COMMENTARY | When putting together timelines and other historical data on the events leading to Osama Bin Laden’s death Sunday, I came upon numerous reminders of the frequency with which bumbling terrorists thwart their own attacks.
Here are some of the worst examples of terrorist bumbling — or perhaps they should be called the best, since the bumbling upended the attacks and potentially saved lives.
Premature Detonator Explosion
Bumbling terrorists Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad used a Russian detonator to their own detriment when trying to assassinate Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in 1993.
After an encounter with police, Yousef decided to remove the bomb he’d planted in the road near Bhutto’s house but his detonator blew up in his face.
Bomb-Making Materials Catch Fire
Continuing his bumbling streak, Yousef teamed up with his uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In a two-fer save, a fire under the sink in Yousef’s Manila apartment thwarted both the duo’s plan to kill the pope and a planned “Day of Hate,” a plot to place bombs on 11 jumbo jets.
Failed Attempt to Sneak Bomb-Making Supplies over the Border
Trying to sneak his bomb-making supplies over the U.S.-Canadian border was the undoing of Ahmed Ressem in 2000.
Setting Shoe on Fire Drew Suspicion
Fellow passengers on a Paris to Miami flight get the credit for capturing terrorist Richard Reid in 2001 after becoming suspicious of his efforts to set his shoe on fire.
Illegal Parking Thwarts Bomb Plot
A potentially deadly car bomb in London in 2007 didn’t go off as planned. The terrorist parked the car illegally and it was towed to an an impound lot, where the bomb was discovered.
Bomb in Underwear Catches Fire
The explosives ‘”Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab placed in his underwear when he flew to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 were insufficient to blow up a plane. But he raised the alarm among fellow passengers and was tackled into submission after using a syringe to try to light the explosive in his underwear and starting a small fire instead.
Cartoon Instruction Manual for Bomb Assembly?
Faisal Shahzad managed to leave his bomb in a car in Times Square in May 2010 and walk away. The problem? His bomb looked like something built using instructions from an old cartoon. It was made of old-fashioned alarm clocks, propane tanks, fireworks and nonexplosive fertilizer.