Counter-Terrorism: June 24, 2005

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In the last two years, Israel put a stop to Palestinian terrorist attacks by going after the bomb makers, and the leadership of the terrorist groups involved in the attacks. The Iraqi terrorists have so far managed to avoid the same fate, mainly because the U.S. lacked the informer network the Israelis had in the Palestinian territories. As a result, the key terrorists have been able to keep up, sort of, with American countermeasures to roadside bombs. 

While many of the people planting, or setting off, the bombs are getting killed or caught, far fewer of the bomb makers and attack organizers have met the same fate. Thus when the United States began using electronic jammers against roadside bombs, the bomb makers figured out which frequencies were being jammed, and used other frequencies. When new jammers arrived, that covered just about every frequency, the bomb makers relied more on wire detonated bombs, or used light activated (infrared or laser) bombs. Wire and light activation had limitations (wire could be seen, light needed a clear line-of-sight), but with the bomb makers safe from capture, they could keep coming up with new ideas. They have their work cut out for them, because American troops are now using electronic zappers, that set off blasting caps from a distance. But there are countermeasures for that as well. The bomb makers, and their support staff, have good sources of supply, and seem to be able to get what they need. This has included larger quantities of explosives, as they are building larger bombs, to do more damage and overcome the armor on vehicles. 

Suicide car bombs have also been made harder to stop. This was done by supplying the drivers with protective vests, and sometimes even helmets. This makes it more difficult for police or troops to stop the suicide car bombers by shooting them before they can reach their targets and detonate. Another new tactic is having another car act as a decoy, to distract the guards, while the real bomber gets close and detonates. 

However, time is running out for the bomb makers. The Iraqi police have set up a growing network of informers. The spreading use of cell phones, and land line phones, makes it easier for informants to pass along information. There are now four times as many phones in Iraq than there were when Saddam was in power. Cell phones, in the hands of informers, appear to be one of the most potent counter-terrorist weapons. Typically, when terrorists move into a town (as they often do in western Iraq) or a neighborhood, the first thing they try and do is seize any cell phones owned by locals. This is not popular, but whos going to say no to a bunch of guys with guns. This doesnt always work, as many of the recent attacks on terrorists have resulted from tips, via cell phone, from angry local Iraqis. 

 


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