Pipe Bomb Incidents Skyrocket Experts Say Making Device All Too Easy; Knowledge Of How To Do It Is Widespread
After three pipe bombs in a month, Spokane may be feeling slightly shell-shocked.
The city’s not alone. Bombings and threats echoed across the continent Monday.
A package bomb partially exploded Monday at the Calgary Jewish Center in Calgary, Alberta, slightly wounding one woman.
A bomb squad removed a suspicious package the same day from the federal courthouse in Macon, Ga., where two militia members faced hearings. They are charged with conspiring to stockpile pipe bombs in anticipation of a future war.
Also Monday, the University of South Florida shut down after a group claiming ties to neo-Nazis and Palestinian terrorists threatened to bomb a building.
Bombs are, in some ways, kids’ stuff. A simple pipe bomb is easy and inexpensive to make. The recipes are found everywhere, from the Internet to the public library. Some are a paragraph. Some are pages, complete with diagrams.
“In terms of ease and construction, they’re not difficult to make,” said Jim Provencher, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms in Seattle. “They’re dangerous to make. Any time you deal with explosive filler material, it’s a dangerous situation.”
There are dozens of examples where hapless amateurs and teenagers have hurt themselves pounding matchheads into pipes.
A 22-year-old Washington State University football player was killed in 1993 after a pipe bomb he built with another student exploded. The other student lost his hand.
Teenagers have been thrown out of high schools from Omak to Shadle Park for making pipe bombs. Two 17-year-old boys from Grant County were charged two weeks ago with using a pipe bomb laced with nails to blow up a mailbox.
“Anybody who could understand high school chemistry can make one,” said Jerry Parker, professor and chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at Eastern Washington University. “You don’t even need high school chemistry.”
On the Internet, users can follow directions in The Terrorist’s Handbook, The Big Book of Mischief, the Jolly Roger Cookbook or versions of the Anarchist Cookbook. Learn to make plastic explosives from bleach. Make bombs out of blue jeans and Elmer’s Glue.
Pipe bombs have been around for generations. Along with other homemade bombs, they were used by resistance fighters in World War II. They were used by Vietnam protest groups such as the Weather Underground in the 1960s and 1970s.
“There’s no way to stop it,” Parker said. “They’ve been out there for years. The cat’s long been out of the bag.”
They were used in the 1980s, in bombings in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Seattle carried out by members and sympathizers of the neo-Nazi group The Order.
Bill Wassmuth remembers those. During the Aryan Nation’s annual conference at Hayden Lake in 1986, the Catholic priest helped organize a human rights rally in Coeur d’Alene.
On Sept. 15, 1986, members of the Order II group left a pipe bomb that blew up the back of Wassmuth’s home as he talked on the telephone in his living room. Shrapnel rained down near his feet inside his home.
“A pipe bomb is easy to make,” said Wassmuth, now executive director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. “It’s an act of intimidation. It’s the type of bomb that’s set off to hurt people.”