Improvised and Vehicular- Borne Explosive Devices: Aspects That Make Detection Difficult and the Aftermath

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The fight against terror and the evolution of warfare has led to different manners of attack by enemies who pose a threat to the United States. One of the many risks posed is through Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). IEDs pose a significant threat as they take the form of either Improvised or Vehicular-borne IEDs requiring little participation from the enemy except in the assembling and transportation. The placement of IEDs is applied in different ways with the number of casualties dependent on the size and range of the IED. These IEDs lead to various injuries and sometimes death. Therefore, security agencies are tasked with ensuring the Counter-IED (C-IED) efforts are taken both on the domestic and foreign soil to protect the lives of individuals.

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Due to the fact that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are used in retaliation by enemies unable to match the weaponry and might by their rivals in warfare, the use of IEDs is random and aims at causing great harm. Therefore, an assessment of the various effects of IED explosions on human beings reveals the extent of damage injuries caused. Security agencies efforts at curbing IEDs are the main form of protection against the threat of IEDs. However, civilians have a role to play in the fight against terrorism and the utilization of

Categories and placement of IEDs

The placement of IEDs takes place in different ways: carrying or delivering through vehicles, carrying, placing, or throwing by a person, delivery through a package, or concealing of IEDs on the roadside (U.S Homeland Security, n.d). These IEDs are either placed in vehicles referred to as vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, pipe bombs or suicide bomb vests (Maniscalco & Christen, 2011, Hicks, 2011).

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Effects of IEDs when used on people

IEDs use leads to either death or injury to human beings. Injuries and fatalities from the use of IEDs significantly increased from thirty-three percent in 2006 to up to seventy-three percent in 2009 (Jacobs,, 2012). The injury from IEDs differs from those incurred through gunshot. The soft tissue injury and the shrapnel lodged in makes it necessary to perform the aggressive operation. IEDs can lead to numerous casualties in a single attack with overwhelming injuries that need different medical interventions straining infirmary surgical amenities on site (Ramasamy, 2010).

According to U.S Homeland Security (n.d), the type of injury caused by IEDs depends on certain factors such as the environment, explosion range, obstruction to the blast, fire and structural damage from the explosion, and the occurrence of the explosion in open or closed space. The explosion from IEDs can result in various injuries categorized as either overpressure damage, fragmentation injuries, impact injuries or thermal injuries.

Overpressure damage affects pressure-sensitive organs such as the lungs and abdominal region. Blast lung injury that occurs due to high pressure from explosions is the major cause of illness and fatalities among survivors of IED explosions. Fragmentation injuries occur due to the projectile caused by the explosions that lodge into the human body. Impact injuries occur through the explosion forcing two objects to collide into each other causing fracturing or amputation. Thermal injuries are caused by burns by fire from the explosion. Other injuries from the explosion occur in the form of aggravated pre-existing conditions or being exposed to toxins (U.S Homeland Security, n.d).

Explosions from IEDs have effects on human beings which are categorized as either primary, secondary or tertiary. The primary effects include painful amputation and short sloping fractures. The secondary effects include extremely comminuted multiple fragmented fractures. Tertiary effects include axial loading, three-point bending and spiral fracturing (Ramasamy, 2010). A combination of primary and secondary effects is also possible integrating both injuries.

A comparison of casualties of IEDs in both open and closed spaces such as in vehicles found that there were greater cases of lower limb injuries in the closed space casualties with tertiary blasts the cause for a majority of the injuries (Ramasamy, 2010). The comparison found that from the casualties, none had primary or a combination of primary and secondary injuries. However, some cases of the closed space casualties got their injuries through secondary explosions.

IEDs such as those used in Afghanistan which has high explosive content is reported to cause bilateral, proximal painful lower extremity amputations and other pelvic injuries. This occurs as a result of the blast which is aimed at creating double or triple amputations to the lower-limb area (Jacobs,, 2012).

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Security agents’ efforts to reduce the use of IEDs

In the United States, various security agents such as Homeland Security and the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) have been working to counter the efforts against the use of IEDs to harm individuals.  JIEDDO mainly focuses on attacking the network of threats that utilizes IEDs and disarming IEDs. The effort to attack the network is mainly done to defeat the threat before it becomes an issue. Some of the methods used are monitoring Islamic terrorist propaganda as well as internet chat rooms for signs of a future planned IED terror strike (Mehri, 2007).

