I pray you never meet him. Chances are, however, that suicide/homicide attacks will be taking place in the United States in the near future. This column is too short for me to dwell into the history of suicide/homicide bombers, and to reference the many documented suicide bomber incidents that took place worldwide. The reality is that the United States has been the target of terrorist attacks multiple times, including events such as 9/11, the Oklahoma City/McVeigh attack, and various incidents of active shooters.
You can easily add to the above list every incident of school violence that involved some sort of explosive devices, as well as other workplace violence that had the same. The list is long, and the trend is very clear: personnel-borne explosives are on the rise.
In this article I want to concentrate on the “Low-tech” bomber — the one who walks into a school or a mall wearing the explosives on his body, or carrying them in a backpack; the one who will blow himself up in the name of god, or because society, in his mind, wronged him.
There are clues. We have to be vigilant, act in sort of a paranoid way, to be able to pick on these small indications that something is off.
Rule number one: if something seems odd, it probably is. If it makes the small hairs on the back of your neck rise, there is typically a reason. Something is out of the ordinary. If you suspect anything you should take the appropriate actions.
Psychological clues: I do not care whether these men, or women (and more and more of this type of attacks are executed by women, as well as young children) perform these acts willingly and knowingly. They are still timid, afraid of being caught, afraid of the explosives not working, afraid of the unknown death. So although they may be acting on their own volition, they will still act nervously, keep to themselves, be suspicious of everything, and be easily jumpy.
Physical clues: it is not uncommon for suicide/homicide bombers to wear clothes which are out of season, like long jackets in summer time. They will usually carry a backpack or a briefcase. They will try to hide behind sunglasses or a hat. Sometimes, wires or switches can be seen, or a bulky object will be notable. Most of these low-tech explosives still work on manual detonation devices and require the bomber to press a button or switch to initiate the explosive.
Stopping the threat
We need no more heroes. Asses the situation — is it possible securely to remove people from the scene without alerting the bomber? What would the casualties be if the bomb went off? What are your chances of succeeding in any kind of disarming the terrorist?
Ideally, if you recognize a possible suicide bomber, call for back-up, try to evacuate as many people as you can without causing chaos and alerting the bomber. Then get as far away as possible.
Sometimes, though, you will not have the time, you will not have the means, but your actions may still save many. If you decide to act you must do so decisively and aggressively, realizing that failure is not an option. If you mess things up, you must keep going. The lives of many may depend on it.
If you are the only person who can engage the bomber you must follow three guidelines:
- Control the bomber’s arms
- Assure that you do not detonate the bomb yourself by mistake; often, the bombers will wear the switch on their stomach, so if they are taken down on their stomach, the bomb will go off
- Deactivate the bomber. You do not want to fight a person with a bomb strapped to their body, make sure the bomber is no longer a threat!
You should approach the bomber form the side or behind. Your arms should go toward the bomber’s shoulders, to assure you get a hold of his arm (if his arms are moving you may not catch them). Once you placed a hand on his shoulder you will slide it down and hook underneath it. The other hand will do the same on the other side, securing the bomber’s hands. Note that if the bomber is larger and stronger this may be a difficult task to accomplish, but taking down a suicide bomber on your own will never be simple. Make sure to perform these steps in an aggressive and violent manner to gain control over the bomber.
Once you secured his hands you should drop back and roll the bomber on his side. Make sure not to fall forward.
This is when the task gets really nasty. You must neutralize the target. Any attempt to hold him down, grapple, secure, or deal with the explosives will most likely result in the device going off and taking the bomber, you, and any bystanders with it. The most readily available lethal target from this given angle will likely be the jugular vain. A strong bite that would pierce through it will result in severe bleeding. An alternative will be to wrap a leg around the bomber to control him while you free one hand and use that one to execute any one of numerous possible actions to deactivate the bomber, such as: a strike to the trachea, deep penetrating eye gouge that would reach brain matter, or others.
You should hope you never have to see whether this works, but if the moment comes and you must act to protect yourself, loved ones, or other innocent civilians, you must know what to expect and how to act to increase your chances of survival and that of those around you.