A "technical error"
“And the mujahideen brothers in the Manufacturing Sector possessed a highly advanced device, with Allah’s grace, and it was tested and proved to be successful and practical, and it passed the inspection machines. Brother Omar has reached his target, with Allah’s grace, but, fate from Allah, a technical error happened and led to an incomplete detonation, and we will continue the path, Allah-permitting, until we reach what we want, and make faith all due to Allah.”
Poor tradecraft is, fortunately, a persistent problem for the jihadis as Michael Kenney notes in Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy (May 2009), a study written for the U.S. Department of Justice. (.pdf)
“Indeed, mistakes and poor tradecraft are common in terrorist operations. One of the most significant findings to emerge from this research regards Islamic terrorists’ propensity towards the poor tradecraft and operational errors. In the cases examined in this study operatives committed a range of basic mistakes. Militants forgot code words and aliases, resulting in miscommunication with their colleagues. They foolishly tried to run away from law enforcement officers or became visibly upset when questioned. They received speeding tickets and other traffic citations when operating undercover in “enemy territory. They provided incriminating hints of their looming attacks to people outside their conspiracies. They took advanced aviation classes and expressed their desire to only learn how to steer, not land, large commercial aircraft. They traveled together, not separately, when assembling for attacks. They dressed and acted in ways that made them stand out more, not less. They used matches instead of lighters to ignite bomb fuses. They didn’t change their cell phones and SIM cards, even when under immense counter-terrorism pressure. The list goes on.”
According to Kenney, what explains this is:
- Experience in guerrilla warfare does not translate particularly well to urban terrorism
- It is difficult to gain experience when the attack gets you killed.
- The war on terror hampers training and planning.
- Ideological or religious “certitude” that they don’t need to be careful because their fate is already determined by Allah