Despite the infrequent nature of terrorists’ attacks, law enforcers and other counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism agencies are always on the lookout for anything that could enable the eradication of terrorism in the nation and the world at large. This is because unlike most criminal activities, the effects of their attacks are often mass destructive threatening public safety, and infrastructure. Understanding terrorist activities have been one of the foremost quests by practitioners in the field. The often so intricate nature of the subject requires that those taking part in the mission are as knowledgeable on the issue as possible. As such, various scholars and experts in the field have studied and analyzed the most common activities that are associated with terrorism and terrorists’ activities. Terrorist training is one area of study that provides practitioners with an insight that can help in the counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism mission.
Who are Terrorists?
Knowing who the terrorists are is close to knowing their plans and operations. Terrorist group organizations are different from other criminal organizations such as street gangs or transnational criminal organizations in scope, nature of attacks and objectives. Terrorism operations involve the use of violence or threats to violence to elicit public terror that enhances their goals achievement. The terrorist group organizations have a record of applying simple yet bold and well-calculated actions that enable them to escape law enforcers and their high technologies. Experts in the field refer to this mode of operation as technology judo or asymmetric war-far. It is the terrorists’’ profession. They also take advantage of every possible limitation their target victim(s) may have to enhance the success of their operations. However, despite the intricate nature of the organizations, their actions can be observed and predicted.
Acquiring Membership in Terrorist Group Organizations
Anyone could be a terrorist. This means that to be able to beat them, the practitioners have to enter their heads to understand their nature of thoughts and actions. As Nance (2008) confirms, understanding the tactics and mode of operations of one terrorist group organization could blind anyone into thinking that they have solved all the terrorism mysteries. However, the organizations are very different and every one of them deserves special attention. People join terrorist organizations either voluntary or involuntary. In involuntary recruitments target youths and children through abductions. Prisons also offer a good avenue for the recruitment and dissemination of ideologies that inspire people to claim membership and officially join the organization once they are done serving their sentence.
Where Terrorists Acquire their Expertise
Terrorists are one of the most skilled unlawful individuals in the world. Effective recruitment of members enhances the success and sustainability of tourist group organizations. Although their actions often appear insane, terrorists are sane individuals with judicious and conscientious abilities that ensure successful executions of missions. Recognizing the nature of training that terrorists have received enhance their identification. People are trained into terrorism either as individuals or as a group. However, youths and teenagers are an easy target for membership. The different ways in which the members are trained often depends on the nature of the organization and the availability of resources. Nonetheless, some terrorist groups receive state support that provides them with the best training (Windle, 2018).
Self-education is a common way through which terrorists today acquire their training. Technology and more so the internet has made it easy for people to train into criminal and terrorist groups today. It provides would-be terrorists with access to extremist videos and articles that offer knowledge and skills necessary for the execution of the operations. Virtual training camps are common with terrorists today. The internet also offers a means for spreading propaganda in protected platforms such as restricted access and encrypted internet chat groups and websites that are password protected. According to Vidic (2009), technology barriers have enabled terrorists to use the internet in carrying out such critical activities such as recruitment, training and planning.
Commercial surveillance training, martial art, shooting and other related courses offered in the current world offer an easy platform for individuals to acquire special combat skills that are necessary for the terrorism missions. Although the main idea behind the lessons is usually recreation and self-defense, the avenue has provided criminals and terrorists with a legal place to acquire combat training. Their ease of access and availability in most parts of the world has made it difficult for law enforcers to control their training of terrorists and other criminal groups. Other members train together in groups of about five individuals in safe and covert places. Remote rural areas often offer a welcoming environment for the members of the cell to carry out the activity. There are also various dedicated professional terrorist training schools and camps in various remote parts in the world.
In the 1960’s and 1970s, most of the terrorists’ schools and camps were directly operated by specific state governments. The Soviet Union is well known to have trained terrorist organizations in such skills as sabotage against a nation’s critical infrastructures, assassination, terrorist assault, abductions among others. Although most of the professionally trained members are now aged and retired, the key concepts have managed to be passed down successfully to other terrorism operatives through writing or training. Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba are some of the states that still run their terrorists’ schools and camps. However, as aforementioned, there are various avenues through which members of a terrorist group can legally acquire training.
