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Mexican Drug Gang Used Commercial Grade Explosive in Car Bomb

Back in 2006, British Army Maj. Gen. Jonathon Riley issued a dire warning to a largely military audience: "We have not developed the intelligence or the tactics or the correct approach to defeat the [global] IED network." It’s difficult to say that four years later there has been dramatic progress in defeating that global network.

The latest evidence of the proliferation of IED know-how: a Mexican drug gang in Ciudad Juarez used a commercial grade gel explosive, called Tovex, last week in the first successful car bomb attack on Mexican security officers that killed three including a federal agent. The Tovex used in the VBIED was likely stolen from a mining company, U.S. officials said.

The car bombing “may represent a different tactic,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters yesterday, “these drug cartels, they have an enormous amount of resources at their disposal. They can buy any kind of capability they want.”

Why do IED networks pose such an intractable problem? First, a market dynamic is at work - well-financed insurgents or gangs pays enterprising guerrilla fighters to conduct attacks. Second, the simplicity of the bombs makes them almost impossible to counter by technological means. Third, because bomb-making cells are neither organized nor persistent, they are an ever changing, highly adaptable and therefore hard to engage enemy.

In somewhat relate news, yesterday the Pentagon announced that 1,200 National Guard personnel will be deployed to beef up security on the southern border with Mexico; they will join 300 National Guard already working along the border.

-- Greg Grant

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