in place to fight tyrrany.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Im really proud of you for not blaming the Boston bombing on Bush.

JackKlenk48
JackKlenk48

Forgive me, but explain to me how expanded background checks would keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill? That's a circular argument - and you know it.

Felons are usually felons through violence, which means that they would not be felons when they are legal gun owners. As for the mentally ill, did you know that a war veteran or citizen, for that matter, with PTSD who is taking medication and seeing a counselor for anxiety issues, relationship or sleep issues is considered "mentally ill"? I'm one of those veteran's. This by no means makes me a threat.

The people who want to kill people are going to. This bill was designed only to do one thing - create a database of people whom can be identified as owners so we can disarm them in the future. It was a small piece of a much larger puzzle...a stepping stone if you will.

I will say this. It sure as hell took the public's attention off the fact that our administration can't do the one thing it was elected to do - balance the damn budget.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@RobGR

Grow up.  Restrictions on rights are not the same as "destroying" them.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@RobGR @53_3

Yes, because all of the below posts along the lines of "Maybe we should ban bombs" and "See banning things don't work" are totally respectful, aren't they. This attack had nothing to do with gun control.  There is no reason to even bring it up.

The NRA isn't looking for more Rights to gun ownership, they are simply attempting to block the passage of ridiculous laws (besides the background checks, which you all act like is teh only thing being presented) that are currently going through the legislature.

We already had an Assault Weapons ban from 1994 - 2004.  It was not unconstitutional, and reinstating it would not usher in some jackbooted Government tyranny or prevent people from defending themselves with their firearms.  I personally just want to see that happen, among a few other things that I don't think are quite so "controversial".

RobGR
RobGR

@53_3 Actually, the Federal Ban Assault Weapons ban from 1994 - 2004 that DonQuixotic mention above did nothing, absolutely nothing to stop crime according to the DOJ. Why, b/c these "assault rifles" were rarely ever used in crimes. If you think banning a flash hider and pistol grip stops criminals? Again, people who know nothing about guns or the laws commenting...

Here is something your Golden God on gun policy said:


"And, I know the sense of helplessness that people feel. I know the urge to arm yourself because that’s what I did. I was trained in firearms. I’d walk to the hospital when my husband was sick. I carried a concealed weapon. I made the determination that if somebody was going to try to take me out, I was going to take them with me.” - Dianne Feinstein

Do you even understand what she said? Do you grasp the hypocrisy of her stance? She is openly disseminating misinformation (like you lot) to the general public through every media channel and they believe this political leader.... disastrous.



MrObvious
MrObvious

@DonQuixotic @RobGR @53_3 

Not to mention the fact that once it expired the violence in Mexico have increased dramatically. Seems the drug cartel favor the expiration.