Boston Marathon bombing: The initial theories

Early reports link twin blasts to right-wing extremists or al-Qa'ida

John Hall@johnmatthewhall
Tuesday 16 April 2013 16:03

Early reports of the Boston Marathon bombing sought to link the blasts to domestic right-wing extremists.

The main thinking behind a link to the far-right was that the relative small size of the bomb and the fact it took place on Patriot’s Day – a hugely symbolic event.

Patriot’s Day is a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The battles marked the beginning of military action American Revolution and have been seen as a symbol of American independence and freedom ever since.

The devastating Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995, which killed 168 people, took place the day after Patriot’s Day. Perpetrator Timothy McVeigh reportedly considered the date significant to his anti-government terrorist attack.

Patriot’s Day also marks the anniversary of the end of the Waco siege on April 19, 1993. Right-wing groups have long linked Waco’s bloody conclusion – in which 86 people died after the FBI stormed the Branch Davidian cult’s compound following a 51-day siege – as an example of the US government abusing its power.

The right-wing extremist theory was strengthened by fact April 15 is tax day, an event that in recent years has been used as a rallying date for members of the Tea Party group.

The Tea Party movement is, of course, named after the famous Boston Tea Party political protest of 1773 and, with President Obama’s taxation policies widely criticised by many conservative groups – both moderate and extreme - the date is increasingly seen as a focal point for right-wing protest.

Other experts have sought to distance the attacks from right-wing extremism however; suggesting twin blasts are a hallmark of al-Qa'ida.

The Telegraph reported Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at King’s College, London, as saying: “Some groups used a particular kind of attack. With the IRA it was car bombs. With al-Qa'ida it has almost become a cliché but multiple explosions in the same place are regarded as hallmarks of Islamist terror.”

Although the Boston devices are generally smaller than those used by Islamic extremists, the reported use of ball-bearings in backpacks filled with explosives has fuelled speculation that al-Qa'ida operatives may have been involved. Such devices have often been used by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Professor Neumann added: “A bomb with ball bearing seems homemade, the type of thing you would build if you don’t really know how to build a bomb, perhaps with some instructions or guide on the Internet.”

As well as Patriot’s Day, yesterday also marked the 65th anniversary of Israeli independence, leading commentators, including the Boston Globe's Lawrence Harmon, to speculate on links to Islamic extremism.

Professor Neumann reportedly called the attacks “amateurish right-wing, or amateurish al-Qa'ida”, adding that investigators will now be looking online for individuals or groups boasting of the attacks or claiming responsibility.

He said: “The point of terrorism is to communicate a message through acts of violence. The IRA used to call a newspaper, and now you often have claims on the Internet.”

Professor Neumann went on to say that, as there currently appear to have been no such claims, it would suggest the culprit was either acting alone or as part of a small group loosely connected to a larger network or ideology.

For more on this story see:

Eight-year-old reported among three dead after twin explosions strike Boston Marathon

Boston marathon explosions: eyewitness reports

US will hold whoever carried out Boston explosions accountable, says President Obama

Video: The Boston explosions as they happened

A symbol of the terror: 78-year-old runner's image shows second blast

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