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London gas attack foiled

Intelligence sources have confirmed to Sky News that a plan to launch a chemical attack in the UK has been foiled. A highly toxic chemical called osmium tetroxide was to be used in a device. The chemical compound, which can be bought on the internet, causes victims to choke to death in agony. It also attacks the cornea of the eye and can lead to blindness.

The security services are believed to have been alerted after a mention of the chemical was picked up at the GCHQ electronic listening centre near Cheltenham. The speculation is that it could have been used by terrorists to target enclosed spaces such as the London Underground, airports or a busy shopping centres. Even though arrests were made in the United Kingdom, authorities say the operation was being run out of Pakistan by a suspected al Qaeda figure.

Londoners are not novices to security alerts and actual terrorist attacks. Irish Republican terrorists made sure of that. But this is different. However despicable the acts of the Irish terrorists have been, their aim was limited, if not acceptable.

The islamofascists are fighting us because of what we are, because our existence is a daily reminder to them of the failure of their ways. Their aim is our destruction and the notion that they can be appeased is absurd.


12 comments to London gas attack foiled

  • Tuscan Tony


    The Island of Jurassic Park (a hearty well done to Messrs. Spielberg and Crichton)didn’t work because, proposted the chaostician (whatever) Ian Malcolm, dinosaurs and man were separated by 60 million years of evolution were never adapted by nature to co-exist. One, a primitive, backward and blind alley culture, the top of the food chain having brains the size of walnuts. The other – forward looking, inclusive and meritocratatic species there by continuous evolution and competition. Remind you of anything?

  • mike

    Good data sheet on OsO4:


    Make up your own mind… The BBC has been saying both that it’s very nasty and not that nasty after all on the 6pm news…

  • S. Weasel

    Osmiroid pens derive their name from osmium (it being a very hard and heavy metal).

    And thus exhausts my entire store of chemical knowledge.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Osmium is one of the least produced elements in the world, which is why some of my chemistry lecturers often lament that they have to try recycling every last drop of osmium compound solution after an experiment. It is apparently that expensive.

    If Al Qaeda wanted to go for sheer toxicity, they could just use certain mercury organometallic compounds. These are famous for their toxicity. Or maybe these were too hard to make; one could always pray that the idiots make a mistake and kill themselves during the synthesis.

    The Wobbly Guy

  • Guy Herbert

    It’s very nasty. But so nasty you’d want a pretty good lab to handle it in quantity. (I suppose you could try and blow up the safety packaging it came in and not attempt to handle it, but it wouldn’t be a fab method of delivery.) It is also very expensive and (while not as dense as osmium metal) pretty heavy.

    If you were planning to gas people on the tube, I suspect chlorine would be a bit easier to do.

    The security sources that seem to have confirmed this obviously highly classified information to a range of media outlets, are very specific that the plotters they uncovered never actually bought any. They are remarkably silent on the question of whether said plotters actually attempted to buy any, but emphasise it can be bought over the internet (that well of evil potentialities). The idea in most reports that it could have been intended to target the tube, seems just a touch speculative. What with no actual plotters arrested, no actual weapons, it is hard to see quite what foiling might entail. (Perhaps replying by surprise to an email.)

    Pardon my cynicism, but perhaps the steady drip of alarm is someone’s idea of keeping us all alert to danger. Or just scared into suggestibility.

  • Matt W.

    Wobbly Guy, yeah, Grignard products (organometallics) are very toxic and cheap to make, and wouldn’t raise flags in synthesis or procurement like osmium would. However these piles of filth were trying to make it a gas attack, and at least as I recall most organometallics are extremely heavy (*maybe* the derivative of mercuric acetone could be made into a gas) and usually exist as liquids, or if synthesized from long carbon chains, a solid. Of course this begs the question why they wouldn’t buy or synthesize something less exotic. Scary to think that all of these plotted terrorist attacks in Europe that are just barely being stopped seem to come about because the terrorists are just being careless. Better hope they don’t have any competent chemists or virologists among them.

  • Charles Copeland

    Gabriel Syme writes:

    “The islamofascists are fighting us because of what we are …”

    Why use the term ‘islamofascists’? It suggests that there is some kind of ‘good’, non-despotic version of islam as opposed to a ‘bad’, fascist variety.

    It is not ‘islamofascists’ who are fighting us. It is, more likely, the ordinary Muslim on the Clapham omnibus who is doing so.

    Or do you really think that regular Muslim guys are ‘dismayed’ at Islamic violence against the West? To the contrary — they are having a little holiday in their heart every time a suicide bomber tears us to shreds. Remember those Palestinians celebrating the attack on the World Trade Center?

    I’m not of course saying that there’s no such thing as a good Muslim. It’s just that there aren’t very many of them — and at any rate they’re keeping their mouths shut.

  • Tim Worstall

    Osmium ? Pretty expensive, yes. From memory, about $ 500 an ounce for the metal. That’s bulk pricing of course. Several of the platinum dealers on the London Bullion Market deal in it.
    Tetroxide ? Nasty nasty stuff. Has an affinity for water, so attacks the lungs and eyes : the net effect is to deposit a layer of osmium metal over such damp tissues. So blindness and asphysxiation because there’s a layer of metal there.
    Certainly a terrifying poison to use , even thought there are , as noted, many other gases more effective at the actual killing bit.

  • Andrew Duffin

    I am highly unconvinced by this.

    Osmium Tetroxide just seems such a weird thing to pick on. Surely it is expensive, hard to get (and you’d attract attention if you bought any quantity), deadly difficult to handle, and hard to deliver effectively as a weapon.

    It just doesn’t make any sense.

    If you ask me the whole thing is a fabrication by Blunkett to support his ID cards plan.

  • Guy Herbert

    Looks like Andrew Duffin has it pretty close. See here.

    Note Mr Blunkett’s irresistable logic: “We told you so. Now we are telling you so again, so that proves it.”

  • Sigivald

    Derek Lowe has a post on this very thing at his Pipeline blog.

    In short, he’s dismissive of the attack being particularly successful in actually killing or blinding people, but disturbed by the evidenced thought-process behind it.

  • felixrayman

    Sky News….aren’t they the ones that reported yesterday that 130 US troops had been killed in fighting in Iraq?