AD - Andorra AE - United Arab Emirates AF - Afghanistan AG - Antigua and Barbuda AI - Anguilla AL - Albania AM - Armenia AO - Angola AQ - Antarctica AR - Argentina AS - American Samoa AT - Austria AU - Australia AW - Aruba AX - Åland Islands AZ - Azerbaijan BA - Bosnia and Herzegovina BB - Barbados BD - Bangladesh BE - Belgium BF - Burkina Faso BG - Bulgaria BH - Bahrain BI - Burundi BJ - Benin BL - Saint Barthélemy BM - Bermuda BN - Brunei Darussalam BO - Bolivia (Plurinational State of) BR - Brazil BS - Bahamas BT - Bhutan BV - Bouvet sland BW - Botswana BY - Belarus BZ - Belize CA - Canada CC - Cocos (Keeling) Islands CD - Congo (Democratic Republic of the) CF - Central African Republic CG - Republic of the Congo CH - Switzerland CI - Côte d'Ivoire CK - Cook Islands CL - Chile CM - Cameroon CN - China CO - Colombia CR - Costa Rica CU - Cuba CV - Cabo Verde CX - Christmas Island CY - Cyprus CZ - Czech Republic DE - Germany DJ - Djibouti DK - Denmark DM - Dominica DO - Dominican Republic DZ - Algeria EC - Ecuador EE - Estonia EG - Egypt EH - Western Sahara ER - Eritrea ES - Spain ET - Ethiopia FI - Finland FJ - Fiji FK - Falkland Islands (Malvinas) FM - Micronesia (Federated States of) FO - Faroe Islands FR - France GA - Gabon GB - United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland GD - Grenada GE - Georgia (country) GF - French Guiana GG - Guernsey GH - Ghana GI - Gibraltar GL - Greenland GM - Gambia GN - Guinea GP - Guadeloupe GQ - Equatorial Guinea GR - Greece GS - South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands GT - Guatemala GU - Guam GW - Guinea-Bissau GY - Guyana HK - Hong Kong HM - Heard Island and McDonald Islands HN - Honduras HR - Croatia HT - Haiti HU - Hungary ID - Indonesia IE - Republic of Ireland IL - Israel IM - Isle of Man IN - India IO - British Indian Ocean Territory IQ - Iraq IR - Iran (Islamic Republic of) IS - Iceland IT - Italy JE - Jersey JM - Jamaica JO - Jordan KE - Kenya KG - Kyrgyzstan KH - Cambodia KI - Kiribati KM - Comoros KN - Saint Kitts and Nevis KP - North Korea KR - Korea (Republic of) KW - Kuwait KY - Cayman Islands KZ - Kazakhstan LA - Lao People's Democratic Republic LB - Lebanon LC - Saint Lucia LI - Liechtenstein LK - Sri Lanka LR - Liberia LS - Lesotho LT - Lithuania LU - Luxembourg LV - Latvia LY - Libya MA - Morocco MC - Monaco MD - Moldova (Republic of) ME - Montenegro MG - Madagascar MH - Marshall Islands MK - Republic of Macedonia ML - Mali MM - Myanmar MN - Mongolia MO - Macao MP - Northern Mariana Islands MQ - Martinique MR - Mauritania MS - Montserrat MT - Malta MU - Mauritius MV - Maldives MW - Malawi MX - Mexico MY - Malaysia MZ - Mozambique NA - Namibia NC - New Caledonia NE - Niger NF - Norfolk Island NG - Nigeria NI - Nicaragua NL - Netherlands NO - Norway NP - Nepal NR - Nauru NU - Niue NZ - New Zealand OM - Oman PA - Panama PE - Peru PF - French Polynesia PG - Papua New Guinea PH - Philippines PK - Pakistan PL - Poland PM - Saint Pierre and Miquelon PN - Pitcairn PR - Puerto Rico PS - State of Palestine PT - Portugal PW - Palau PY - Paraguay QA - Qatar RE - Réunion RO - Romania RS - Serbia RU - Russian Federation RW - Rwanda SA - Saudi Arabia SB - Solomon Islands SC - Seychelles SD - Sudan SE - Sweden SG - Singapore SH - Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha SI - Slovenia SJ - Svalbard and Jan Mayen SK - Slovakia SL - Sierra Leone SM - San Marino SN - Senegal SO - Somalia SR - Suriname ST - Sao Tome and Principe SV - El Salvador SY - Syrian Arab Republic SZ - Swaziland TC - Turks and Caicos Islands TD - Chad TF - French Southern Territories TG - Togo TH - Thailand TJ - Tajikistan TK - Tokelau TL - Timor-Leste TM - Turkmenistan TN - Tunisia TO - Tonga TR - Turkey TT - Trinidad and Tobago TV - Tuvalu TW - Taiwan TZ - Tanzania, United Republic of UA - Ukraine UG - Uganda UM - United States Minor Outlying Islands US - United States of America UY - Uruguay UZ - Uzbekistan VA - Vatican City State VC - Saint Vincent and the Grenadines VE - Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) VG - British Virgin Islands VI - United States Virgin Islands VN - Viet Nam VU - Vanuatu WF - Wallis and Futuna WS - Samoa YE - Yemen YT - Mayotte ZA - South Africa ZM - Zambia ZW - Zimbabwe