The Homeland Security Presidential Directive 19 issued in 2007 detailed the Security agencies effort at dealing with IED threats through policies. The directive included the prevention, detection, protection, and response to attacks through utilizing assets in place to counter the threat posed. In September 2007, the Homeland Security through its Secretary Michael Chertoff made remarks on the efforts by the agency to deal with the threat of IEDs. In his remarks, the secretary stated the preventive measures as detecting foreign terrorists, making it difficult to have the materials for assembling an IED, sharing information, and funding (Wehri, 2007).

The identification of foreign terrorists was stated as the most preventive measure against IED threats incorporating intelligence and forensic analysis. However, domestic terrorists also pose a threat and making it difficult to acquire the materials required to make an IED assists in minimizing the potential of domestic IED attacks. Sharing of information from federal, state, local and private bodies works to inform the authorities of potential threats to have security teams’ deal with the threats. The funding from grants would ensure the capacity of agencies in dealing with IEDs is improved (Mehri, 2007).

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Civilians’ role in reducing threats by IEDs

The security agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security urge individuals to report any suspicious activity that can be said to be a planned IED attack. Though it is difficult to determine when to report such instances, it is common to have individuals familiar with the environment noticing something out of place. The necessary authorities are equipped with the technology that would assist to detect explosives and would be able to take charge of the situation from the report (U.S Homeland Security, n.d). Cases of domestic terrorism will also be curbed through individuals reporting customers at their local depot purchasing materials that can be associated with an IED. Civilians should also be prepared to give their information when reporting (Eisler, 2012).

Security agent’s evaluation in C-IED efforts

The efforts by the security agencies display both dedication and lack of protocol in efforts aimed at C-IED. The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013is an example of the security efforts strengths and weaknesses. The security agencies worked tirelessly to ensure that both perpetrators of the crime were either captured or killed in four days. They utilized information from civilians and went about combing the city for the suspects in a manhunt that saw the city locked down with many officers swarming the streets (Peleg & Shenhar, 2014).

However, this displays a lack of protocol from the security agencies. The city and its residents were forced to cease most of their activities as the security agencies launched a manhunt for the two victims. This affected the lives of civilians and local businesses alongside the transport sector. To make things worse, the media coverage of the situation leaked more information confirming the plans of the perpetrator motive to attack New York City causing panic to civilians (Peleg & Shenhar, 2014).

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In conclusion, not much can be argued against security agencies to fault them in the fight against terrorism and C-IED. The threats posed by IEDs are not always predictable with radicalization online and on media becoming a launching platform for domestic terrorists who are in better positions of attack (Alarid, 2016). The security agencies work their best with the intelligence and reports by civilians to counter IED threats, and this should speak much of their efforts.

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  1. Alarid, M. (2016, May 16). Recruitment and Radicalization: The role of social media and new technology. Retrieved from Accessed on 7th July 2017.
  2. Eisler, D. F. (2012). Counter-IED Strategy in modern war. Mil Rev, 92, 9-15.
  3. Hicks, M. H., Dardagan, H., Bagnall, P. M., Spagat, M., & Sloboda, J. A. (2011). Casualties in civilians and coalition soldiers from suicide bombings in Iraq, 2003–10: a descriptive study. The Lancet, 378(9794), 906-914. Doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(11)61023-4
  4. Jacobs, N., Rourke, K., Rutherford, J., Hicks, A., Smith, S., Templeton, P., Jansen, J. (2014). Lower limb injuries caused by improvised explosive devices: Proposed ‘Bastion classification’ and prospective validation. Injury, 45(9), 1422-1428. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2012.05.001
  5. Maniscalco, P. M., & Christen, H. T. (2011). Homeland security: Principles and practice of terrorism response. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Pp 165.
  6. McCarthy, D. (2012). Latent fingerprint recovery from simulated vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Journal of Forensic Identification, 62(5), 488-516. Retrieved from
  7. Peleg, K., & Shenhar, G. (2014). Did the US response to the Marathon bombings help or harm security? Frontiers in public health, 2.
  8. Ramasamy, A., Masouros, S. D., Newell, N., Hill, A. M., Proud, W. G., Brown, K. A., Clasper, J. C. (2010). In-vehicle extremity injuries from improvised explosive devices: current and future foci. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 366(1562), 160-170. doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0219
  9. U.S Homeland Security. (n.d.). IED Attack- Improvised Explosive Devices. (Pdf) Retrieved from Accessed on 7th July, 2017.
  10. Wehri, M. T. (2007). Preventing an improvised explosive device (IED) terror campaign in the United States (Doctoral dissertation, Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School). Pp 33-42.
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