‘EU laws on stopping terrorists obtaining chemicals are too lax’
Report says more must be done to plug security gap surrounding sale of pure ingredients used in bombs
EUROPEAN laws meant to stop terrorists obtaining the ingredients to make bombs like the one that partially detonated at Parsons Green are too lax, a report warns.
The device was hidden in a Lidl carrier bag and thought to have been made at a house on Cavendish Road, Sunbury on Thames in Surrey.
It is currently being examined by Ministry of Defence scientists at a laboratory, is thought to have had a main triacetone triperoxide (TATP) charge. The precursor chemicals would have been boiled down to a purer solution. It is exceptionally volatile and can deteriorate very quickly.
Analysis of regulations controlling the sale, marketing and use of potentially lethal chemicals like TATP has revealed “problems and challenges” across Europe. Since 2014, all 28 EU countries are required to ensure that the general public cannot buy pure forms of controlled substances without a licence to show that they have a legitimate professional use for them.
Businesses selling and storing these chemicals are required to alert authorities about suspicious transactions and stock thefts or disappearances. But recent attacks on the West London tube, Manchester arena and Brussels station, as well as the blast at a bomb factory near Barcelona, have highlighted how terror cells are still acquiring raw ingredients, often in purer forms than legally permitted.
A 10-page European Commission report on rules surrounding explosive precursors found an alarming “security gap” in how bomb “precursor” products are controlled.
Although regulations around more than 15 chemicals have helped security services stop attacks, the report says controlling internet sales of potentially lethal substances remains a problem.
There were difficulties monitoring imports and exports, as well as confusion over what professions entitle people to legally buy controlled chemicals.
The report highlights how chemicals like peroxide and acetone are harder to monitor and control because they are household products sold by small shops whose staff may be unaware of their obligation to report suspi- cious customers. Meanwhile, larger companies with a high staff turnover need to train all employees to spot suspicious customers.
The report adds: “The threat posed by the use of explosives precursor chemicals in manufacturing homemade explosives by terrorists remains high and is continuously evolving. The Commission’s priority, beyond full implementation of existing provisions, is to consider what measures could strengthen the system in the future.”
Citing a “possible security gap” over confusion about which professions are legally allowed to buy chemicals, the report says the Commission will consider clarifying what industries should be allowed to obtain purer substances.
The report, submitted to the European Parliament, concludes that EU regulations have reduced the amount of dangerous chemicals on the market.
Police investigators at a house in Sunbury on Thames in Surrey