Home » Weapons » IED War » U.S. Troops Faced Pressure Cooker IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan

U.S. Troops Faced Pressure Cooker IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan

by Richard Sisk on April 17, 2013

The crude explosive devices used against runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon were similar to the kitchen pot bombs aimed at U.S.  troops on foot patrol in Afghanistan, law enforcement and Congressional officials said Tuesday.

For nearly 10 years, presidential directives, Homeland Security Department reports and local law enforcement officials have warned of the eventual threat within the U.S. of “pressure cooker” bombs developed by terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After briefings from law enforcement and U.S. intelligence officials, Rep. Randy McCaul (R-Tex.) said that the two devices which detonated in Boston appeared to be “pressure cooker” bombs. Law enforcement officials later confirmed that the investigation was proceeding on the basis that the devices were “pressure cooker” bombs.

But Rick DesLaurier, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Boston, stressed that “the investigation is in its infancy.” At a news conference in Boston, DesLauriers said there had thus far been “no claims of responsibility and the range of suspects and motives is wide open.”

DesLauriers asked the public to contact authorities if they knew anyone who had recently expressed a special “interest in research in how to create explosive devices.”

In Afghanistan, Taliban operatives who lacked the wherewithal or expertise to build “improvised explosive devices” capable of destroying the huge, V-shaped hull MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles) turned to “pressure cooker” bombs as anti-personnel devices. They would be placed along paths expected to be used by U.S. troops on foot patrol.

In the summer of 2011, explosives specialists from the 2nd Battalion, Eighth Marines, showed several of the devices they had found and defused to an embedded reporter. One of the devices had even been placed in a tree, the specialists said.

The terrorists would take a simple kitchen pot, a pressure cooker was preferred, pack it with ammonium nitrate and metal filings, nails and even rocks to increase the lethality, and rig the device to detonate by wire or by a remote device, sometimes a garage door opener.

When triggered, the blast would seek the path of least resistance and most of the force and the debris would blow out the top of the pressure cooker, in effect acting much like a military “shaped” charge that concentrates  the force of an anti-tank shell.

As far back as 2004, a Homeland Security Department memo warned of the pressure cooker bomb threat, calling it “a technique commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps.”

“Typically, these bombs are made by placing TNT or other explosives in a pressure cooker and attaching a blasting cap at the top of the pressure cooker,” the memo said.

The attraction of the pressure cooker bomb for the terrorist is that they are cheap, relatively easy to make, and lethal.

A presidential directive on homeland security in 2007 warned that “The threat of explosive attacks in the United States is of great concern considering terrorists’ability to make, obtain, and use explosives, the ready availability of components used in IED construction, the relative technological ease with which an IED can be fashioned, and the nature of our free society.”

In 2010, a joint FBI and Homeland Securty intelligence report issued in 2010 warned that “Placed carefully, such devices provide little or no indication of an impending attack.”

Two years ago, “Inspire,” the online magazine of Al Qaeda in the Arabian, published an article on how to make a pressure cooker bomb. The title of the article was “How To Make A Bomb In The Kitchen Of Your Mom.”

Share |

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Nadnerbus April 17, 2013 at 1:04 am

Perhaps mandatory background checks and a waiting period for crock pots is in order. We don't want these instruments of war falling into the wrong hands, right?


IKnowIT April 17, 2013 at 6:41 am

Assault crock pots to you, skeeter


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 7:20 am

Crockpots are slow cookers, not pressure cookers?

But yeah, pressure cooker permits, concealed use cooker permits, open use permits…groan.


ForTheChildren April 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

Except you're forgetting that crock pots share many of the same features as a pressure cooker, such as large capacity, and ability to thoroughly cook a meal. Just because an assault slow cooker lacks one feature compared to the pressure cooker doesn't make it less dangerous. So it makes sense to impose "reasonable" restrictions on all categories of cooking pots and pans right now, unless we end up with another tragedy on our hands.


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

Cooking is dangerous. The government will cook for you now.


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 11:03 am

Soldiers use C-4 as fuel during cooking. Just saying.

Nadnerbus April 17, 2013 at 3:35 pm

We need to compile a list of "features" that define pressure cookers immediately and get it to Di Fi for prompt action. If it saves just one life…


UAVGeek April 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Why do Americans need pressure cookers more than 3 gallons!?!?!


Bill April 18, 2013 at 7:02 am

Asian-american families


Jacob April 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Fortunately, pressure cookers aren't easily concealable and are probably really noisy if filled with nails or other objects used as shrapnel.


crockofpot April 18, 2013 at 4:41 pm

If crockpots resulted in the deaths of 30000 people a year then yes. Should we also not put common sense restrictions on access to high explosives while we are at it? C4 for everybody!