Indicators of a Terrorist Training Practice
There are various pre-incidents indicators that are a tell-tale of an ongoing terrorist training. Terrorists often inquire some of the details about a target place, or person from the general public. Some inquiries can be about a place’s infrastructure or a person’s daily routine. Another major observation of ongoing terrorist training practices is their test of the strengths and weaknesses of a target location. The members can carry out a criminal activity such as theft to assess how the law enforcers in the locality respond. Mass acquisition of supplies especially weapons and ammunition often means that a terrorist attack is about to take place. Some members or supporters also visit the target location to survey important details. Map marking, taking pictures and making notes are some of the suspicious actions that can tell a terrorist.
Anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism practitioners could also encounter some pre-incidence indicators of an attack from a raid in a deserted and suspicious place or from a concerned citizen. Some of the tell-tales here include the presence of dummy wooden or rubber weapons, live weapons and devices that are faulty or partially made, and written or audio-visual items such as terrorist books and manuals. However, it is the nature of almost every terrorist group to ensure convert. As such, the members are very careful with what they leave behind especially if the scheduled date for the plan’s execution is near. Nonetheless, some terrorist groups could leave a false trail to divert law enforcers’ attention to enhance a smooth operation.
Combat training is a key activity common with every terrorist group organization. Lessons on the use of various types of weapons depending on a mission form the basic part of a terrorist training. There are three levels of combat training namely: the basic level, the intermediate level and the advanced level (Nance, 2008). In basic training, the members learn the fundamentals of the various weapons to be employed in the operation. These include, familiarizing themselves with the various types and parts of different weapons; learning how to lay and fuse landmines; how to fire different types of guns available; how to throw hand grenades; and the basic camouflage tactics. Intermediate training is the level in which such lessons as the use of a mortar and rocket; use of advanced rifles; battle-field tactics; improvising basic weapons and explosive devices and leadership skills are taught. In the advanced level, more sophisticated lessons such as improvising of more advanced weaponry especially explosive devices and bombs; and urban and advanced battle tactics are taught.
Survival Tactics and Tradecraft Training
Considering the catastrophic nature of most terrorism operations, terrorists require clandestine lessons if they are to survive the end of the operations. Tradecraft skill is the name used to refer to a set of skills necessary to make a successful terrorist operative. The term implies that the skills are not applied haphazardly but rather a great deal of finesse is employed. The expertise allows terrorists to overpower law enforcers regardless of their number and battle tactics. There have also been various evolutions and trends in tradecraft skills that every counterterrorism and the anti-terrorism practitioner should ensure to familiarize themselves with.
The major challenge faced by transnational terrorists in their operations is travelling to the target country of operation without eliciting suspicions or being detected. Documents have been a drawback for most transnational terrorist operations since the nineteenth century. However, the documents required back then were not as detailed as they are today. Accessing people’s public records was almost impossible since the public record was sparse. It was hence easy for terrorists in the era to cross national borders than it is today. However, with the advances in Information Technology in the twentieth century, countries began making their identification cards and visas. The data could then be linked to a central computerized database making it impossible to counterfeit documents especially visas and identification cards. The twenty-first century has seen major technological advancements that also keep people’s records of lawbreaking. As a result, some terrorist organizations today are recruiting new operatives to execute their missions overseas. Most of the terrorist are however purchasing other people’s documents, stealing or fabricating their own. Virtually every terrorist operative today uses false documents to navigate across the globe.
The invention of dynamite in the mid-nineteenth century provided the terrorist with an efficient and effective charge to their explosives. In the current age, however, bomb-makers have access to high-powered explosives such as Semtex that enhance the manufacture of high destructive explosives. Various factory-manufactured bombs today can be activated days or weeks after they are laid on the target through the use of sophisticated timers. Some bombs used by terrorists have the capability to detect altitude changes, metallic objects, motions or light. This ensures that they detonate at the desired time. Other command-detonated explosives use cell phones or radio signals. Ease of access to different chemicals such as the ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the world today has also made it easier for terrorists to improvise their own explosives.
