Above the Tearline: Tactical Assessment of the Oslo Bombing

4 MINS READJul 27, 2011 | 14:59 GMT
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton analyzes video and photos of the Oslo blast scene and discusses the techniques investigators use to glean information about the explosive device.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In this week's Above the Tearline, we're going to walk you through the Oslo bombing attack by looking at still photographs and video with an eye towards a tactical assessment of what counterterrorism investigators will be focusing on to try to make sense of what occurred. Let's look at some amateur video photography taken shortly after the blast occurred and the cameraman turns the corner and heads down the street. Take into account the damage, the general carnage that occurred and think about this street in New York or in London or in Paris and put hoards of people on the sidewalk on any given workday. The damage and the body count would have been much higher if, in fact, there had been more people on the street when this attack occurred. Now let's take a look at some still photographs from the car bomb attack. I want to call out some very specific things here from the scene. Notice the lack of visible first responders on the scene to begin with. You still have fire under way in the top part of the building. Take a look at the windows that are still intact as well as some that had been blown out. Look at the building's structure; it's still standing. In all probability, the blast seat is right behind these two gentlemen here in this corner. At STRATFOR we spend a lot of time trying to determine the blast seat, the point of detonation. That's important from an investigative perspective because you start there then work out, if you can identify the blast seat you can determine the point of detonation and perhaps the intended target. Now let's take a look at the second photo here from a different angle. You'll see the first responders still working on a victim here. You noticed the fire still burning here and you can see the windows still blown out. This is an image of the attack scenes looking in the opposite direction. I want you to focus on the car and take into account that that car has probably been pushed onto the sidewalk. Let's take a look at another video of the blast scene and focus on again the amount of damage and blast effect. Look at the broken glass, the glass blown out from the windows. In a moment here, you will see the glass that has fallen and in a lot of car bombings, flying glass kills the majority of the people. We have talked a lot in the past about the effects of flying glass that doesn't have ballistic window film, which is a very good countermeasure for car bombs. Let's take a look at another video of the actual crime scene. I want you to notice the individuals that are literally walking through the crime scene and they're picking up trace evidence on their shoes as they're walking through this area that has not been secured yet. The Above the Tearline aspect with this video is: one of the very important things that investigators do at a bombing crime scene is pick up the body parts and the remains of victims in an effort to make identification. The bodies can also be X-rayed and can provide a treasure trove of intelligence information and forensics on the kind of explosives, trace evidence and proximity to the blast effect, and this helps you makes sense of what occurred.

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