Nigerian security forces say the number of civilian casualties caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) declined in 2013 due to the use of new technology and public awareness.
Addressing delegates at the United Nations Tenth Annual Conference on Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Switzerland early this month, Deputy Superintendent of Police Haruna Ismaila said the country had witnessed an escalation in the number of IED attacks between 2009 and 2013. The attacks were mostly blamed on the Boko Haram Islamic militant sect which is now engaged in a full-scale war against the Nigerian security services.
“From 2009-2013, it is estimated that 25% of the total number of civilian casualties was caused by IEDs. In 2012 alone, IEDs incidents recorded its highest peak in Nigeria, with a total number of 550 incidents. However, these figures tended to decline in 2013 due to the proactive measures, information exchange, awareness lectures, capacity building and improved understanding on detection, identification, and application of render-safe procedures through the use of modern equipment and tactics, techniques and practices,” Ismaila said.
He said the Nigeria police are dealing with various types of home-made munitions which include Command-Wired (CW), Victim Activated (VA), Tricycle Borne (TB), Vehicle Born (VB), Remote Controlled (RC) Motorbike Born (MB) and Suicide Vehicle Born (SVB) Improvised Explosive Devices.
“Recent events in Nigeria have indicated an emerging security trend in the form of terrorism and terrorist group attacks. There is widespread production of sophisticated IEDs, constructed in components scavenged from conventional munitions and standard consumer electronic components, such as mobile phones, Q-link motor cycle remote controls and table clocks.
“In Nigeria, IEDs are mostly triggered by various methods including remote controlled, infra?red or magnetic triggers, pressure-sensitive bar, or trip-wires which are victim-operated. In some cases, multiple IEDs are wired together in a daisy chain to attack convoy of vehicles spread out along the road,” Ismaila said.
According to the US Army’s special Joint IED Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO), which monitors the use of IEDs worldwide, the number of IED attacks carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria has leapt from 56 in 2010 to 197 in 2011 before finally peaking at 550 in 2012.
The organisation attributed this to the militant group’s increased capacity and capabilities in using new technology to produce more lethal IED versions intended to cause maximum damage per blast.
JIEDDO says it has also documented an increase in the use of a more lethal anti-armour version IED known as the ‘shaped charge’ by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the al Shabaab Islamic militant group in Somalia where it has proven effective against armoured personnel carriers used by the African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces battling to restore order in the country.
Army explosive experts say the shaped charged IED was initially used by al Qaeda-linked militant groups which fought bloody battles against occupying US forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2008 and is still being used by the Taliban against Western coalition forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s anti-IED unit also says the presence of the munition in both Somalia and Nigeria proves that both Boko Haram and al Shabaab are now part of a new global network of militant groups and have received special training in advanced bomb-making from regional al Qaeda affiliates al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The organisation said there are indications of an increase in the provision of advisory services, logistical support, training and operational capabilities to the Islamist militant groups in Nigeria and Somalia from some of the more sophisticated militant groups on the African continent.
According to the US Army, 626 IED attacks were recorded in 2011 across Africa in 2011 marking a 14 per cent increase from the 547 attacks recorded in 2010. Of these, Algeria recorded 137 IED attacks, a remarkable drop from the 251 attacks recorded in 2010.
In Kenya, IED attacks blamed on the al Shabaab militants from neighbouring Somalia increased from 14 in 2010 to 26 in 2011. Although there are no figures for 2012 and 2013, IED attacks have escalated in areas along the border with Somalia.