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The Terrorist’s Tools Conventional Weapons Identification

The Terrorist’s Tools Conventional Weapons Identification

Terrorist attacks are one of the well-calculated criminal operations in the world. The fear they elicit spreads far and wide beyond the areas of attack. The groups take great measures to ensure their operations are successful. As such, learning to detect the key tactics employed by terrorist group organizations is imperative for any practitioner seeking to eradicate terrorism in the world. Understanding the types of tools the terrorists are most likely to employ not only helps to have the practitioners prepared for the encounter but enables them to minimize the risks of the attack. Chapter eleven of the Terrorist Recognition Handbook by Malcolm Nance provides practitioners with an essential guide to conventional weapon identification.

Sources of Terrorist Weapons

Terrorists acquire their weapons in many ways. Paying attention to know where and how terrorists acquire their weapons and equipment can enable practitioners in the anti-terrorism agencies to determine the nature of the mission being undertaken and the group’s present and future sources of supplies. According to Nance, there are three ways in which terrorists can acquire purpose built weapons that are manufactured by gun-manufacturers. Open market includes purchasing of weapons in legal ways in places such as the internet, gun stores or through gun dealers. In the Black markets, the terrorists can acquire the weapons in illegal means from gun dealers or other individuals who have access to the weapons. Terrorists can also steal the weapons from an armory, the military, or the government through armed raids. Weapons from dead or severely wounded law enforcers also make a good source of manufactured weapons.

Most terrorists are skilled at improvising their own weapons. However, these kinds of weapons are often common with terrorists from developing countries or those operating in very remote environments. Bombs and short guns are the weapons which terrorists have been found to improvise the most. The terrorists in some remote and under-developed areas also use manual weapons such as knives, and clubs to carry out their operations. However anti-terrorism agencies should always remember that sharp-edged tools in the hands of well-skilled terrorists are almost as dangerous any weapon.

Explosives and Bombs

According to Nance, the use of explosives and bombs accounts for more than seventy-five of per cent of all the terrorist acts.  They can come in various shapes and sizes and can be factory-manufactured or home improvised. Although the subject about bombs is very extensive, Nance provides practitioners with a summary of the bomb types and tactics. Some are factory-made while others are improvised. Mortar bombs can be plastic or metal-cased bombs. They are lofted ballistically in the target’s direction of the target through the air using a catapult or a tube launcher. The bomb explodes upon contact. Terrorists steal aerial bombs from an armory for use as land explosives or modified to make smaller bombs. Hand grenades refer to relatively small bombs that are capable of being hand-tossed. They send out small particles of shrapnel that are capable of killing and maiming individuals. Landmines bombs are those bombs that are strategically laid on specific areas on the ground for stepping by the enemy or detonated when the victim goes nearby. Improvised explosives and bombs are also very common in terrorism (Schaechter, n.d.). They are often referred to as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and are made using explosive fillers and simple containers which are concealed in such equipment as radios, books, toys, or food containers.



Guns are the second most employed weapons by terrorists after explosives and bombs. Handguns have a capacity of up-to twenty bullets and are usually semiautomatic in nature. They can be manufactured as personal items such as umbrellas or ink pens and are usually used by terrorists to carry out assassinations or point-blank range operations. Submachine guns and open pistols are preferred for their compactness and high rate of fire. Terrorist often employs them in urban areas when they need massive firepower but have to maintain the secrecy of the operations. There are various types of submachine guns (SMGs) in the world today. Automatic Assault Rifles are relatively large and have a great firepower volume. According to Nance, the modern automatic assault rifle is the first option of weapon for most terrorists.  They also have the capability to penetrate people, steel and glass making them an effective weapon for use to undertake terrorist attacks. Like other categories of guns, automatic assault rifles come in various types and sizes.

A majority of terrorists especially in the developing nations use short guns to carry out their operations due to the lack of access to automatic assault rifles are unavailable. Crew served weapons refers to both light machine guns (LMGs) and heavy machine guns (HMGs). The guns use relatively large bullets that enhance mass destruction and massacre. They require few individuals to operate them hence making them efficient and effective.  Anti-tanks rockets and guns provide terrorists with a devastatingly large amount of firepower. They include rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), rocket launchers, and recoilless rifles. Nance makes an observation that terrorists use mortars to project bombs over a few miles. The mortars can be improvised or factory-made. Surface to air missiles/Man-portable air defence systems (SAM/MANPADS) refers to missiles that hunt heat sources from jet engines damaging it and crashing the plane.

In conclusion, the topic of terrorist tools is broad and requires an extensive study to comprehend all the important details. In the Terrorist Recognition handbook, Nance Malcolm provides practitioners with an overview of the tools employed by terrorists to carry out their attacks and how they are sourced. Open market, black markets and theft offer good avenues to acquire manufactured guns. However, terrorists can improvise or make their weapons. According to Nance’s practitioner’s manual, the nature of the tools used highly depends on the nature of the operation to be undertaken. Automatic assault rifles are nevertheless one of the weapons that are common in most terrorist activities due to their high firepower and compactness. With the advancement of technology today, chemicals and poisons are also a tool for use, especially in assassinations.

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