There's a thought provoking piece in today's New York Times casting doubt on whether the four men who died in the explosions on the 7th of July were suicide bombers at all.
"Technically they're not suicide bombers," said one police officer familiar with the investigation. "Scotland Yard has not said they are. Even if we may think they probably were suicide bombers, the police have not said this outright."
The article points to the facts that all four dead men had purchased return tickets from Luton to London, that their car had a seven day parking sticker on it, that the explosives in the car were for a later attack (and not a booby trap as some of the British media surmised), that all four men retained their driving licenses and that no notes, videotapes or website declaration was left behind.
If indeed the men were not intent on dying it puts a different spin on the attacks and more importantly how the police handle suspects. One man has died already because police believed he was about to trigger a device (despite the fact that he had ample time to trigger a device elsewhere and kill just as many people) so of course if it can be ascertained that suicide bombers are not loose on the transport network it means that the police can act as they would with regular criminals as opposed to fanatics.
If the men were not suicide bombers, some of the most basic assumptions of the investigation would change. On one level, the idea makes the plot less ominous. It is much easier to recruit "mules" who will carry and deposit explosives than people who are prepared to die.
The New York Times requires a quick (but annoying) registration to access the story. There is always Bug Me Not for our more impatient readers.