World War IV Daily

3.04.2006

SFS - The University of Oklahoma Suicide Bombing

In my last SFS, I wrote about the domestic terrorist establishments of Jamaat ul-Fuqra within the United States. I mentioned that the story carried a great deal of personal significance with me as it broke just days after I first began this blog, and I was able to follow it from its beginnings to the present day. I still feel privileged to have 'been there' for that. Especially as a new blogger, it was an enormous incentive to continue posting. However, there was another event that had a similar effect.

On October 1st, 2005--the very day I began this blog--a young man named Joel Henry Hinrichs III (pictured left) was killed in an explosion at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK. He was 21 years old. The story sat for a hours, and a terse report from World Net Daily was one of the few initial news reports on the issue. It was known only that an OU student was killed by an explosion outside a stadium filled with 84,000+ people. Nothing was concrete until the details started to emerge. Then all hell broke loose.

The next day, the Northeast Intelligence Network--whose entire collection of reports on this issue can be viewed here--revealed that it had been a suicide bombing, at least in the extremely literal sense of the term. Hinrichs was sitting on a bench when an unknown quantity of explosives that he had been carrying detonated for unknown reasons. Authorities searched Hinrichs' on-campus apartment and discovered a "significant amount" of radical Islamic literature, some of it concerning how to construct bomb vests. An unknown quantity of the material was written in Arabic, which Hinrichs was unable to read. In addition to the Jihadist literature, the police and FBI seized an enormous cache of explosive material from his apartment.
The NIN was the first to report that Hinrichs had used the explosive TATP--this was later confirmed--to make his bomb. TATP is an extremely unstable explosive compound that is popular with terrorists due to the ease of which it can be created. It was used most famously by unsuccessful shoe-bomber Richard Reid in 2001 and for the London bombings of July 2005.

A number of individuals soon came forward with additional information: Hinrichs MAY have attempted to enter the stadium, but ran away when gate security asked to search his backpack. (Video report here, courtesy of Oklahoma City News 9.) Also, Hinrichs had attempted to purchase ammonium nitrate, the primary ingredient of the explosives used in the infamous 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. An off-duty Norman police officer was at the store at the time and, like the store owner, became suspicious and called Hinrichs' license plate into his superiors. No further steps were taken. This occurred three days before the explosion that killed Hinrichs. (Video here.)

Soon questions arose about the involvement of additional individuals as well as the Islamic connection. It was learned that Hinrichs had possibly been visiting a local mosque--visited by Zacharias Moussaoui when he lived in Norman (see below)--and that his roommate--Fazal M. Cheema, a Pakistani--and three other Muslim students were detained and later released. There are still a number of questions surrounding additional involvement as well as a plane ticket to Algeria that Cheema had purchased. (Video here.)
Both the police and the FBI were quick to discount any terrorist involvement. University of Oklahoma President David Boren stated that Hinrichs had "emotional difficulties" and that this was an isolated event. He further advised against a rush towards judgment (link in PDF format). Gates of Vienna questioned the rush to declare this an 'all clear', and the NIN wasn't happy either.

Some background on OU President David Boren is in order: A Yale graduate, he served as the governor of Oklahoma from 1975 to 1979 and as a US Senator (D-OK) from 1979 to 1994. He served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and in fact was its longest-serving chairman. As such he has very close ties to the intelligence community, and is widely regarded as the mentor of former DCI George Tenet.

Boren's intelligence connections become even more interesting when the history of Norman, Oklahoma is considered:


>>> In July 2000, 9/11 hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi visited Airman Flight School in Norman. In September of the same year, Zacharias Moussaoui contacted the same flight school via e-mail. In February 2001, Moussaoui opened a bank account in Norman in which he deposited roughly $32,000 in cash. From then until May, he attend Airman Flight School in Norman. (Source)

>>> On a bus trip to OU, Moussaoui was on the same bus as Nick Berg, the American man beheaded in Iraq in 2004. During the trip, Moussaoui asked Berg if he could use Berg's laptop computer. Berg gave Moussaoui his password. (Source)

>>> There is a Jamaat ul-Fuqra compound about 50 miles east of Norman in Talihina, OK. (Source)

>>> It has been REPORTED--I cannot stress that enough--that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah purchased his ticket from a computer terminal in the OU library. I have not found any information that would conclusively prove this, but the rumor is out there and I wanted to address it as such rather than leave it out completely. Again, this is UNCONFIRMED. Do not take my presentation of this information to mean anything otherwise.


Like the Jamaat ul-Fuqra story, there was no major media attention paid to this event except for local news reporting, which gradually died down. The story was mainly carried by the blogosphere, but after a few weeks they too moved on. There were a few sporadic updates afterwards, but not many:
The search warrant for Hinrichs' apartment was initially sealed, but in late November it was revealed. In addition to the TATP discovered in Hinrichs' apartment, authorities discovered mixing bowls, a slow-cooker, a thermometer, plastic containers, a hobby fuse, a circuit board, rolls of tape, and chemicals used to make the TATP. The FBI discovered that Hinrichs had downloaded "numerous text and image files" concerning explosives, including TATP. A suicide note was also found.

Aside from that report in November 2005 by the NIN, no additional information was disclosed until just recently.

Fast forward to February 28th, 2006. Police Sergeant George Mauldin, head of the Norman bomb disposal unit, revealed that the OU explosion was likely an accident:

"I believe he accidentally blew himself up."

When asked about Hinrichs' possible intentions to enter the stadium with the explosives, Mauldin responded:

"I don't believe he intended for an explosion to occur at that spot. Someone saw him fiddling with [the backpack] shortly before the explosion occurred. I think he got cocky, and it went off."

