(Received 13 July 1976; accepted 7 October 1976)
Published Online: April
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In the past, bombing cases were relatively uncommon and evidence from these cases seldom found its way into the forensic science laboratory. Therefore, only a limited amount of research in the area of explosive residue analysis has been carried out. Today, however, according to the current figures from the National Bomb Data Center the reported incidence rate is about 5.8 bombs per day . As S. G. Styles  remarks: “Terrorism is a fact of life today in all parts of the free world. It grows up in a climate of political, religious or doctrinal tensions; it erupts with violence, death and destruction.” Rather than being a rarity, bomb residues are becoming a part of everyday forensic science laboratory analysis. Thus, the forensic science laboratory today is being frequently asked to determine if in fact a bombing has taken place or if some accident such as a natural gas leak caused gas to accumulate in the presence of an ignition source, resulting in an explosion. In addition, where the damage characteristic of a high explosive is noted, the capability of identifying the type of explosives used in a bombing would be helpful as an investigative aid in limiting the number of possible avenues to be pursued by investigators. It would be important to distinguish between explosions resulting from compounds such as picric acid or ammonium nitrate, which may have legitimate nonexplosive uses and may have been detonated accidentally in storage, and those substances such as military explosives whose presence at the origin of an explosion would imply a purposeful design. Further subdivision of this latter group by use of definitive chemical identification schemes could aid in determining the source of supply and possibly the perpetrator.
Research fellow, Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.
De Forest, PR
Associate professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, New York, N.Y.
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