April timing of attack fuels speculation about culprits


Troubling anniversaries linked to U.S. extremists have fueled speculation about who is behind the Boston bombings even though investigators have yet to publicly cast blame on any culprits.

The twin bombs left at the marathon’s finish line Monday, which killed three people and wounded more than 175, contain disturbing details that could be seen as aping al-Qaida.

President Barack Obama has clearly accused terrorists of staging the attacks. But he also insisted that neither domestic, nor foreign militants, nor a “lone wolf” individual, had yet been implicated.

Still, the date alone — April 15 — leaves plenty of room for speculation.

Monday was the deadline for Americans to pay taxes, a day hated by the far right. In Boston, it was also Patriots’ Day — the anniversary of the first battles against British forces in the American Revolutionary War.

This Friday will mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the siege of a radical sect at Waco, Texas, in which 76 people died. A bombing in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, a hero to extremists, took place on April 19, 1995. It claimed more than 160 lives.

And there’s more.

The killing of 32 people by gunman Seung Hui Cho at Virginia Tech University fell on April 16, 2007, while the Columbine school massacre of 13 people happened April 20, 1999.

Doctors say carpentry nails have been taken out of the bodies of victims from the Boston attack. The same nails were used in the pipe bomb that killed a woman during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

“But the technology does not really belong to anyone,” said J.M. Berger, a consultant and researcher on terrorism.

Nails and other metal shrapnel have also been used in improvised roadside bombs left in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones, and al-Qaida supporters published a guide to making the weapon last month, according to the SITE monitoring group that follows jihadist websites.

Jeffrey Grossmann, a security specialist at St. John’s University in New York, said events such as this require advanced preparation and dry runs that may have been happening without detection for months.

“The timing of the event (Patriots’ Day) and the high-profile Boston Marathon were likely contributing factors in choosing where and when to act,” he added.

Berger, meanwhile, noted that the marathon was “an attractive target if you are a terrorist group that wants to get an identity. But for the moment it is all speculation and eventually someone will be right.”

After the Atlanta bombing, police were able to trace the nails found in the dead woman back to the manufacturer as they hunted Eric Rudolph, who was eventually found guilty of the attack and is now serving a life prison term.

“The war on terrorism is far from over, whether it is Islamic jihadists or rightwing extremists,” said Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.