Hydrogen peroxide and acetone are used to make triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, a powerful explosive with the consistency of granulated sugar used by operatives in their attacks against Paris and Brussels. The bombers who killed 52 in London in 2005 used it, and al Qaeda operative Richard Reid stuffed it in his shoes in a failed attempt to bring down an airliner flying from the U.K. to the U.S. in 2001.
Ehud Keinan, an Israeli chemist and one of the world’s leading authorities on TATP, said the explosive can be made with minimal technical skill and household equipment. “You can start in the evening, and in the morning it will be ready,” Mr. Keinan said.
The EU’s regulatory system, among the strictest in the world, depends on businesses reporting suspicious transactions of hydrogen peroxide, acetone and a number of other chemicals to the police. Businesses are urged to look for a number of red flags, such as if the customer’s use for the chemical is unclear or the purchase is made using large amounts of cash. The rules also ban consumers from owning seven potentially dangerous chemical solutions, including hydrogen peroxide solution, in concentrations higher than 12%.
But the fact that the chemicals have so many commercial applications—from disinfecting pools to removing nail polish—makes identifying suspicious transactions challenging. Authorities and experts say the huge quantity of legitimate trade of such widely-used chemicals means finding suspicious transactions is effectively like picking a needle out of a haystack.
“It’s a very difficult area because there are thousands of legitimate uses for these substances,” said Peter Newport, chief executive of the Chemical Business Association, which represents U.K. chemical distributors.
Some officials have also expressed worries that not all of the 28 EU governments have swiftly implemented the regulations, failing, for example, to create a contact point in law enforcement that would investigate suspicious transactions.
It remains unclear how the Islamic State operatives obtained the chemicals. An official with the Belgian Association of Chemical Distributors wasn’t aware of any suspicious transactions reported to the police in recent months. A Belgian police spokesman declined to comment.
The monitoring program used by customs agencies, called Global Shield, was sought by U.S. authorities seeking to stop the flow of bomb-making chemicals into Afghanistan, where insurgents used them to build bombs that were killing U.S. troops. These chemicals were mainly ammonium-nitrate fertilizer or potassium chlorate shipped from China for use in Pakistan’s match industry and then smuggled across the border.
Now shipments of these chemicals crisscrossing the globe are monitored through a system maintained at the World Customs Organization in Brussels. Customs agencies are supposed to warn each other about suspicious shipments, using some of the same criteria identified in the European regulations.
TATP poses a particularly serious threat to aviation, says Mr. Keinan. The chemical isn’t detectable, he says, by the machines installed at many airports, which are able to uncover more common, nitrogen-based explosives such as TNT. Dogs can also be trained to detect the material.