By Michael Lavery
Tuesday September 09 2008
PIPE bombs have become the weapon of choice of drug gangs.
Some of what are referred to as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are crudely put together, but most have the potential to injure or kill.
Gardai have been alarmed at the casual use of the bombs, often putting which often put innocent children and the elderly at risk.
Army bomb disposal units have dealt with dozens of call-outs this year, most of them in Dublin.
Traditionally, pipe bombs have used readily available propellent powder from shotguns and a variety of homemade odds and ends.
Some of the homemade bombs have been hidden in Pringles crisp containers, with gardai concerned that children could easily become victims.
Experts believe some of the crude IEDs have been made with instructions downloaded from the internet, with none of the components used by experienced bomb makers – but even pipe bombs can still be deadly.
But some ex-paramilitary expertise is also believed to have been “hired in” by crime gangs who, up to now, have lacked the necessary expertise skills in bomb making.
Drug gangs have shown they have the capacity to acquire the latest hi-tech firepower, as well as ex-eastern bloc hand grenades.
Experts believe it is only a matter of time before they get their hands on high grade military plastic explosive like C4 or Semtex-H, which is thousands of times more powerful than crude pipe bombs.
In Tallaght last April, components for up to 20 pipe bombs were recovered in a car park.
At its crudest, a pipe bomb is a closed section of steel pipe filled with explosive material. The shrapnel generated by the bomb can kill.
The filling is often shotgun powder, or even match heads, and handling such materials carries a real risk of self harm to the bomb maker, with static electricity capable of setting off the bomb.
Nails or other fillings are sometimes added to the mixture, but these also increase the risk of premature detonation.
Because of the ease with which they are put together, the use of pipe bombs by criminals is unlikely to diminish any time soon.
- Michael Lavery