IDENTIFYING A TERRORIST IN YOUR
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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
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!