The use of computerized database has made terrorism operations more and more difficult to execution today. These databases have enabled the authority to crunch a lot of data on people and their activities which has become a nuisance for the organizations. The 1970’s combat of the Red Army Faction by the German Federal Criminal Police is a case in point where law enforcers used a computerized database to successfully catch up with the terrorists. Some nations such as the United States have Terrorist Screening Centers that consolidates all the watch-lists and no-fly lists. Law enforcers are today are also able to efficiently snoop on terrorist communications through such computerized databases from cell phones, and the internet. Freezing and seizing of bank accounts that are associated with certain known terrorists or terrorist group organization is a common activity by law enforcers today. Nonetheless, terrorists are using informal money transfer networks to conceal their tracks. Most of the terrorist group organizations today are also so skilled at money-laundering that they escape the scrutiny of experienced individuals.
Examples of Survival and Tradecraft Tactics
There are various survival and tradecraft tactics that enhance terrorists’ adeptness today. Foreign culture survival is a training offered to terrorism operatives to ensure their survival in the new environment and avoid culture shock or arouse suspicions. Some of the ways through which this is done is learning the target’s popularity’s local language and their norms; studying the local and national laws to look for exploitable loopholes; getting legal jobs to cover up their mission; acquiring the nation’s illegal or legal immigrants’ documents; seeking help from immigrant support agencies or welfare systems to appear as normal citizens.
Terrorist operatives are trained on the various ways to an assume identity cover in a foreign nation. Every operative is provided with a plausible cover story and its respective fabricated, stolen or purchased documents until they are able to acquire a foreign nation’s legal documents. In this training, operatives study their cover stories and memorize them by heart. Other terrorists inadvertently use their real documents in their missions and instead use a code name to cover themselves up. Verbal and non-verbal signals only known to the members of the terrorist group or cell area tradecraft skill employed in terrorists’ communications. Different signals usually mean specific things that the terrorists master before the operations. Examples of the non-verbal signals used include use of a half-open window or making certain sounds. The operatives are also taught on the various ways to discreetly and efficiently offer emergency signals to their fellow members.
Interrogation resistance is a crucial tradecraft skill in terrorism. Operatives are trained to endure and resist various types of punishments that are aimed at coercing them to provide the law enforcers with special information about the group. The members are often subjected to similar torture and simulated interrogations during the training to find out how much they can offer to an “enemy” whenever they are presented with a similar situation. According to Nance (2008), resistance training includes enlightening the operatives on how to persevere crude physical punishments such as mutilation, whipping, or electric shock. Psychological preparation enables captured terrorists to focus on providing noncritical information. This skill calls for creativity and shrewdness to defeat the interrogator. Escape and evasion often abbreviated as E&E is another resistance training that enables operatives to exploit every opportunity of escape presented to them. Some of the activities taught in these lessons include lock picking, breaking bonds and freeing from handcuffs.
In all terrorist group organizations, training is an integral part of their activities. This makes it an imperative area of study for every counter-terrorism or anti-terrorism practitioner. Although it is often difficult to detect the ongoing of a terrorist training practice due to the overly-covert nature of their operations, understanding the nature of the training can enable practitioners to successfully identify and predict terrorist activities in a locality. Self-education, safe house-training, commercial combat and martial art schools, and professional terrorist training camps and school are the ways through which terrorist or would-be terrorists acquire training. Combat training provides the trainees with co-skills since the operations are all about the use of violence and threats to violence. The terrorists are also trained on various survival and tradecraft skills to ensure the success of the operations and their survival. Although computerized databases in the world today have provided terrorist group organizations with multiple hitches, most of the organizations have trained to employ other tactics such as informal money transfer networks and sophisticated money laundering techniques that still enhance their efficacy.
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