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May 22, 2008 | 21:17 GMT

2 mins read

U.K.: A Failed Bombing Highlights the Militant Threat

A bomb exploded in the restroom of a family restaurant during lunchtime in Exeter, England, on May 22. A 22-year-old white male Muslim convert was in a toilet stall when the explosion occurred and sustained cuts and burns to his face. No one else was injured in the blast, which caused no major damage. Nails were found on the floor after the incident, suggesting the device might have been a nail bomb. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Another explosive device was found in the area along with one or two suspicious canisters, which may have been additional devices. The man injured in the blast is suspected of attempting to detonate the devices during the busy lunch hour to inflict casualties in the restaurant, which is located in the center of Exeter on the city’s main street. The apparently homemade nature of the bombs could explain the premature detonation. That the injured man suffered only cuts and burns to his eyes and face suggests the bomb was either not very powerful, or that the detonator went off but not the primary explosive component. While it is not yet clear how the bombs were set to detonate (perhaps by timer or cell phone), placing several improvised explosive devices would allow for multiple, perhaps slightly staggered, explosions that would have caught people fleeing after the first explosion. Additionally, if they were indeed packed with nails, the devices could have caused significant casualties, even if they were relatively weak. The United Kingdom is grappling with Islamist extremist groups, which were responsible for the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings that killed 56 people. (There is no indication of any connection between the July 7 bombings and this incident.) In April, a 19-year-old Muslim convert was arrested in Bristol, a city about 60 miles from Exeter, on suspicion of building bombs in his home. Several controlled explosions were carried out in the house after his arrest. The United Kingdom clearly continues to face the threat of home-grown Islamist militant activities that while not comparable in scope to the July 7 bombings, nevertheless continue to pose a threat to British citizens.

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