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January 19, 2013. Midnight. Georgetown. Washington, D.C.
Hector Santiago worked silently at his large work bench. Earlier this week, he had
prepared his own homemade batch of C4 plastic explosives. He had avoided the C4
produced by most commercial manufacturers because explosives manufacturers
frequently added chemical markers, such as ―DMDNB,‖ which could be easily picked up
by the Secret Service in a security sweep. He needed to be absolutely sure that this C4
went undetected. Next to his work bench were several barrels of RDX in powder form,
which had been smuggled out of an Alexandria, Virginia chemical plant. RDX, or ―royal
demolition explosive,‖ was the active explosive material in C4.
Last week, in a makeshift chemical lab in his dingy two-bedroom Georgetown
apartment, Santiago prepared the C4. In a large basin, he added water to the powder
RDX to form a white slurry. Then, in a separate bowl, he dissolved the polyisobutylene
binder into a solvent. The binder made the explosive material much more resistant to
force and heat, rendering the C4 more stable. By adding the binder, the C4 could handle
rough treatment without exploding. Santiago knew that even a rifle shot at the clay
material would not cause it to explode. Only a detonator or blasting cap could do the
trick. Santiago combined the binder and RDX and whipped the mixture with an
industrial sized cake mixer. Then he added the sebacate ―plasticizer,‖ which gave the
material its malleability and the texture of modeling clay. As Santaiago had learned in
the camps in Afghanistan, the recipe was 91 parts RDX, 5.3 parts di(2-ethylhexyl)
sebacate, 2.1 parts polyisobutylene, and 1.6 percent motor oil. Once the parts were
mixed together adequately, the solvent and water had to be removed. Through a series of
handmade mesh and cheesecloth filters, Santiago strained out the solvent. Finally, the
material was left out to dry under heat lamps, which removed most of the water.
Santiago collected the material on large aluminum sheets, and then cut the final product
into a series of white clay moldable bricks.
In his training, Santiago learned that C4 had become the weapon of choice for
terrorists. Due to its stability, it could be carried relatively easy. Its soft composition
made it easier to smuggle through lax security posts. And its malleability allowed it to be
transported in any number of shapes. For example, C4 could be molded to appear like
plastic black wheels on a suitcase. In October 2000, terrorists used C4 to attack the
U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 Navy personnel. In 1996, terrorists used C4 to blow up the
military barracks in Saudi Arabia. A terrorist had even attempted to smuggle C4 on a
commercial airliner in his shoe.
Laying on its side, in the middle of Santiago‘s artist‘s work bench, was a nine foot-
tall plaster statue of St. Anthony of Padua. He was pictured in a plain brown hooded
monk‘s robe, with a rope around the waist. St. Anthony was holding a small haloed child
in one hand and a copper-colored Bible in the other. Earlier this afternoon, Santiago had
taken the bricks of homemade C4 and meticulously applied a layer of C4 explosives
around the entire statue like a mud mask. With his fingers, he gently molded the material
into the grooves and indentations on the statue. After the coating was complete, Santiago
then placed another layer of plaster over the C4 layer, gently painting the white mix over
every inch of the statue. Without the DMDNB chemical marker, it was extremely