Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things that go BOOM in the night

Whether we are discussing the deadly actions of organized crime, terrorists, street gangs, or psychologically impaired individuals it is critical that we understand more about their tactics in order to defend against them.

Bombings. Perhaps the most well known and most used of any terrorist tactic. Car bombs, pipe bombs, letter bombs, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), bombs laced with poisons, toxins and nails, bombs in trucks, backpacks, in luggage on planes, and strapped to human bodies.

Bombs can be detonated by cell phones, trip wires, booby traps, radio controlled devices, detonators attached to the bomber, altitude sensors, and timers. He / she may even utilize something seemingly innocuous such as remote controlled model airplanes, cars, boats, or other similar devices.

Bombs can be made from military grade explosives such as Semtex, C-4, PETN, hand grenades, mortar shells, TNT, and similar chemicals and devices. They can be high tech devices made from pastes and binary liquids (two inert substances that when combined become explosive.) They can be made from simple ingredients found in the home, store, and local farmer's supply. Many common bombs used by the most sophisticated bombers are made from a combination of fertilizer and some form of petroleum product. Timothy McVeigh used such a bomb.

Bombs can carry extra killing power as well beyond the explosion itself. Many bombers place nails, ball bearings, marbles, nuts and bolts as well as other items that can produce “shrapnel” that upon explosion fly out and kill more victims than simple blast waves and fire. Some bombs can include ingredients such as cyanide or chlorine and other toxins. The ultimate nightmare devices include radiological devices and nuclear weapons. Radiological devices are regular explosive devices with radioactive materials attached to the bomb in solid or more effectively in powder form. Radiological devices cause more than immediate death, the effects can be long term in that those exposed to the radiation may die months or years later from cancer.

Bombs can make terrorist actions safer for the terrorist, if he is not a suicide bomber, in that the bomber doesn't have to be present to kill. While avoiding a bombing can be difficult as it can come without warning and with limited predictability there are some instances where you can improve your chances of surviving some bomb based attacks.

The Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, targeted those he perceived as enemies, however it is believed he had no personal relationship with any of his victims. The targets of terrorism are most commonly innocent bystanders, the public, or other groups perceived to be affiliated with whomever or whatever government / ideology / religion the terrorist(s) consider themselves at war with. Then there is also the possibility of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What to look for with anonymous or ‘long distance’ bombers:

Unattended packages, luggage, backpacks, briefcases and similar items in places that could be considered of high value for an attack.

Vehicles particularly trucks, vans, ambulances etc…parked in strategic places. Such as in front of official buildings, near support columns of buildings, large public gathering places, or symbolic targets. One possible key to spotting this kind of activity is observing the driver park and then hastily leave the scene without ever going into the building.

Packages delivered with no return address or otherwise unknown senders (unexpected packages)

If you are in an area that could be considered “high risk” ( especially if terrorist activity is expected) such as a large sporting event, a symbolic event, or political / religious gathering avoid these things when possible:

Standing near garbage cans and similar containers less likely to be checked

Standing or sitting in large open areas (without the protection of some sort of barriers)

Standing near objects that could be bombs in disguise (fire extinguishers / boxes / other containers)

Sitting in the center of a bus or even at the front. (suicide bombers most often detonate themselves in the center to do the most damage or prematurely upon entering the bus)

Sitting under a balcony (a bomb in a place such as a theater will most likely be detonated where the most people can be killed by the explosion and consequential collapse of a structure.)

Sitting with your back to the door

To be continued...