Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath on Friday confirmed that the suspicious white found in the state assembly was Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate or PETN, one of the most dangerous plastic explosives.
PETN is not something that is available off-the-shelf or a chemical that can be manufactured in the backyard. The main ingredients needed to manufacture PETN are Pentaerythritol and Nitric acid, which can be procured as these chemicals find uses in other manufacturing process as well. But, process involved in PETN production is quite complex and needs an eloborate setup.
CM Adityanath rightly called for an NIA investigation. The investigation needs to be a thorough one which ought look into every aspect of the incident like How it reached the assembly?, where was it manufactured?, How it was procured? and most importantly, can terrorists access it? It is indeed a matter of national security.
What are the uses of PETN and who uses it?
PETN is mixed with RDX to make Semtex, which is a plastic explosive used by the miltary and the mining industry. Semtex is used by military and especially by special forces in operations involving storming a building. Mining industry uses it for controlled explosions where dynamite cannot be used.
It is preferred by militant groups because it cannot be easily detected owing to its colourless crystals.
What makes PETN very dangerous is that it cannot be detected by metal detectors and can easily surpass security checks.
How can it be detected?
Trained sniffer dogs can detect PETN, additionally swabs of clothing and personal belongings of passengers can be analysed to detect its traces.
Incidents involving PETN use:
It was suspected that nitrate-based explosives laced with PETN were used in 2011 Delhi High Court blast, which left 17 people dead.
Nigerian man Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was convicted for attempting to detonate PETN explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He attempted this on an Amsterdam to Detroit flight in 2009. The device that he used was sewn into his underwear containing the explosive powder PETN. He failed in his attempt as the chemical burst into flames instead of exploting, the flames were doused by airline staff using fire extinguisher.
A British national by the name Richard Reid tried to detonate PETN concealed in his shoes on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami. Reid tried to light the fuse protuding from his shoes but was thwarted by flight attendents.