Sri Lanka’s suicide bombers are thought to have used TATP, chemically known as triacetate triperoxide, an explosive made from commonly available household ingredients including nail polish remover – acetone – and hydrogen peroxide.
The eight or more suicide bombers in Sri Lanka must have purchased large amounts of these two ingredients, yet despite being on the police “radar screen,” no one picked it up. According to news reports, it is suspected they made the stuff in a copper factory in Wellampitiya, a suburb of Colombo.
The factory was owned by Inshaf Ahamad, who is believed to have blown himself up at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
While the full scale of the conspiracy is not yet known, the suicide bombers appear to have been successful middle-class people. The father of Inshaf Ahamad is known as a successful spice trader and he was arrested after bombs in his home went off, killing three policemen.
It has long been the case that many top terrorists are, in fact, successful entrepreneurs or professionals, including doctors and dentists such as George Habash, known as al-Hakim, or “the doctor,” who was educated at the American University in Beirut.
He famously headed the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and also for a time the PLO. Likewise, Yasser Arafat was a university graduate and came from a middle-class family.
But perhaps the most famous was Osama Bin Laden, who came from a well-connected and influential family of millionaires in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden attended the secular Al-Thager Model School and King Abdulaziz University. He studied business administration and had a degree in civil engineering.
TATP plus shrapnel was used in the Manchester suicide bombing in 2017 that killed 23 people and wounded another 39. The bomber was Salman Ramadan Abedi, a local man of Libyan ancestry who was 22 years old.
More than half of those killed were women and children. He was previously reported to police as an extremist, but police did not regard him as high risk despite a clear background of fighting with Islamic Jihadists in Libya.