Category: Archive

A bomb from the depths of hell

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

The bomb used in an effort to bring down the World Trade Center in New York weighed between 800 and 900 pounds, according to Denis Mulcahy of the New York Police Department Bomb Squad.

The bomb that went off Saturday in Omagh, which has a population amounting to only a fraction of that which enters the WTC for work each day, is estimated at 500 pounds.

Yes, you could describe the Omagh device as a bomb from hell, an agent of outrageous overkill in a small town.

But at their very core, the Omagh bomb, the World Trade Center device and the blockbuster that leveled the federal building in Oklahoma City, are comparatively easy to make, deadly cousins in a world where the very notion of innocent life seems to have been shattered into so many pieces.

They are so-called "farmyard" bombs, made with the likes of fertilizer and diesel fuel. The WTC bomb was made in part of Urea, a fertilizing agent primarily derived from urine.

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While he has no firsthand knowledge of the Omagh bomb emerging from initial investigations, Mulcahy imagines that the device was packed into the trunk of the car.

"It was probably ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel," he told the Echo.

A bomb like this needs to be detonated with an explosive such as dynamite, nitro glycerine or Semtex, the Czech-made explosive that the IRA has used in Northern Ireland for years.

Semtex detonates at 22,000 feet per second. If it was used in Omagh, it would have blown outward the rest of the device at much the same velocity. Anyone located close by in the narrow streets of the town — or indeed the not that much wider streets of Manhattan — would stand little chance of survival.

Very little of the car carrying the bomb would survive either, but bits of it would, said Mulcahy, founder of Project Children, a group which flies Northern Ireland kids to the U.S. each summer for holidays away from tragedies like Omagh.

"Normally, the axles or any hard steel parts of the car would survive."

Mulcahy recalls that a number of years ago a car bomb went off outside a diplomatic mission in New York. The hood of the car was found on the roof of the mission’s building 16 floors above the street.

"The force has to go somewhere. Houses in Omagh would not be just frame houses but concrete. Trapped in the narrow streets such a bomb would pack huge power," Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy will see those narrow streets for himself this week. He is heading for Omagh to meet with "long time friends" of Project Children, long time friends that the veteran of so many bomb incidents will embrace warmly simply because they are alive.

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