The car bomb which severed a man’s legs on Monday was filled with screws and ball bearings, leading experts to think it was intended to cause “maximum damage”, this newspaper has learnt.

Sources close to the investigation said that the explosive device which maimed 35-year-old Josef Cassar had shot shrapnel across the cabin of his Ford Transit van, ripping through the bones and tissue in both of his legs.

Mr Cassar, the sole director of S&T Services Ltd, a haulage company based in Marsa, was yesterday taken out of the Intensive Treatment Unit at Mater Dei Hospital and is now in a position to be questioned for the first time by investigating officers.

The bomb, which had been strapped under the driver’s side of the van, exploded during afternoon rush hour traffic at about 6.15pm on Aldo Moro Street, Marsa.

The contents of the bomb not only explain three mystery holes on the front of Mr Cassar’s windscreen, but also shed light on the injuries sustained by the driver of an Opel Zafira that was in the lane next to him.

The contents of the bomb explain three mystery holes on the front of Mr Cassar’s windscreen

Sources said a ball bearing from the bomb shot out of Mr Cassar’s van, smashed through the passenger window of the Opel and hit its rear-view mirror, which broke off the windscreen and hit the Opel’s 37-year-old driver in the head.

Anthony Abela Medici, a retired forensics expert, said that the bomb justified the police treating it as a suspected attempted homicide,  but it could also have been intended to maim Mr Cassar.

Asked what types of bombs were normally used in Malta, he said there were three. Those that use a chemical necessary for controlled explosions at quarries were perhaps the most difficult to come by, as they were kept under lock and key and delivered by armed guards.

The bombs used up until the 1980s utilised undetonated explosives lifted from WWII bombs, while the deadliest bombs were those which used “high potency” Sentex, a plastic explosive also known as C4, which was normally imported illegally from Sicily, Prof. Abela Medici said.

All of these, he added, required a detonator, which was normally a mobile phone.

Police sources yesterday confirmed that parts of a mobile phone had been discovered where the blast went off and they were being analysed by experts. The van was also still being studied by forensic scientists.

Police and court experts were also reviewing CCTV footage provided by various businesses in the Marsa area. This was because the bomb may have been triggered by someone who wanted to see the van drive past.

Prof. Abela Medici said that the police would likely also be surveying all calls and messages sent from the area in a bid to try to narrow down a possible trigger man.

Police sources said Mr Cassar had claimed to have no idea who could have been behind the incident. He has been placed under 24/7 police protection.

Monday’s bombing was the second such attack this year. In January, Martin Cachia, 56, was killed when a bomb destroyed his car in Marsascala.

The car bomb was filled with screws and ball bearings, which explains the damage to the windscreen of Josef Cassar’s van. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

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