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How To Identify A Suicide Bomber



Suicide bombing is an act whereby an individual personally delivers explosives and detonates them with the sole aim of inflicting the greatest possible damage, killing himself in the process in order to serve the interests of the sponsoring individuals or organisations.

Records have revealed that suicide bombers are capable of carrying out very wicked, audacious and highly destructive acts that are shocking on the account of their specific intention to destroy critical infrastructure and kill mostly unsuspecting civilians or injure anyone within the range of the explosion. But if I may ask, what kind of a person would sacrifice his life in order to kill innocent people and what would possibly motivate that person to take the offer of becoming a suicide bomber?

In the wake of several tragic incidents, the government, civil society as well as security agencies have always found it difficult to objectively analyse the causes and processes through which suicide bombings are carried out since there is no single theory as to what brings about such wicked act. Although many people have cited negative indoctrination, radicalisation and religion as prime motivators but the act involved a wide variety of motivation including politics, quest for revenge, humiliation as well as altruism.

The willingness of the perpetrator to kill himself shows a very high symbolic value and dedication to whatever may be his cause. However, the truth is that suicide bombing has become a most accessible weapon of choice available to the terrorist groups because of its cost-effectiveness, lethality, ability to cause confusion as well as the tremendous amount of publicity and fear it generates as clearly witnessed in the series of bomb attacks across the nation. For example, immediately after the last blast, the usual crowd witnessed at motor parks, night clubs and other social event centres, in no time, disappeared because of the wide speculations through the media that there was likely to be another bomb attack in those areas. This is a classical example of the effect of fears associated with terrorism.

Characteristics of a potential suicide bomber

There is no specific profile for anyone who engages himself in suicide bombing. A suicide bomber can come from nearly every cultural background, religion, race, creed or gender. However, the following are common characteristics of a potential suicide bomber.


Through his behaviour

• He behaves in a way similar to someone with no future.

• His mental state could present clues – his eyes are secretive, he makes obvious attempt to avoid eye contact with the people he perceived to be his enemies and always looking at every possible exit.

• Mumbling prayers – may be fervently praying to himself, showing the impression of whispering to someone else.

• He shows no response to any authoritative voice, command or instruction.


Through his appearance

• He wears clothes that are unsuitable for the present-day weather. For instance, wearing of sweater or rain-coat during hot weather.

• He wears slack or puffy clothes. This gives the impression that his body is excessively larger than his head or feet.

• Sweating – resulting from tension and stress or wearing of unsuitable clothes. For instance, wearing a heavy coat during high weather temperature.

• He appears to be focused and more vigilant on his target.


• He will usually have his hands placed in the pocket, around the button of the detonator and ready to set off the bomb at the slightest opportunity.

• He carries big bags or backpacks tightly with wires piercing out of the bag.

• He may most likely have a clean shave or low hair-cut especially when he is ready to carry out the task. This may be done to disguise his real appearance.

• He displays signs of drug use. For instance, his pupils become enlarged with fixed staring.

• His breathings are heavy and rapid.


• Mostly male who falls between the age range of 16 to 30 years of age.

• He looks aggressive, restless, irritable and nervous.

Through his movement

• He walks awkwardly or clumsily in an unusual and odd manner. This is usually due to the unsuitable attire he is wearing and sometimes due to the weight of the explosive devices tied around his body.

• He tries to be evasive in movement. This unusual gait is adopted to evade security agents and some other persons who may foil his plans.


• Often times, he may not know the route to his target destination very well, hence he may occasionally ask for directions. One of the suicide bombers that struck at a church in Kaduna in late 2013 had to ask commercial motorcyclists for direction to the church he eventually struck.

Through his kind of person/other features

• He tries to blend into a group which he clearly does not belong to. For instance, he tries to attend Church worship services even as a non-Christian with clear intention to carry out surveillance and identify vulnerable areas before attack.

• He demonstrates forceful actions in order to reach his desired target by pushing the crowd so as to find his way into a restricted area or showing desperations to reach a crowded point or particular target.

• He will usually have an unusual herbal smell. This is as a result of incense used in the final rituals performed on him as he takes off for the suicide mission.

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