The Northeast Intelligence Network, again leading the way with coverage of this story, reveals that one law enforcement official, "disgusted that the truth is being withheld from the public", has confidentially admitted that there is far more to the story than what officials are saying. In light of absolute proof, however, I am forced to take the NIN's report with a grain of salt. I do not disbelieve or intend to discredit what they are saying--they have an absolutely stellar track record of accurate investigation--but I am committed to including the supporting information of absolutely everything that I publish on this blog. I do not rule out rumors, speculation, and hear-say, but I always label it as such.

indeed, the tricky part about this story is that while there is much that we do know for certain, a large amount of information remains speculative.
For instance, there continues to be some confusion as to whether Hinrichs added shrapnel to his bomb, a popular tactic among suicide bombers for inflicting greater casualties. There were reports of numerous holes in a tree near the site of the blast, but nothing conclusive. Considering the lack of any significant proof of Hinrichs adding shrapnel to his bomb, I would settle on a more innocent--so to speak--explanation: One of the most lethal components of a suicide bomber is the bomber themselves. When the blast goes off, they are literally transformed into a human fragmentation grenade. The human body--especially bones and teeth--becomes a collection of shrapnel moving at tens of thousands of feet per second, much faster than even a high-powered rifle bullet. Such fragments are easily capable of killing a human being or perforating a large tree. With Hinrichs' bomb in his backpack--directly behind his rib cage--there would have been a large number of fragments thrown in one direction, similar to the detonation of a Claymore mine. Other items have the potential of becoming lethal projectiles as well, such as jewelry, loose change, or even a zipper on the backpack itself. (Think this photo, but thousands of times more powerful. Basically the difference between 150 mph hurricane winds and a 17,000 fps--that's over 11,000 mph!--detonation of TATP.)

But by no means is all the information in on this story. There are still a great many questions that need to be answered, such as:


>>> The status of Hinrichs' Pakistani roommate, Fazal Cheema. It would have been impossible for Hinrichs to run a bomb-making operation in his apartment without his roommate being aware of it. Not only does the procedure take a great deal of room to conduct--university apartments are not known to be very spacious--but the smell would be quite noticeable, if not overpowering. Sgt. Mauldin downplayed Cheema's potential involvement, yet he had this to say of the apartment:

"It smelled strongly of peroxide. [Hinrichs] was not really a very good housekeeper, which kind of hindered our search."

>>> There still exists a cover-up of sorts surrounding Hinrichs, specifically the Jihadist literature discovered in his apartment and his connection to a local mosque. Again, Mauldin denied the connection to the mosque, but did not produce additional information. Also, there was a rush to paint the entire situation as an individual suicide both by law enforcement officials and OU President David Boren. Such a description is acceptable--if it is truthful, of course--once ample time has been given to investigating the incident. Doing so just 48 hours afterwards may keep the public calm, but it is pre-mature and dishonest. Maybe 'cover-up' isn't the right terminology, but 'information vacuum' certainly is.

>>> The greater connection of Norman, OK with Islamic terrorism. The paths of too many known terrorists have crossed in Norman, enough that coincidence is safely out of the question.


As with any spectacular event, a lot of the speculation surrounding this case has turned out to be false or exaggerated, but the fact that enough substantial points have been corroborated warrants further investigation.

Finally, as to the authorities' assertion that the bombing was not an act of terrorism? Just because someone had no connections with a terrorist organization doesn't mean they don't have the potential to carry out a terrorist attack. In fact, Sgt. Mauldin summed it up the best:

"As far as anybody can tell, there is absolutely no indication that this guy was tied to any known terrorist organization. Doesn't mean that he wasn't a terrorist."

Exactly.

3 Comments:

  • There are other issues here that have never been clarified.

    How old was Hinrichs? Was he in the right year for his age or are there gaps?

    Has all his time been accounted for? That is, did he have any unexplained breaks in his undergrad schedule where he might have had the opportunity for training?

    Did he ever have a passport? Was it used? If so, to where and for what time period.

    The irony about his father's ignorance should come as no surprise to anyone, given the fact that the London bombers' parents were clueless...

    Now maybe the domestic intel people know all this and are saying. That would make sense, but the fact that no investigative journalist is even posing the questions is very disturbing.

    By Blogger Dymphna, at March 05, 2006 8:32 AM  

  • Dymphna,

    I recall that he was 21 and was a Junior, which means there probably weren't any gaps in his schooling.

    However, he could easily have time for other things, perhaps even receiving training of some sort. I'd especially like to know more about the Jamaat ul-Fuqra compound in Talihina, Oklahoma.

    Regardless of the training, he couldn't have been working alone. As I mentioned above, there's absolutely no way his roommate--or any visitors--could have not seen/smelled the bomb-making operation. That certainly makes his roommate complicit.

    You're right about the lack of media attention. This has all the makings of a juicy story: A college student with Islamic connections blows himself up next to 84,000 people and what follows is a cover-up of the information by the authorities. The definite Islamic connection should attract attention, but then again that could be the deciding factor. As we saw with the Mohammad cartoons, the media doesn't like to go anywhere near Islam. Maybe if he was Jewish we'd have a story... ("Next on CNN: Those crazy Jews are at it again! Christiane Amanpour reports LIVE from the war zone in Oklahoma.") Rubbish.

    Oh yeah, apparently the FBI is supposed to conclude their report in a few weeks. I'm expecting more of the same...

    By Blogger Jesse Clark, at March 05, 2006 1:35 PM  

  • Thanks for this comprehensive report on Hinrichs. I've been wondering about any follow-up.

    By Blogger Always On Watch, at March 05, 2006 5:48 PM  

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