All you need to know about PETN

PETN or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is a powerful plastic explosive that has been used by terrorists in the past. (Representative image) (Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 14, 2017, 10.36 AM (IST)

In a major security breach, 150 grams of deadly plastic explosive PETN or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate was found in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly premises on July 12. Uttar Pradesh chief minister called it a conspiracy for a terrorist attack and the UP assembly has unanimously asked for a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the matter.

But what exactly is PETN? We take a look at the deadly plastic explosive which has been used in a number of terrorist plots in the past. 

What is PETN?

PETN or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is a powerful plastic explosive that has been used by terrorists in the past as it is difficult to detect during security checks.  

Many countries have imposed strict restrictions on the purchase of the chemical but it can be obtained from the black market, according to a report in The Guardian. 

PETN is used by the military and in the mining industry, the report said.

Origins of PETN

PETN was first prepared and patented in 1894 by explosives manufacturer Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff and it was used by the German military in the First World War. 

Bombings which used PETN  

The plastic explosive is preferred by terrorists as it is hard to detect. Terrorists have used the chemical explosive in several bombings in the past. 

In 2001, "shoe bomber" Richard Reid tried to detonate PETN on an American Airlines plane from Paris to Miami but failed to do so. Later, when he was arrested, he wrote a letter expressing his regret at not being able to execute the bombings.

In 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a failed attempt, tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane to Detroit. He hid the explosives in his underwear and was burnt himself in the process of detonating the bomb.

In 2010, the cargo plane bomb plot hatched by al Qaeda was prevented by alert security agencies when the two planes carrying PETN were intercepted and PETN was found on them.

The chemical was also found to be used in the explosives used in the Delhi High Court bombings in 2011 which killed 17 people.