Dumb Bombs (The Alleged German Terror Plot)

Posted by John Rosenthal

Some details of the alleged attempt to explode "suitcase bombs" on two regional trains in Germany seem to have escaped attention in the English-language media. The bombs, as is well known, did not go off. According to Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigations (BKA), this was due to a "technical defect": presumably deriving from a lack of technical know-how – a detail, incidentally, that should immediately rule out any Al-Qaeda connection – since the same "defect" apparently prevented detonation in both cases. The BKA has refused to provide any further information on the subject.


What is especially odd, however, is that on the BKA’s account the two suitcases were not empty apart from the bomb materials, but also contained banal personal effects. Even before the alleged tip from Lebanese intelligence leading to the arrest of a young Lebanese suspect in Kiel, these "clues" were used to suggest a possible connection to the war in Lebanon. Here, for instance, a description of the items from a 19 August article in the Berliner Zeitung [link in German]:

In the suitcase found in Dortmund, there was a bag of Lebanese cooking starch sold by a spice merchant in the area of Essen. Besides that, in the suitcase in Koblenz investigators found a sheet of notepaper in an article of clothing that was used to hold in place or dampen [sic.] the gas canister. On it, there is a kind of shopping list in Arabic including olives, bread and a yoghurt, which is commonly eaten in Lebanon, as well as telephone numbers that investigators are currently tracing.


So, the bombers were not only incapable of making functioning bombs, but they are supposed also to have left groceries, their shopping list, and a list of telephone numbers in the suitcases to boot. (Incidentally, so far nothing further has been heard in the media concerning these telephone numbers.) The cooking starch and the apparently suspicious olives and yoghurt — "commonly eaten in Lebanon" — have fueled vague speculation that the allegedly would-be bombers might have connections to Hezbollah or be Hezbollah sympathizers. Such speculation, of course, has only been reinforced by the arrest of the young Lebanese man in Kiel – even though the latter is reportedly a Sunni, a fact that ordinarily should militate against having particular sympathy for the Shia militia.


More to the point, however: what motive could Hezbollah or Hezbollah sympathizers have for undertaking terrorist attacks in Germany? The German intelligence services are known to have long maintained excellent relations with Hezbollah. It was these excellent relations that, for instance, permitted Germany to broker the 2004 Israel-Hezbollah prisoner exchange (which saw Israel release over 400 Arab prisoners – plus, incidentally, one German Hezbollah collaborator – in exchange for the release of one Israeli and the bodies of three others). It is also, among other things, these excellent relations that should give one cause to wonder if Germany is the best-suited nation to police the UN-imposed embargo on arms shipments to Hezbollah, as it has nominated itself to do.


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