The terrorist bomb or Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has become the weapon of choice for many terrorist groups around the world. With its’ ability to indiscriminately kill, injure and maim large numbers of people in a single incident, terrorist have come to use to them to create fear amongst civilian populations around the world in pursuit of their political agenda.
Whether it was the prolific activities of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland and Great Britain throughout the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, communist inspired groups like the Red Army Faction in West Germany or the Air India Bombers amongst others, IED’s have been a brutally effective weapon for terrorist organizations.
Originally made from household or industrial chemicals, such as agricultural fertilizer with rudimentary timing devices, sometimes as simple as a fuse, the use of IED’s involved considerable risk on the part of the terrorist. Along with the possibility of accidental detonation during the preparation of the IED itself terrorists were limited in the time that they could plant their bomb and make an effective escape before the device exploded and the time that could elapse between preparing and planting the bomb as the basic explosives involved would deteriorate over time. In other cases the bombers would need to stay in the vicinity of the IED to detonate it via a command wire, significantly increasing the risk that they would be captured in the security operation mounted in response to the explosion
And as time has progressed, IED’s have become more and more sophisticated incorporating advanced technology. Commercial and even military grade explosives have become available through nefarious sources and high tech timing devices have allowed bombs to be planted days, weeks or even months in advance and even to be triggered at a precise moment remotely over considerable distances through the use of cell phones. In several cases terrorists have evaded airport security and detonated bombs on planes without even being on the aircraft. These advances have dramatically improved the efficacy of terrorist bombers, not just in their ability to mount precision attacks, but also in their ability to make their escape and avoid detection.
But as the terrorists become more effective, so did the police and security forces tasked with fighting them. Also using advances in technology they are able to monitor communications enabling them to disrupt terrorist groups financing and supply chains and to disrupt many planned attacks before they happen, often unbeknown to us. In an ongoing game of cat and mouse both terrorist groups and security organizations are constantly evolving and developing as they each try to outwit each other.
And as a result of frequently being shut down or disrupted, or as a result of lacking the sophistication and technology to mount complex terrorist attacks some groups have turned to a devastating yet simple method of attack. The suicide bomb! By strapping an IED to a willing volunteer, terrorists are able to deliver a bomb to a precise location and detonate it at their moment of choice. Leaving the detonation either to the bomber themselves or controlling it remotely via a cell phone or radio control the terrorists maintain a brutally simple method of attacking who they want when they want without the need for such complex technology causing, fear and panic in the process.
Whilst many of us struggle to understand the motivation of suicide bombers, there are ample willing volunteers ready to take up the mantle. Through the use of powerful rhetoric and other means of manipulation terrorists are able to somehow convince some, that through paying the ultimate price as a suicide bomber, that better times are ahead. And although some back out, likely as a result of the human instinct to survive, many do not, and willingly go to their certain death to further their political aim, leading others to glorify their actions.
In an attempt to de-glorify the actions of suicide bombers, some commentators and security pundits refuse to refer to suicide bombers as suicide bombers. Instead they choose to use the term ‘homicide bomber’, effectively labeling them as murderers, not the glorious fighters that they hoped to be remembered as. Unfortunately though, the term homicide bomber doesn’t tell the whole story.
Whilst many suicide bombers are murders, the fact that they commit acts of murder does not separate them from other terrorist bombers. The vast majority of terrorist bombers are murderers. Although on occasion, some terrorist groups will attack purely economic targets or provide warnings before an attack allowing the target area to be evacuated, most do not. Terrorists choose to use IED’s as a result of their indiscriminate nature and their ability to kill, injure and maim large numbers of people in a single incident. This, coupled to the fact that even unsuccessful terrorist bombers can be guilty of attempted murder further demonstrates that nearly all terrorist bombers are homicide bombers.
The truly defining characteristic that separates suicide bombers from other terrorist bombers is their desire and their willingness to almost certainly die during the commission of their attack. Whilst all terrorists take risks, whether they are planting an IED or mounting a drive by shooting or other attack, all of them other than suicide bombers have at least a remote chance of surviving the attack and it is likely that they expect to do so. And it is for this reason that we need to label and treat suicide bombers differently.
In any fight, military or otherwise, it is essential to understand the motivation of your enemy along with their tactics and doctrine. To successfully address a terrorist threat it is necessary to not only fight them but also to disrupt them and to reach as far back as possible in the chain to remove their motivation to become a terrorist. And whether the motivation is removed by either addressing the root cause of the issue or by mounting successful security operations that remove their ability to mount terrorist attacks, terrorists can be beaten by attacking their motivation. But with suicide bombers, the motivation has reached a level that many struggle to comprehend.
As we fight suicide bombers we have to understand that their motivation has far surpassed the level that we can understand. While other terrorists will expect that they may at least hope to be able to fight another day suicide bombers have no such thoughts. In fact in many cases they relish the expectation that they will die, truly believing that they will move on to a higher level as a result of their murderous act. So as we try to understand them in order to fight them, we have to start by labeling them correctly. And while they are murderers, they are also much more complicated than that. They are suicide bombers.
