Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
The last few decades have witnessed an increase in incidents of terrorism, which is now a global phenomenon. According to statistics for 2013 available in public domain, there were 9,707 terrorist attacks resulting in the death of 17,800 people and injury to another 35,200. In addition, 2,990 people were kidnapped or taken hostage. Some countries are more adversely affected. There is hardly any country which has not suffered, and rarely a day passes when an incident is not reported from some part of the world or the other. The Afghanistan-Pakistan region, a hotbed of terrorism and jehadi fundamentalism, accounts for more than half of these terrorist attacks. India has been a victim of attacks by state-sponsored terrorists, fundamentalists and Left wing extremists. While most attacks are in the form of bombs being exploded in public places, buses, trains and airplanes, some attacks have specifically targeted security forces and even individuals such as attacks on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Chief Minister Beant Singh.
Terrorists employ a variety of weapons to kill or inflict physical injury and, more importantly, to instill fear in the minds of the target population. These range from crude bombs to small arms, rocket launchers and mortars, vehicle and aircraft attacks, chemical and biological weapons. Some terrorist groups claim to have control over nuclear weapons also. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Remotely Controlled IEDs (RCIEDs) in particular, are by far the weapon of choice of terrorists, because of the relative ease of fabrication, operation and ability to avoid detection. The IED is an indiscriminate killer and the person who plants it can never be sure as to who and how many will be his victims. All advantages are stacked in his favour, the choice of time, place, target, type of explosive and delivery mechanism. IEDs are no longer mere crude bombs, but are very sophisticated devices designed by experts, who ensure that they cause maximum damage, can easily be concealed and detonated using a variety of means. The detonation can be triggered either by a timer mechanism set to explode the device at a predetermined time or pressure actuated by a person or a vehicle passing over it. It can also be triggered remotely using an electric connection, a radio or a mobile phone.
Governments spend considerable time, effort and resources on counter terrorism, a task for which they seek cooperation of all nations in the region. As IEDs become more sophisticated, it is a challenge to devise methods to detect and neutralise them. Security agencies must ensure that they remain technologically abreast and are able to effectively counter the terrorists. Detection is a combination of human and technological methods including physical body search, use of sniffer dogs, detectors and scanners. Defusing an IED is a specialist activity undertaken by trained experts of bomb disposal squads. Creating awareness among the public is essential to assist in foiling IED attacks. They must inform security agencies on the slightest suspicion of a threat — better to be safe than sorry. What can be more dangerous than an explosive in the hands of a fanatic suicide bomber?