Alert warns of cold packs used for explosives

Tuesday – 7/10/2012, 7:23am ET
J.J. Green,

WASHINGTON – A joint DHS/FBI bulletin dispatched recently is warning law enforcement nationwide about commercially available cold packs.

The packs contain chemicals — usually 30 to 85 grams of ammonium nitrate or urea — that can be used as precursors for improvised explosives. The advisory says the chemicals, which are packaged in granular form, can be used directly or ground into powder when being used in homemade explosive production. Five hundred packs would yield 30 to 90 pounds of material for use in an improvised explosive device (IED).

On at least three occasions since 2008 — the latest in last September — suspects acquired large amounts of ammonium nitrate extracted from cold packs. Authorities believe the material was going to be used to build IEDs.

The FBI and DHS sent out a Roll Call Alert to law enforcement warning that this is a new tactic that has been noted in other countries. The bulletin urges authorities to stay alert to complaints about theft of cold packs from emergency medical service lockers and fitness facilities, and to the unexplained presence of a large number of cold packs in a location where they are not typically found.