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RDX hints at ‘foreign hand’
- The explosives behind the serial train blasts

New Delhi, July 17: Terrorism and explosives experts feel that the use of RDX in Mumbai blasts implies the role of “external state actors”.

While its high explosive power and relative ease of use has helped RDX emerge a preferred choice of terrorists, the experts said it is not an explosive that can be produced in garages or in private factories.

“RDX is a minimum substance, maximum impact explosive, and it’s not produced anywhere outside of full state control,” Suba Chandran, assistant director at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, said a few days before Mumbai police confirmed that it was used in the July 11 blasts.

Explosive experts said small amounts of RDX would have been enough to wreak the damage to the train coaches on Tuesday. “Something as small as a tennis ball or maybe a football,” said a managing director of a private company that trades in industrial explosives. “The industry doesn’t produce RDX. There is so much of smuggling that goes on.”

RDX is among the most powerful of explosives with a high shattering ability and a velocity of detonation of about 8,750 metres per second. It is stable at room temperatures and explodes when detonated with a primary explosive.

Experts who have been tracking terrorism said seizures of RDX have become commonplace in recent years. “It’s become fairly routine. RDX is now trafficked across South Asia along with guns and drugs,” said one expert.

Over the years, certain explosives have come to be identified with specific terrorist organisations. “The Naxalites, for instance, do not generally use RDX. They use gelatin sticks. RDX isn’t used in the Northeast either,” said Chandran.

Counter-terrorism experts believe RDX is a signature of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which they say has close links with the Pakistan army as well as the Inter Services Intelligence.

Even when a material is exclusively manufactured under state control, there are mechanisms to smuggle it out to terrorist organisations, an expert said. “The stuff that is produced for covert purposes probably never gets into the inventory.”

A specialist in studies of terrorism cited the clandestine transfer of nuclear technology by Pakistan’s scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan to Iran and North Korea as an example of how technology can change hands across nations after “a nod and a wink” from the state.

Although the Pakistani government has claimed Khan transferred the technology without its knowledge, strategic affairs specialists argue that the transfer to North Korea, in exchange for missile technology, could not have taken place without state complicity.

But while there are internationally negotiated strict rules that govern the transfer of missiles or nuclear technology ' the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Nuclear Suppliers Group ' no such regulations exist yet in the field of small arms or high explosives such as RDX.

“Without a strong global movement, this kind of transnational smuggling of arms and explosives will continue,” said Chandran. “But, for the moment, many states do not appear interested in such restrictions.”

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