Spokane backpack bomb had huge potential to harm, says expert

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by KREM.com / Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 7:42 PM

SPOKANE -- The FBI calls a backpack bomb an act of domestic terrorism.  A person familiar with the investigation says the device was unusually sophisticated.  It had a remote detonator and the ability to cause many casualties.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information about the investigation.

Leads poured into the Spokane FBI office about the backpack bomb that was found Monday near Washington and Main.  The location is also where the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade was supposed to pass by.  The FBI says the tips included video and pictures from the scene.  But investigators refuse to discuss the explosives found inside the backpack.

KREM 2 News showed the pictures of the backpack to the former commander of Spokane's Explosive Disposal Unit to explore what would fit in it.  He says the possibilities are endless.

Al Odenthal used to run the bomb squad in Spokane.  His expertise in explosives gives insight to what was in the backpack.

"If you include the red and white as a total explosive charge, I can't say I've seen a larger explosive device in a number of years working with an explosives team," said Odenthal.

Odenthal says the wires connect several components.  But it is what he can't see that concerns him.

"What was so thick that was in the pack, resting against the electrical connection and the red package on the front?" questioned Odenthal.
 
If there was shrapnel in the bag, such as loose nails, Odenthal says it could have maimed or killed lots of people.

"There's no real reason to include additional shrapnel in the device unless you intend to harm people because that's gonna come flying out at over 100 feet per second," said Odenthal.

That is almost as fast as a bullet leaves the barrel of a handgun.  While it most likely would not have leveled the block, it would have done extensive damage.

"This would destroy cars, knock out windows for more than a block and structural damage to building with its facility," said Odenthal. 
 
The Associated Press reports a person familiar with the investigation says the bomb was built with a remote detonator.  Odenthal says that's a sign of a highly sophisticated bomb maker.

"A remote detonation device is usually associated with somebody who is watching the scenario unfold and chooses a specific time to initiate the device at will.  That's pretty frightening," remarked Odenthal. 
 
The FBI admits it's not a coincidence the bomb was left along the parade route on MLK Jr. Day.  But they are hesitant to say it was a racially motivated event.

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