By Frank Kweronda
Another attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya claimed by the al-Shabaab militants on the September 21, 2013 has so far claimed 70 lives and injured 175 while others are still trapped inside the mall with the assailant.
This comes after the al-Shabaab threatened further attacks on Kenya, Uganda and Burundi for contributing troops to the African Union mission in Somalia. Such kind of incidents should remind us that these militants are still around and are going nowhere until they achieve their mission.
In asking oneself how terrorist attacks can be foiled before they take innocent lives, it is more important to investigate just why someone might be inclined to become a suicide terrorist. In my understanding, terrorists are not born, they are created. Most human beings will continue to live their own lives, attempting to improve their environment and acquire a greater quality of life. But, once on a mission to do any harm, there is a potential to revert to terroristic means to ward off a perceived or real threat.
Terrorists could make a bomb in an item as small as a soda can. They could sneak weapons in body cavities. They could set off a bomb to go off in a line at a sporting event, or in the security line at an airport. Risk is just something that we have to deal with. Fortunately, like many risks, the risk from terrorism is very small. Thinking outside of the box can help.
The target of a suicide bomber is usually a highly populated space which is likely to be a well-known, public area, usually at peak times like such festive seasons we are going into. This is the most damaging method in terms of destruction of life, property and evidence. A suicide bomber will typically place himself and his deadly payload wherever he thinks he will kill the most people. A single suicide bomber can carry enough explosive on his body to kill or gravely wound everyone within a 50-foot radius in an open area. A bomber driving a truck or car laden with explosives could destroy an entire building. The destruction can vary depending on the power of the explosives and the concentration of people in the immediate area. The idea is to not only to kill a large number of people, but also to foster deep fear among the public, therefore, suicide bombings not only have high physical destructive value, but are psychologically traumatising, bringing the specter of terror nearly anywhere. The terrorists are not planning on living after the attack, so standard security deterrence is not effective on them.
Therefore, as we continue with our normal daily business, a lot of places could be targeted and these include the public transport systems and places such as buses, bars and restaurants, shopping malls and other night clubs all over the country. Lately, there has been laxity in the security checks in most of these areas.
Suicide bombings on buses and other public means are considered to be very lethal. Therefore, to avoid such from happening again, let’s all be vigilant at all times as we visit and use these public places. And finally, let’s all try to have all emergency numbers in our cell phones.
The writer is a Civil Engineer