Nadnerbus April 19, 2013 at 3:10 am

The point is, whatever you restrict, people who want to murder will just go for the next easiest thing. You can't nerf the world without imposing police-state like powers. If you were actually able to ban and take away guns, bomb making would become the order of the day for psychos, along with black market firearms. If you ban gun powder for reloading, or highly regulate it (as I am sure someone is sure to propose soon enough), then diesel/fertilizer bombs will become the order of the day, as per Tim McVeigh. They are trying to regulate even that in Afghanistan to put a crimp in IED production, and it doesn't seem to be working too well there.


philcool April 17, 2013 at 4:10 am

What surprised me is that nobody removed the trashcans before the marathon was held


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 7:21 am

We're still not sure how they stashed the bomb. A pressure cooker in a trash can will probably mitigate blast and fragments. One in a backpack, won't.


philcool April 17, 2013 at 7:28 am

it now seems it was indeed a backpack, so I stand corrected


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 8:56 am

I suppose if you packed enough explosive, that the trash can would also be turned into shrapnel.

ANFO has low energy density though.


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

I have heard that is was in a backpack, and it the IED was stuffed with ball bearing and scrap metal. Pretty gruesome shrapnel.

Musson April 17, 2013 at 9:49 am

The Daily Mail has pictures taken of one of the bombs before it exploded.
It sure looks like a big bag of trash sitting right in front of the moveable fence section. It was pretty freakin' obvious.


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 11:00 am

We're paying tons for paramilitaries to look for guys with dishdashas screaming Allahu Ackbar, but they just leave a bag of trash and walk away. Boom.

Ban trash bags?


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Or make safer ones. Like, out of kevlar.


jsallison April 17, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Sergi April 17, 2013 at 8:04 am

ETA, the terrorist group in Spain, has used this method, from at least 1986, that is the first entry on google… http://blogs.libertaddigital.com/in-memoriam/masa… (Translation: http://www.google.com/translate?hl=en&ie=UTF8….

I don´t see why this is news…


Guest April 17, 2013 at 8:23 am

Cause all of this is news to the US public. Spaniards, French, Irish,Algerians have experienced these types of bombs hidden in trash cans in the 80s & 90s. Thats also why all of our public trash cans disapeared in 1995 to be replaced by clear plastic bags.


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 8:55 am

Won't be long before 'murrica follows. We're already great at littering, so we can get rid of trash cans.


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

I was wondering if they were using bombs under pressure, or just using the pressure cooker to hold the bomb.

The article notes that the top may blow off: but if this is so, then it limits the effective range of such a device, unless you prop it pointed at a target (which is probably what happened).


Tiger April 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm
RWB123 April 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm

It's just a container for the bomb. Nothing is under pressure inside.

Blowing the top off the device is actually the entire purpose here. It channels the blast in one direction. That increases the range of the shrapnel, so yes, the weapon was almost certainly pointed toward the target.


Bruce April 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Surely the point is that the pressure vessel allows more forces toSurely the point of using a pressure cooker is that it will cause more pressure to build up inside the vessel before the lid seal fails.


STemplar April 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Poor man's Claymore.


FoolKiller April 17, 2013 at 9:46 am

"in effect acting much like a military 'shaped' charge that concentrates the force of an anti-tank shell."
No. This was a directional explosion with shrapnel, much like a homemade claymore. A truly "shaped" charge focuses the force of the explosion itself, or intensely hot metal vapor produced as a byproduct of the explosion, to penetrate armor. No shrapnel is involved in a true shaped charge. In any event, shrapnel would be useless against a tank.


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 10:53 am

My question is who will take responsibility for this? This doesn't feel like an Al Qaeda attack. Also, is this connected to the poisoned letter sent to Senator Wicker from Mississippi? If so, this could just be the beginning of a mass attack of these terrorists.


Sanjay April 17, 2013 at 11:54 am
HeavyArrow April 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Personally I think we shouldn't be giving the guy who did it (Even if we don't know who) the media coverage that we always do whenever something like this happens, they WANT the attention. Focus on the survivors and the good things that people did to help those wounded in the detonation.


orly? April 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

But people want answers.

Otherwise, people get more angry and paranoid.


HeavyArrow April 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm

That is true, but then that will just spread more paranoia. I mean I want the guy who did this to be put in jail just as much as any other person wants.
The media just has a heyday with this sort of thing.


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm

If you don't focus on the guy who did it, it just spawns the whole "Grassy Knoll" conspiracy wingnut stuff all over again. And if you do focus on the guy who did it, then there's wingnut focus on "the guys who got away", cue Rothschild, Illuminati, UN, New World Order, Majestic-12, CIA, space aliens…


HeavyArrow April 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm

You can't win in this situation eh?


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Nope. There's always a fringe nut somewhere.


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Well, think this way. If we suppressed all of this media attention, people wouldn't know about this attack, or be wary of suspicious packages and letters. As usual, the media has exaggerated, but I think this coverage is mostly in check.


STemplar April 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Based on the injuries I don't think the devices were placed in trash cans. Far too many wounded and mostly lower leg injuries. I think the bags were just left on the ground.


Josh April 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

You don't have to assume. It's been out for quite some time now that the bombs were placed in backpacks that were dropped a few minutes before the blasts.


STemplar April 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Sure, my reaction though was based on the people being wheeled away in the first hour in the photos and the initial reports of treatment.


mike April 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm

i totally agree


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Yeah. A trash can would have the path of least resistance at the lid, not the bottom. So right there, it rules out the can. Also, if they were using Hefty bags, they could probably contain the explosion.