New technologies, artificial intelligence aid fight against global terrorism
Although terrorists have become skilled at manipulating the Internet and other new technologies, artificial intelligence or AI, is a powerful tool in the fight against them, a top UN counter-terrorism official said this week at a high-level conference on strengthening international cooperation against the scourge.
Co-organized by Belarus and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), “Countering terrorism through innovative approaches and the use of new and emerging technologies” concluded on Wednesday in Minsk.
The internet “expands technological boundaries literally every day” and AI, 3D printing biotechnology innovations, can help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Vladimir Voronkov, the first-ever Under Secretary-General for the UN Counter-Terrorism Office.
But it also provides “live video broadcasting of brutal killings”, he continued, citing the recent attack in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, where dozens of Muslim worshippers were killed by a self-avowed white supremacist.
“This is done in order to spread fear and split society”, maintained the UNOCT chief, warning of more serious developments, such as attempts by terrorists to create home-made biological weapons.
He pointed out that terrorists have the capacity to use drones to deliver chemical, biological or radiological materials, which Mr. Voronkov said, “are even hard to imagine.”
But the international community is “not sitting idly by”, he stressed, noting that developments in this area allow the processing and identification of key information, which can counter terrorist operations with lightning speed.
“The Internet content of terrorists is detected and deleted faster than ever”, elaborated the UNOCT chief. “Fifteen to twenty minutes is enough to detect and remove such content thanks to machine algorithms”.
Crediting quantum computing coupled with the use of AI, he explained that accelerated information processing enables terrorist tracing.
Mr. Voronkov added that the use of blockchain registration – a growing list of records, or blocks, that are linked using cryptography – is also being explored to identify companies and individuals responsible for financing terrorism.
“It is necessary to increase the exchange of expert knowledge on technologies such as 3D printing, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, robotics, the synthesis of the human face and autonomous weapons”, he underscored. “This will help to better identify and respond to risks before it is too late”.
The two-day conference was divided into three themed sessions that focused at global, regional and national levels on the misuse of new technologies and AI by terrorists; approaches and strategies to counteract terrorist propaganda; and the misuse of scientific innovations.
Afghanistan bloodshed mars 100 years of independence
Afghanistan is at a “crucial moment” in its history as it marks 100 years of independence, the head of the UN Mission there said on Monday, following a series of terror attacks in recent days.
In a statement on Monday, Tadamichi Yamamoto, who heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that despite decades of conflict, Afghans remain committed to a nation that is stable, peaceful and prosperous, and that upholds the human rights of women and men alike.
Mr. Yamamoto also expressed hope that elections due to take place next month would give voice to the people, while also maintaining that there was “a real possibility for breakthroughs in peace” after so many years of war – a reference to on-going negotiations between Taliban leaders and the United States, that it is hoped will lead to a lasting ceasefire and talks involving the Afghan Government.
The UNAMA chief’s comments come amid numerous recent terror attacks on civilians, including a suicide bombing towards the end of a large wedding party on Saturday, that claimed the lives of 63 people and injured over 180.
In a statement released on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres “strongly condemned” the “horrific” attack, and expressed his “deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, and the Government and people of Afghanistan.”
The attack took place in the Shahr-e-Dubai Wedding Hall in West Kabul where approximately 1,000 people were gathered for a Shia wedding ceremony, said UNAMA in a statement, adding that the mission’s human rights team would investigate the incident.
According to news reports, a local affiliate of the ISIL terrorist group claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
“An attack deliberately targeting civilians is an outrage, and deeply troubling, as it can only be described as a cowardly act of terror,” said Mr. Yamamoto. “I condemn these deliberate attacks on civilians that signal a deliberate intent to spread fear among the population, which has already suffered too much.”
The wedding hall where the attack took place is situated in an area of the city heavily populated by Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority. UNAMA has documented several previous attacks deliberately carried out against this community.
“The pace of such atrocious attacks indicates that current measures in place to protect must be strengthened, and that those who have organized and enabled such attacks must be brought to justice and held to account,” said the UNAMA chief. “The United Nations stands with all Afghans in solidarity and remains committed to an Afghan-led peace process that will end the war and bring about a lasting peace.”
Does Kenya Really Want To End Terrorism?
New dangerous dynamics are emerging at the Horn of Africa. Political tension emanating from maritime territory that Somalia and Kenya, both claim it as part of their legitimate border is getting more volatile. As the International Court of Justice gets ready to hold public hearings on “Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya)” September 9-13, Kenya continues to intensify its efforts to lobby the U.N, and key allies to help add al-Shabab to UNSC Resolution 1267.
If you are wondering what does al-Shabab have to do with this matter, you apparently are not part of the Kenyan political pundits, law-makers, and credulous Somalis who have been cheerleading for this unjustifiable initiative.
It Is What It Is
Let us imagine that it is late September, the time when leaders representing 195 member states would be attending the 74th UN General Assembly. Let us imagine during one of the debate sessions, this multiple choice question was raised:
What is al-Shabab?
