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Top 10 loser bombers

Where a few plotters of terror and mayhem succeed, many more fail in spectacular fashion. Here's a list of the standouts.

A police officer in New York's Times Square on May 3, 2010, two days after a thwarted car bombing. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

BOSTON — We begin with a simple truism: All bombers are losers.

Now consider our list of the top-10 "loser bombers" — well, nine of them would-be bombers whose equipment, strategy, conviction or brains failed them when it mattered most, and one (very) amateur Kamikaze pilot.

What all 10 have in common is beyond question — they failed to achieve much more than either getting arrested or getting killed. 

This is by no means an attempt to make light of what were, for the most part, premeditated and violent attacks intended to kill, wreck or maim an unspecified number and type of victim. Two of the attacks did, indeed, kill a total of seven people.

Rather it's an reminder that the Times Square scare that has dominated international headlines for the better part of a week is only the latest in a long line of thankfully ill-conceived and poorly executed terrorist acts.

While investigators sort out exactly who's behind it and why, let's take a trip down memory lane:

1. Times Square bomb attack (2010)

United States authorities are still investigating a thwarted car bombing in New York's Times Square, but prosecutors have already charged Faisal Shahzad, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, with five counts, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and trying to kill and maim people within the U.S. Shahzad had recently purchased the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder found abandoned in Times Square on May 1 packed with enough fuel, fertilizer and explosives to ignite a massive fireball. An onboard fuse was left lit and smoldering. Investigators are hunting for a man who was caught on tape moments after the SUV was ditched (and subsequently reported to police by a street vendor, unleashing another monster of sorts), but a law enforcement official told the AP on Wednesday that the authorities did not believe there were any other suspects in the plot and that several arrests in Pakistan in the past two days were not related. The authorities have since said that Shahzad,  the 30-year-old son of a retired air force officer in Pakistan, admitted rigging the Pathfinder with a crude bomb of firecrackers, propane and alarm clocks based on explosives training he received in Pakistan. 

 An undated image, obtained from, showing Faisal Shahzad, suspected of driving a bomb-laden SUV into New York's Time Square on May 1. (Reuters)

2. Christmas Day "underpants bomber" (2009)

The method might have been unorthodox, but the motive of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (a.k.a. "the underpants bomber") — a Muslim Nigerian citizen who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit — seems tiresomely familiar: A direct assault on the U.S. for perceived misdeeds in a foreign land. According to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the spin-off terror group that claimed to have trained and equipped Abdulmutallab, the failed attack was a response to American-backed airstrikes targeting its operations in Yemen earlier in the month. Turns out Abdulmutallab spent significant time in Yemen under the tutelage of Anwar al-Awlaki, who preaches violent uprising against the West and has been linked to some of the most infamous terrorist attacks on American soil, including 9/11 and the Fort Hood shootings. The fresh-faced engineering graduate's own father tried to warn authorities of his son's wayward behavior.


Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Muslim Nigerian citizen who attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. (Reuters)

3. London car bombs (2007)

Two massive car bombs were discovered on June 29, 2007, in the heart of London's West End and disabled before they could be detonated. Ambulance officers attending a minor incident reported the first car in the early morning in Haymarket after noticing suspicious fumes. The second device was discovered soon after in the same area of the city after the car carrying it was ticketed for illegal parking and towed. Staff at the pound noticed a strong smell of petrol and reported the car to police when they heard about the first device.