Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

Oklahoma Suicide Bomber

Posted by Dan Draney on October 14, 2005

The story of Joel Hinrichs blowing himself up with a backpack bomb has finally attracted some attention from the national media. The explosion occurred right by the football stadium during the Oklahoma vs. Kansas State game. The Wall Street Journal (H/T Tapscott’s Copy Desk) has published a report on the incident, and bloggers’ reaction to it:

WSJ.com – Student’s Suicide Sets Off Explosion Of Theories by Blogs: “Several facts about the case fed the speculation: Suicides committed with bombs are rare, as are those committed in public near a crowded event. Mr. Hinrichs (pronounced HIN-ricks) had a Pakistani roommate. They shared an apartment one block away from the only mosque in Norman — the same mosque attended in 2001 by Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping plan the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In some photographs, Mr. Hinrichs can be seen with a scraggly beard.

Adding to community concern was the revelation that two days before he blew himself up, Mr. Hinrichs visited a feed store and inquired about buying ammonium nitrate — the same chemical Timothy McVeigh put in the bomb he used in 1995 to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, 20 miles to the north. An off-duty Norman police officer, overhearing Mr. Hinrichs’s conversation in the store, ran a check on his license plate and found no cause for alarm.

To that unsettling set of facts, blogs and local Oklahoma TV stations added several apparent inaccuracies, including: that Mr. Hinrichs was a Muslim and visited the mosque frequently; that he tried to enter the stadium twice but was rebuffed; that he had a one-way airplane ticket to Algeria; that there were nails in the bomb and that Islamic extremist literature was found in his apartment.

None of these claims are true: Mr. Hinrichs’s family, university officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say Mr. Hinrichs suffered from depression, and the explosion was an isolated event.”

This link, which doesn’t appear to require a subscription, will probably not last long (Tapscott says a week), so check it out right away. The authors are skeptical about the terrorism connection, but at least they are looking at the story.

It still seems highly likely to us that this was an act of terrorism. Perhaps he aborted it at the last moment. Perhaps Hinrichs was acting alone. Perhaps he was only emulating Islamic terrorism without an actual Islamic connection. Perhaps his earlier attempt to buy ammonium nitrate for a bomb was just a “cry for help.” Perhaps he researched the recipe for the triacetone peroxide explosive himself. These things aren’t impossible, but it’s still an awful lot of trouble to go to if your only objective is suicide.

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