Vol. 5 Num 514 Mon. November 07, 2005  

Explosives in courier parcel
Dreadful ingenuity gives rise to new concerns
The seizure of powerful explosive materials that were sent to Rajshahi from Sylhet by courier is a highly welcome piece of news. That the authorities in Sylhet were able to tip off the police in Rajshahi, and as a result, one kilo of RDX explosives, 500 grams of ammonia, and 500 grams of sulphur, enough to manufacture several hundred powerful bombs, were intercepted and rendered harmless are testimony to an intelligence success that we were stressing the need for.

Nevertheless, the bad news is that neither the recipient nor the sender has been apprehended (although the manager and two employees of the courier service have been arrested on minor charges). Additionally, the fact that the explosives were sent by parcel and well hidden hints at a growing sophistication on the part of the terrorists. Finally, the fact that the parcel was sent from Sylhet to Rajshahi is troubling, as once again it underlines the nationwide reach of the terrorists.

It seems to us that if terrorists are now using courier services to send explosives from one part of the country to another, then the courier service people themselves need to seriously think about adopting some safety measures, both for their own sake, and that of the nation as a whole.

The courier service industry has grown and done well over the last few years. However, there is no reason why it cannot add simple routine precautions to its handling of packages similar to measures in place elsewhere in the world.

Use of metal detectors and perhaps even trained dogs to detect explosives or other contraband would be a good place to start. In addition, it is clear that the employees must receive training in how to identify suspicious packages. Finally, there should be more stringent confirmation of the identity of both sender and recipient before a parcel is sent out, unlike the present case, pursuant to which neither party can now be located.

These simple steps should not harm the industry, but they will do a lot to mitigate the risk to the nation as well as to the courier service itself. After all, one presumes that the courier services themselves have the greatest desire to ensure that such materials do not pass through their hands.