Rosalee April 17, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Frankly not surprised…………….dad talked about mines and IEDs in Vietnam..
planted conveniently for our troops……..and in some cases when they would
stop to hand out whatever to little children, much like in some stories I have heard
about Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wonder now if the bombs in Boston were put together nearer the site?
It would seem that they might be a bit 'dangerous' if they were hustled too much
to the site………just speculating……..


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I doubt they were manufactured on site. Building a bomb requires a table, and non-prying eyes. Someone would have to see that a person is building a bomb. Though, that is just my thought.


Scanlon April 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

Let the disinformation and misinformation begin.


tim hooey April 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm



USS ENTERPRISE April 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Well, all I can say is that the police just got that son of gun. Glad that manhunt is over.


IKnowIT April 17, 2013 at 6:40 am

And yes, I meant wouldn't, not the double negative I used.


Thomas L. Nielsen April 17, 2013 at 7:15 am

The question has always been how much (perceived or actual) intrusion into your personal life you are willing to accept, in return for the (perceived or actual) safety and security the intrusion gives you.

The type and extent of security measures that would be needed to make a terrorist attack a practical impossibility would also make any other activity a practical impossibility.

Personally, I am a lot less concerned about terrorist attacks than I am about what we might allow our own governments to do to us in order to protect us from terrorist attacks. And I don't mean in any sinister, conspiratorial, new-world-order sense. The government(-s) in question could sincerely be acting with everyone's best interest at heart. But so did the Spanish Inquisition.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg (expat Dane)


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 11:28 am

Who cooks for John Galt?


Anonymous April 17, 2013 at 11:45 am

So he's guilty because of his last name? Maybe we should throw Jenna Bush into Gitmo for her daddy's war crimes?


blight_ April 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Considering the wonders of polygamy, it makes you wonder how many people could share the same last name and be totally different.

Look at the Bin Ladens. The Binladen group and the Osama Bin Laden outcast. Do the actions of the latter necessarily reflect on the former?


Sanjay April 17, 2013 at 11:51 am
d. kellogg April 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Y'all be realizing of course those of you who favor flash-frying a turkey in that big outdoor peanut oil roaster now,…gonna need some kinda FCL (Federal Culinary License) saying that you have thoroughly been properly trained in the safe handling and operation of the equipment in question.
Purchasing of more than 5 gallons of peanut oil at one time will result in your name being recorded into a federal database,…just to be safe.


STemplar April 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm

They also don't exert much effort helping anyone either. It was the USN that was first on scene in Bander Aech. It was the USN first on scene in Haiti. It was the USN first on scene in Fukushima.

"Medical programs like the Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs) and Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) are conducted by U.S. military personnel throughout the region.

These training events enhance the medical readiness training of U.S. military forces as well as provide sustained health benefit to the population and attempt to improve the overall level of care provided by the host nation healthcare system. U.S. medical personnel benefit by providing medical care in a challenging and often unique environment; local medical professionals develop closer relationships with U.S. medical personnel; and the local population receives free, quality medical care. In Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. troops conducted 88 MEDRETEs and MEDCAPs in 19 regional countries, treating about 225,000 people."

We make a lot of friends too. You might want to educate yourself.


Danny April 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm

All of the trash cans and mailboxes on the entire route were sniffed and checked by bomb dogs the day before the marathon. Not to mention that some of those garbage cans are even explosive-resistent


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm

But the important thing to note is that it was the day before. You have time between them and the marathon to plant something. True, there might have been dog patrols, but with the crowd, it would be hard to regulate every single parcel, backpack, and trashcan.


Tiger April 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm
USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Thank you. Anti-US sentiment in some cases can be understandable, such as to the poor families that lost people in drone strikes. But a lot of times, anti-US sentiment has rooted from the old USSR talk and NK. True, we have had our past evils, but take a look at the assistance we have afforded to other countries in natural disasters.


Larry Fleming April 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm
Larry Fleming April 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm
Larry Fleming April 17, 2013 at 5:43 pm
USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm



Jack April 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

to finish previous comment, And depending on the quality of vessel design, and other considerations, they can act as catastrophic failure containment vessels for terrorist types, wherein, made of stainless steel and correct design, the whole vessel could fail at once as in the Boston bombing, before the top ever fails before the rest of the vessel. The one illustrated in the top photo looks like the top would fail, by poor design and metallurgy, which is primitive due to poor manufacturing abilities. Also it is made of aluminum or a weaker metal, which is typically less tensile strength than stainless.
Pressure cooking is heavily used in industry for various commercial needs, in foods, pharmaceuticals, and other areas. They provide higher temperatures for quicker or more thorough sterilization, particularly. Also, preppers and others can use them for home canning more safely producing longer shelf life possibilities.


USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Brought to on Defense Tech, the leader of information about future military technology! But very enlightening, Jack, honestly. I didn't know there was this much info in pressure cookers.


platypusfriend April 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Larry, how often do you buy one of these?


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: