Before now, terrorism seemed to be restricted to a few isolated places, such as Northern Ireland, the Basque Country in northern Spain, and some areas of the Middle East. Now, especially since September 11, 2001, with the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, it has mushroomed into a worldwide phenomenon, springing up in paradisiac Bali, Madrid, Spain, London, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Mali and even Nigeria.
Terrorism is not a new development. Terrorism is an unlawful use or threatened use of force by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological, political, religious, or cultural reasons. Terrorism is aimed at non-combatants. The terrorists use violence for dramatic purposes – instilling fear in the target audience is often more important than the physical result. This deliberate creation of fear is what distinguishes terrorism from simple murder or assault.
The use of violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, repeatedly for ideological, political, religious, or cultural reasons is rooted in the past. Examples include the first century Judaea, a violent group called the Zealots who pushed for Jewish independence from Rome. Their most ardent adherents known as Sicarii or Dagger men were very dangerous and highly dreaded. They were known for slitting the throats of their enemies or stabbing them in the back. Between 66 C. E. and 73 C. E., the Zealots seized the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea, butchered the Roman garrison, made the mountaintop fastness their operational base and sortied from there to harass and terrorize the imperial authorities. In 73 C. E., the Roman Tenth Legion led by Governor Flavius Silva recaptured Masada without defeating the Zealots, as 960 of them, except two women and five children, committed suicide rather than give in to Rome. Many historians view the Zealots as the start of terrorism as we know it today.
Terrorism is also rooted in most religion including Christendom. Starting 1095 and continuing for two centuries, the Crusader Armies repeatedly crossed between Europe and the Middle East and were vehemently opposed by Muslim forces from Asia and North Africa. The issue was the control of Jerusalem and each side tried to gain advantage. In their several battles, those “Holy Warriors” hacked one another to pieces. They also used their swords and battle axes on mere bystanders. The Crusaders entry into Jerusalem was rightly pictured by William of Tyre, a 12th century clergyman thus:
“They went together through the streets with their swords and spears in hand. All them that they met they slew and smote right down, men, women, children, spearing none…. They slew so many in the streets that there were heaps of dead bodies, and one might not go nor pass but upon them that so lay dead…. There was so much blood shed that the channels and gutters ran all with blood and all the streets of the town were covered with dead men”.
Today, terrorists use explosives and firearms with gruesome, fatal results. The Cambodia, Liberia, Sierra Leone killing fields is self-explanatory. From 1914 when the world was plunged into World War I in which 20 million people died and its sequel World War II with its concentration camps, wicked slaughtering of civilians in bombing raids, and acts of retribution on innocent people, to our time mankind has continue to suffer from terrorist activity in many countries including Nigeria. Yet many people today act as if history had no lessons for modern man. On a regular basis, terrorist attacks kill hundreds, maim thousands, and rob millions of their right to safety and peace of mind. Bombs explode in Schools, Churches, Mosques, Motor Parks, Marketplaces, Cinema Viewing Centers; Offices reduce to ruin, villages burn to the ground, women raped, young boys and girls taken captive and made sex-slaves and child-soldiers, people die. In spite of stringent laws and global condemnation, this brutal routine does not seem to abate.
Terrorist incidents can be classified according to the techniques used. There are many techniques, but generally each cell favours and specializes in the use of one or more. The techniques and tactics used tend to establish a distinct, identifying method of operation. By studying the patterns of its acts, much can be learned about the terrorist organization. This information is used in implementing anti-terrorism measures and conducting counterterrorism operations. A terrorist organization may use any or all of the techniques identified below.
Bomb is any weapon designed to explode (or ignite as in the case of incendiary bomb) at a particular time or when it is dropped, thrown or detonated in any way. Bombs can be constructed to look like almost anything and can be placed or delivered in many number of ways. The probability of finding a bomb that looks like the stereotypical bomb is almost nonexistent. The only common denominator among bombs is that they are designed to explode. Most bombs are homemade and are limited in their design only by the imagination of and resources available to the bomber. Bombs and firearms have proved to be the Nigerian terrorists’ favourite. For instance, the Boko Haram terrorist group is known to have used AK-47 assault rifles, IEDs, and petrol bombs to attack markets, motor parks, churches and schools. They have also used weapons like mortals and rocket-propelled grenades to deliver explosives to targets such as police stations and army barracks. Recent discovering by our gallant soldiers have revealed the use of more sophisticated weapons by Boko Haram.
Most bombs are improvised and so are known as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and they include letter bombs, packaged bombs, automobile ignition bombs, timer bombs, and remotely detonated bombs among others. These bombs are further categorized based on their means of delivery. However, we shall limit ourselves to bombs delivered by letters, individuals and vehicles as they form the most effective weapons in the Nigerian terrorists’ arsenal.
a. Letter Bomb
This includes parcel or packet bomb or anything bomb delivered by post/courier. Letter bomb is not new in Nigeria; Dele Giwa, Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of the Newswatch Magazine was murdered in Lagos on October 19, 1986 by means of letter bomb.
b. Person-borne Bomb
This includes bombs carried in containers such as rucksack, briefcase, handbag, etc. which are chosen to blend in easily with the target surroundings; or concealed on the body. This is Boko Haram’s favourite.
c. Vehicle-borne Bomb
These are bombs delivered by bicycle, motor-cycle, car, lorry etc. Boko Haram preferred vehicle-borne bomb because of its ease of delivering, impacts and ability to have a devastating effects and mass casualties. The Friday 26th August, 2011 morning attack on the United Nations building in Abuja in which over 18 people died when a car crashed through two security barriers and rammed into the building’s reception before exploding was a good example of a suicide car bombing.
One advantage to the terrorist in using bomb is the low probability of apprehension. However, a careful analysis of bomb incidents can lead to the identification of the terrorists, actual goals, methods, frequency of attack, and probable targets. This information is useful for developing protective measures and can lead to apprehension of the terrorists.
Assassination is an old and frequently used technique of terrorism. Its purpose is usually two-fold: Elimination of effective or perceived enemies and intimidation of the masses. The Boko Haram insurgents have claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of British, Italian, and German hostages; the assassination of Justice Barrister Zannah Mallam Gana, the Borno State Commissioner for Justice; the assassination of government, religious, and traditional figures among others.
Kidnapping is usually used to gain recognition, free comrades from prisons (the ongoing negotiation to swap 30 Chibok School girls for 18 Boko Haram commanders is a good example), or raise funds for the terrorist organization.
If used to extort media exposure for manifesto, the victim(s) is an important Government or group figure. Again, the Chibok Schoolgirls’ abduction episode which generated global condemnation and reaction is a good example. For the terrorists, this technique entails great risks because it involves the use of holding areas, guards, communications, support activities and possible movement. All this activity can lead to compromise.
4. Hostage Barricade
Hostage barricade is the most spectacular of the terrorist acts. It is almost certain to gain widespread publicity from the media and thus recognition of the terrorist organization and the cause it represents. Aircraft hijackings, seizures of buildings or forests are all forms of hostage barricade. Terrorists who seize planes, places or buildings and kidnap occupants usually claim to have some types of explosive weapons. Their demands typically include media exposure for propaganda, ransoms, release of imprisoned comrades, granting of unconditional amnesty, or safe passage to a sanctuary in exchange for the release of the hostage.
The over 276 girls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State are held hostage in the Sambisa forest which is now the stronghold of the Boko Haram terrorists group. The Sambasi forest is now Boko Haram’s operational base and they sortie from there to harass and terrorize almost the northern Nigeria states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno Adamawa, and Kaduna and recently Kogi, Niger, Sokoto, Taraba, and Plateau States and Abuja and parts of Cameroon.
5. Arson/Fire Bombings
Arson/fire bombings are known terrorist tactics. Book Haram has successfully adopted the strategy severally. Suicide bombings of Churches in Kaduna and Jos on Easter day; the suicide bombings of This Day newspaper offices in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26; the bombings of multiple Churches in Bauchi, Plateau and Kaduna States in June 2012; the dual Nyanya bombings in Abuja, etc. are good examples of the use of arson/fire bombs by Boko Haram.
