Homicide Bombers

Terrorists will continue to use what works. Their past behavior dictates that in homicide bombings, IEDs and VBIEDs are their death devices of choice, but they will modify target preferences based on susceptibleness.

Where do homicide bombers prefer to attack? The general answer is anywhere people congregate, but research has indicated some preferences, notably mass transportation in the form of buses, trains and planes in that order. Following the transportation sector attack analysis conducted by Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Corporation, buses were most vulnerable because nearly every medium to large city has them, (when it comes to schools everybody has them) they are crowded during predictable time periods and security measures for short duration commuter buses are limited if not non-existent. Trains in the form of local metro transit - subways - are next, and share vulnerability characteristics with buses (busy, predictable, easy access, etc..), but this sector of transportation has ratcheted up some security measures in the aftermath of lessons learned from successful bombings in Europe. Finally, when it comes to moving large number of people quickly, the airline industry continues to remain a prime target, but due to the efforts of proactive security this target has been hardened.

Terrorists will continue to use what works. Their past behavior dictates that homicide bombings, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and Vehicle Borne IEDs (VBIEDs) are their death devices of choice, but they will modify target preferences based on susceptibleness. By their own estimates the U.S Dept. of Homeland Security has spent in excess of $20 billion to shore up defenses within transportation since 9/11, but how much has been spent protecting other areas of concern, particularly shopping malls or other mass congregating areas? Zero - Zilch. It is only a matter of time before the soft underbelly of these facilities becomes ground zero as they already have in places like Jerusalem, Haifa, Mumbai, and others.


So, what does a homicide bomber look like? The worst thing a cop can do is to stereotype; first, it's illegal; second, it's ineffective. If your idea of looking for homicide bomber is to patrol the subway platform seeking an Arabic looking male carrying a backpack then you probably will not be effective. al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have been active recruiting Western- looking male and females to carry out attacks. The blonder the hair and the bluer the eyes the better, or so they hope. Your anti-terror efforts should concentrate instead of their behaviors rather than their nationality. If you are one of the officers deployed to prevent a homicide bombing attack at a potential target and need to know what to look for, then I suggest using my "ACE" method:


  • Does the person exhibit physical traits indicative of extreme stress or nervousness, such as profuse sweating or shaking?
  • Is this person walking faster than normal, maybe trying to catch up to a crowd about to enter a bus or train and seem intently focused?
  • Are you looking at someone whose eyes display the "thousand yard stare", or the person seems non-coherent such as being in a trance?
  • Can you hear the suspicious person continuously muttering a religious statement?
  • Would you characterize, due to your training an experience, this person’s specific observable behavior as being out of the ordinary for the time, place and function of the environment?
  • Does it appear that this person maybe trying to quickly build up courage as if preparing to do something?
  • Can you see that the suspicious person is having difficulty walking or moving freely as one would normally move?
  • Is there more than one person, appearing somewhat similar entering the facility at the same time or same area and their arrival looks as if were a coordinated movement?


  • Are the clothes bulging or have the appearance that something is concealed underneath them?
  • Do you see any wires, tape, or metallic look surfaces visible from the clothing?
  • Can you sense a chemical type odor permeating from the subject's outer-garments?
  • Are stains visible on the clothing that could have been caused from an inadvertent spill in addition to other criteria stated above?
  • Is the type of clothing a normative reflection for the environment (ex., winter coat during summer months)?
  • Bulging luggage; the contents of which do not appear to be consistent with what would normally be carried in the backpack, suitcase or sack.

Elements (of Execution):

  • Chemical precursors needed for the construction of an explosive device (you can find these via a web search).
  • Timing or electrical components that are seemingly innocent but have other uses potentially.
  • Metal scrap, ball bearings, nuts and bolts, or nails packed together and placed out of view.
  • Large sums of currency (either foreign or domestic).
  • Maps of transit routes and schedules showing their operations.
  • User names and passwords written scrap pieces of paper for email accounts, secure websites and protected locations.
  • Names of people along with their cell phone numbers or addresses hastily recorded on papers, notebooks or on scrap paper inside of wallets.
  • Documents showing the locations of different hardware stores and their contact information.
  • Websites, their printouts or other documents, showing how to build either explosive or combustible material.
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