Bomb Laden Car In Kano, Nigeria

Frank Mba: How To Identify A Suicide Bomber And His Method Of Operation (2)

Before I begin my discourse on the modus operandi used by suicide bombers to carry out their operations, it is very important to make a clear distinction between suicide bomb attacks and other forms of terrorist attacks that are devoid of suicidal elements.

As a matter of fact, suicide bombing is just one of the several methods used by terrorists in carrying out their attacks. While virtually all suicide attacks are terror attacks, not all terror attacks are suicidal in nature. A suicide attack is an offensive operation which its success depends largely upon the death of the perpetrator in order to kill innocent persons and destroy property.

The modus operandi and weapons used depend largely on the nature of the target, access to the target, security arrangements around the target, the amount of destruction and publicity which the terrorist intends to accomplish.

As earlier stated, suicide attack has continued to be a choice method of attack by both large and small terror organizations. Its cost-effectiveness, lethality, ability to cause confusion as well as the tremendous amount of publicity and fears it generates clearly make it appealing to the average terrorist.

Below are some of the methods used by suicide bombers to execute their criminal and despicable acts:

A lone suicide bomber may attach an explosive to his body: Preventing such a person from having access into the vicinity of a target location is extremely difficult. Even if he is detected, safe arrest and defusing the explosives successfully are extremely difficult. However, the impact of such explosives is usually not as destructive as those used in other methods that will be discussed later.

You may need to know that sometimes, a suicide bomber is escorted by his ‘mentor’ up to the point where he will carry out the attack before leaving the bomber alone. The purpose of this is to direct and encourage the attacker particularly when his mentor is not sure whether the attacker will eventually change his mind if not thoroughly supervised. It is indeed puzzling why a young man should accept to carry out a suicide attack when his mentor himself is not willing to do so. Sponsors and mentors of suicide attacks mostly use other people’s children and hirelings instead of their own children.

In the case of a timed-bomb, sometimes, it detonates before the attacker gets to the target area. Recall the 2012 case of a 14–yearold boy in Maiduguri who attached timed-explosive around his body and wore a jacket to cover it. While trying to gain access to where the Shehu of Borno and other high personalities were at a religious gathering, the bomb went off, killing five persons including the Policeman who was preventing him from having access to the venue.

Suicide bomber may conceal explosives inside the booth of his vehicle. A good case of this is the recent discovery at Damaturu of a bomber who, having loaded his vehicle with explosives, decided to cover it with animal feeds. He was however arrested by vigilant police officers on duty before he got to his target. A suicide bomber will use his vehicle heavily loaded with explosives to cause serious damage by forcefully driving as if his vehicle’s brake system had failed just to get to his target location. Another good example of this particular method was used during the Force Headquarters attack, This Day Newspaper attack, the UN building attack and the infamous attack on Madala Catholic Church, among others.

Some of these bombs are constructed in such a way that any attempt by the suicide bomber to come out of the car, will cause detonation before he gets to his target area. This explains why he will never respond to any authoritative voice or instruction from any security agents. Yet, others are controlled by the suicide bomber himself and sometimes not timed but can be manipulated with the use of remote control devices.

These days, terrorists are increasingly targeting Airlines. The 9/11 attack and the failed attack on the US-bound Airline by AbdulMutalab exemplify this trend.

Suicide bomber may also carry an explosive device concealed in a receptacle- bag, briefcase, box, suitcase or similar container that fits the target environment to be detonated at the target vicinity. A good example of this method was used at a drinking bar in Wulari market,Maiduguri, where a bomb concealed in a small food-flask was given to a boy of less than 8 years-old to drop at a joint where customers were in large numbers. The boy might not have accepted to be a suicide bomber but he also died in the process!

In all these situations, experience has shown that it is not the mere sound from the explosion of the bomb that actually kills but the destructive and injurious effects resulting from  the mixture of metallic objects such as shrapnel, projectiles, nails, fuel and other dangerous substances in the explosives. That is why the farther one stays away from the explosion scene, the safer one may be, vice-versa.


CSP Frank Mba, an alumnus of many distinguished academic institutions, studied Law at the University of Lagos, Akoka and the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. He was equally at the University of Dundee, Scotland where he obtained a Masters Degree in Law. Besides his core academic trainings, CSP Mba has attended numerous Professional Police Courses in some of the best Law Enforcement Institutions in countries like Botswana, Italy, Israel, USA, amongst others. A member of the Nigeria Police Contingent to the UN Peace Keeping Mission in Liberia between 2006 and 2007, Frank, in the past two decades has served the Nigeria Police Force in several capacities. He is currently the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO).


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