I’ve been reading every article I can on the materials these two guys were playing with. They are claimed to have had the following in their car:
- Three pieces of PVC pipe cut into various sizes, 1 foot or less, filled with a mixture of
- Potassium nitrate
- Karo syrup
- Cat litter
- Safety fuse, 20 feet.
- Electric drill
- .22 caliber ammunition
- Gasoline, 5 gallon canister
- Laptop computer reflecting visits to the following Web sites
- A video file that shows Qassam rockets firing
- Hamas information
- A discussion of martyrdom
- M-16 rifle photos
Except for the pipes and the stuff all mixed up you might find that in one of my vehicles sometime.
It is claimed the cat litter was used to “bind the ingredients” but I’m not buying it. Karo syrup doesn’t need any help “binding”. If you put enough cat litter in the mixture it would make it easier to handle–including putting it in the pipe. But if you add enough litter to make it easy to handle I keep thinking it would interfere with the desired reaction–unless you were just trying to make a 4th of July type “fountain” or “smoke bomb”. With a good detonator (blasting cap) and with no, or a limited amount, of cat litter it might go boom but it’s not going to be all that impressive.
If it were just the above items and it were up to me personally I would give them a stern warning for traveling with the pipes filled with the mixture. If they had a car accident it might catch fire and make the situation much worse. It’s not going to go boom and rip the car apart or anything but it’s not something you should do either.
If the mixture will actually explode then it would be a violation of Federal Law in regards to transportation of explosives since I doubt they had the proper placards, packaging, licenses and/or permits, storage magazine, and an hazardous materials endorsement on their drivers license.
But it wasn’t just those items. There was one more thing that changes the entire flavor of the case:
In July, Mohamed posted a video on YouTube that explained how to transform a toy remote controlled car into a detonator, Hoffer said. The 12-minute video is narrated by a man speaking Arabic with an Egyptian accent. It shows no face, only hands.
“Mohamed admitted he made and uploaded it,” Hoffer said.
The video’s narrator says it’s meant “to save one who wants to be a martyr for another day in battle,” Hoffer said. The narrator also mentions a previous example that used a remote controlled toy boat. Federal agents searched the New Tampa home of Megahed’s family and found a remote controlled toy boat, Hoffer said.
But what does that mean?
The judge asked if there was a definite link between the two, and Hoffer said no.
Exactly! Does the video mean he was intending to be “a martyr for another day in battle”? Was he going to try to detonate the material remotely for an evil purpose? I detonate explosives remotely using supersonic lead pellets and I could see doing it by a radio controlled device too (it’s been a common fantasy of mine and others to fake shooting a reactive target with an ordinary iron sighted handgun from 500 yards then tease those that can’t hit a target with their scoped rifles).
Summing up I am in near complete agreement (an extremely rare event) with CAIR:
Ahmed Bedier, director of the Central Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was quick to distinguish between Megahed and Mohamed.
“It’s obvious there are two separate individuals with different charges and different allegations,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the two individuals end up having separate cases altogether.”
He defended Megahed, saying it appeared he “just happened to be in the car.” But he had harsher words for Mohamed.
If he could talk to Mohamed, Bedier said, “I’d say, ‘Wake up!’ “
He added, “Muslims don’t get a second chance when they dabble with things like this. Not only will this have consequences on him, but it will have consequences on most of the Muslims in this country.”
Update: Ry reminds us we can’t believe everything we read in the media.
Update2: Ahh… now things are making more sense:
In the trunk, deputies found four small sections of PVC pipe, at least three of which were stuffed with a “potassium nitrate explosive mixture” of potassium nitrate, Karo syrup and kitty litter, Hoffer said. He said the kitty litter served as a binder to keep the substance from coming out of the pipes, which were not capped.
Both men are charged with transporting explosives without a permit, relating to the stuffed PVC pipes deputies have described as pipe bombs. Hoffer conceded in court, however, that the devices, while explosive, were not pipe bombs and were not “destructive devices” under the law.
Allen maintained that the filled PVC pipes couldn’t do much damage because there were no caps and no metallic material that could serve as shrapnel.
Sounds more like smoke bombs than pipe bombs to me. Worst case they could be incendiary devices. My bet is that if the defense plays their cards right they can beat the explosives charge.
Karo and potassium nitrate alone usually only deflagrates rather than detonates, but it does make a rather nice smoke ‘bomb’ and a significant fire hazard. Sugar and potassium nitrate will make a thick enough mixture once it cools from cooking, but with karo you usually have to either cook it until it dries out, or put far too much potassium nitrate in. Kitty litter would probably inhibit it, but it’s the sorta thing idiots would try to use a bit of as a safer alternative than cooking the stuff, or to put out a test attempt. A full foot of even thin PVC pipe is still a lot of the stuff, though — it only takes a couple spoon fulls of the stuff to fill a large room with smoke and skid a hockey puck around a room. Just sugar/KNO3 mix makes decent model rocket fuel, if imperfect, and that much would be quite a long rocket flight if the whole thing burned.
It’s impossible to tell with the information here. They could have just been planning a rather stupid attempt at the JATO rumor if the PVC wasn’t topped. On the other hand, that much of the stuff would easily light larger fires, and with caps on the end I have no doubt it’d act pretty similar to some wussier noise bombs.
It’s strange stuff to have on a road trip, and I think the feds will have little difficulty getting an illegal explosives ticket down. It could have well been an attempt at some sorta terrorism — while these wouldn’t kill anyone, two window-shattering booms and a roman-candle-esque firestarter would be a big issue in an industrial or military area or a mall (get that thing near a gas station, and ensure no one would be willing to hit the stop fuel switch?) — but while there’s enough to justify suspicion there’s no where near enough to get a conviction.
Cat litter can be used to make cheap single use rocket nozzles. You grind up the litter, mix it with water and you have clay, pack the clay in the end of the pvc pipe and press a hole into it. As soon at it dries you can blast off.
My friend and I make super cheap pvc rockets with KNO3/sugar and clay for a nozzle. We won’t be putting a man on the moon using ’em, but they are inexpensive and fun.
I thought about the clay nozzle thing but had never tried it myself. Thanks for the info.
Does the chemistry change if the kitty litter was used/soiled?
Yes. Of course it changes the chemistry. The interesting thing about that is that what the “soil” mostly does is add nitrates. In fact potassium nitrate was, back in the early days of gun powder, extracted from manure. But since they already had pure potassium nitrate there would not be much, if any, benefit from using dirty cat litter.
We almost for certain aren’t being told everything or at least someone, law enforcement and/or the defendants and/or the media, doesn’t know what they are doing and/or talking about. Things just don’t quite add up.
A quick tour around my house reveals:
Kitty litter (we have a cat)
Karo syrup (we have a cook)
.22 ammo (and plenty of it, with many other calibers)
five gallons of gasoline (two! and a gallon of 2 cycle mix!!!!)
potassium nitrate… OK, maybe I am not a terrorist. I don’t know WTF that is, but I bet in the pool chemicals we have that there is something similar.
I’m just saying, these diaper heads were probably up to no good, but I bet most of the real men and women who cut their own lawns, cook their own food, have a pet and maybe a couple of guns could end up on the bad end of this.