Quantity of explosive found in Belgium surprises officials

The New York Times reports: Unlike ammonium nitrate, TATP is typically seen in small quantities, not in the tens of pounds. One American official who had reviewed the intelligence related to the bombs in France and the newer intelligence from Belgium said the recovery of more than 30 pounds indicated an increased capacity since the Paris attacks. And that figure did not include any explosive actually used in the bombs that killed 31 people on Tuesday.

The Belgian authorities also said they had recovered nearly 40 gallons of acetone and eight gallons of hydrogen peroxide, materials used in producing TATP. They made no mention of the acids needed as catalysts or chemicals often used to rinse TATP crystals and remove impurities.

The quantities of explosives and precursors, the American official said, raised questions about how the terrorists were able to elude detection, especially during a manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, the suspect in the Paris attacks who was arrested last week.

Making TATP typically requires meticulous, time-consuming work, adding the catalyst, drop by drop, to a mixture that must be stirred and kept cool, often with a large quantity of ice.

Without specialized equipment, little can be rushed. Adding the catalyst too quickly can lead to aggressive bubbling and rising temperatures. If the reaction gets too hot, it can cause inadvertent explosions. [Continue reading…]

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