From the foregoing it is clear that the Boko Haram terrorists have often applied all the five techniques in recent times.
Who are these hackers of death? How can we identify them? A suicide bomber is a terrorist personified. The Suicide bomber blows himself up in order to attack people or property. He may attach explosives to his body, which permits him to access crowded areas where placing explosives would otherwise be difficult. He may stock the vehicle with bombs and detonate it in a crowded area. Other suicide tactics involve using vehicles to create lethal accidents or run into buildings.
Suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Iraq have driven trucks with explosives into buildings to attack them. In the United States, the 9/11 hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The bombing of the United Nations Office in Abuja was by driven vehicle with explosives into the building. Boko Haram’s 2011 attack on the UN was the first suicide bombing ever carried out in Nigeria. The group’s cells and nodes are spreading fast across the country following persistence attack on their stronghold in northeastern Nigeria.
The suicide attacker knows that he will die for his cause, and is therefore considered the most committed of terrorist. However, there is much professional speculation about the motivations and psychological makeup of the suicide bomber. There are also several ways to identify terrorist. Few among include:
Terrorist can be identified by clothes unsuited for the time of the year. For instance, wearing a coat or jacket in summer; a person trying to blend with his surroundings by his dress and behavior, though he doesn’t belong to the group; anything protruding unnaturally under his clothing as these could be arms or explosives.
A terrorist may likely appear clean-shave or wear low hair-cut, focused and extra vigilant on his targets and surroundings; his hands placed in the pockets around the button of the detonator, ready to set off the bomb at the slightest opportunity; and there is usually signs of drug use, aggressiveness, restlessness, irritation and nervousness.
He tries to blend into a group which he clearly does not belong to. Cases abound where non-Christians have attended Church services only to carry out reconnaissance operations, identify vulnerable areas before embarking on actual attack.
The terrorist can be known by the way he walks. In most cases, he walks awkwardly or clumsily in an unusual and odd manner due to his unsuitable attire and the weight of explosives he is carrying on his body. He is always in a hurry and desperate to reach his targets, as well as evasive – trying to avoid security agents and other security conscious individuals who are likely to thwart his mission.
Suspicious vehicles can be identified by the look of its License-plate. In most cases, the license plate looks “improved” or mismatched (different front and back plates); a vehicle parked suspiciously for a prolonged time in a central place or in a no-parking area; the vehicle’s rear sags noticeably.
Citizens’ Roles in Averting Terrorist Attacks
In case you suspect any person, vehicle or something, call the police at once, and give as many details as possible about the suspect, object or vehicle. While giving the information to the police on the telephone, try to keep an eye on the suspect, or object or vehicle from a distance; wait for the arrival of the police force.
During a terrorist’s attack, leave the site immediately by moving to an open space or protected area; avoid as best as you can, proximity to tall buildings, glass windows, and vehicles; and obey police instructions.
As soon as the incident is over, if police and other emergency rescue workers have not arrived yet, call the police immediately, follow instructions of the police and rescue team; do not form or join a crowd; leave the area immediately as there may be additional explosives planted around the area; make way for rescue vehicles; observe your surroundings and report to the police immediately any information that may help apprehend suspects or locate a vehicle involved in the attack.
If you are a car dealer, satisfy yourself about the genuineness of both parties, particularly the buyer before finalizing the deal. Be careful while organizing a deal involving Ambassadorial Cars and motorcycles as they are most likely to be used for terrorist operations.
If you are a landlord or a property dealer, do not let out your premises without satisfying yourself about the antecedents of the tenant; and by reporting to the nearest police station about any suspicious person trying to rent out premises.
If you own a Guest House, Ledge, or Hotel, insist on the identification documents before giving a room to a guest; and do not hesitate to report to the nearest police any suspicious guest.
As a citizen you can help ensure security in your area by reporting unclaimed handbags or objects or vehicles to the police. Inform the police about any suspicious person.
Avoid hard drugs centers. Drugs attract criminals and encourage crimes. A drug spot in your vicinity should be promptly reported to the police.
You are your own primary security service provider, the police and other security agents are there to provide you secondary security services! Information you volunteer to the police today can save you from disaster tomorrow. Be wise!