- A law-abiding neighborhood watch group
- A self-less patriots fighting for self-determination
- A ruthless terrorist group
How many do you think will stutter with the answer, or not know that al-Shabab is a terrorist organization? By all legal and moral standards, al-Shabab is a terrorist organization.
If al-Shabab was not already considered a terrorist organization by the UN, why would the Security Council mandate AMISOM to fight them along the Somali National Army and periodically capture territories from them? So, since al-Shabab is already considered a terrorist organization, why spend such energy and political capital on redundancy? Or rather bluntly: who is Kenya’s real target?
Widening The Net
While fingers were frantically pointing at o all directions as to who was behind the Kismayo terrorist attack that killed 26 people including a beloved Somali-Canadian journalist, HodanNalayeh, Kenya’s top diplomat—Monica Juma—went on politicking on twitter. Before offering any condolences, she wrote: “This attack is another reminder to the international community of the imperative to list the al-Shabaab, like all other terrorist groups, under the UNSC resolution 1267.”
On the surface this may seem ordinary attempt to tighten the screws on al-Shabab, but it is far from that.
Said resolution, also known as the ISIS/al-Qaida resolution, mandates the harshest international sanctions on assets freeze and travel ban measures on individuals, entities and groups who are suspected of being remotely associated with those terrorist groups. And that blanket condemnation increases the chance of innocents in the periphery getting caught in the net or communities suffering as a result.
Though this could get some Kenya Defense Force officials who operate an illicit business with al-Shabab that the Kenyatta government has been turning a blind eye in serious trouble, Kenya is eager to advance the initiative in order to use it as an insurance against any unfavorable decision from ICJ.
If Kenya’s endeavor succeeds, it will give Kenya the freehand to pressure and coerce top politicians and influential business leaders who have various investments and retain residential statuses in Kenya to assist her in achieving its objective of annexing the maritime territory- blocks that it already marketed for oil exploration. It is also an insurance policy against some of her Somali allies such as Ahmed Islam (Madobe)—president of Jubbaland federal state—who is currently much closer to Kenya than to the Federal Government of Somalia. Kenya is not oblivious to the fluidity of clan politics and the unpredictability of how Madobe, with his shady past, may act once it becomes clear to him that he was exploited as the game-changing pawn.
Feeling The Weight
A few months back as Kenya’s hostile diplomacy grew more aggressive, Somalia’s diplomacy grew more diffident and passive. As Kenya suspended diplomatic ties with Somalia, invited a delegation from Somaliland, humiliated Somali Ministers by denying them to transit through Kenya, FGS opted to respond passively.
This was consistent with FGS’ ill-advised decision to turn a blind eye to Kenya’s unilateral decision to build a border wall that would divide Somali families, undermine businesses, and deprive them essential services such as health care, and allow Kenya to establish new facts of the ground that will in due course make a case for annexation of territories that belong to Somalia.
Lately, Kenya has been under intense U.S. diplomatic pressure to drop its bid and not make the Horn of Africa more volatile than it already is. This pressure is likely to increase now that 16 senior national security and humanitarian officials have written an open letter urging the U.S. to stop Kenya from creating a grave humanitarian disaster as the resolution at hand does not allow any type of exemption for humanitarian delivery. Against that backdrop, Kenya resorted to strengthen its Plan B- legislative support to annex the maritime territory by any means necessary.
In attempt to lend Kenyatta’s government the legislative support to declare war against Somalia should ICJ rules its favor, the Kenya National Assembly, led by Hon. Aden Duale, is set to pass a perfectly tailored bill that makes the disputed maritime territory as part and parcel of Kenya’s territorial integrity. The impetus motion cites Article 241 (3) of the country’s constitution that the Kenya Defense Forces are responsible for protecting Kenya’s ‘territorial integrity’. “Unless the People of Kenya resolve by way of referendum to alter the territory of Kenya,” said Duale.
Make no mistake, terrorism poses a threat to international peace and security and Kenya did suffer its share of terrorist attacks, therefore it is in our best interest to collectively address that threat. However, that would be extremely difficult now that we know that Kenya’s real objective is not “to annihilate the extremist group (al-Shabab).”
Political rhetoric aside, Kenya, like a number of other foreign actors in Somalia, would’ve been eager to invent al-Shabab had it not already existed. To some, al-Shabab as a manageable threat is strategically convenient. After all, it was Kenya’s pretext for 2011 invasion of today’s Jubbaland, also for the 2012 integration of KDF into AMISOM, also for the 2017 unilaterally initiated border-altering wall.
Five years after Somalia filed the boundary delimitation dispute with the ICJ and millions of dollars were spent by both sides, no one is sure how the end result might be. The only sure thing is that any attempt to solve this matter militarily will only make the current crisis a catastrophe.
If Kenya decides to go with the military option as some intellectuals have openly been advocating, it is likely to prove both positive and negative:
Positive as it is likely to unite the now divided Somalis to rally against a single common threat. Negative as it would ignite domestic disharmony and, in due course, make Nairobi the epicenter of terrorism and compel foreign investors such as China flee with their fat wallets.
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