Return to site



An Endeavor to Arouse Consciousness About Devastating Effects of IEDs


1. Introduction

Due to the vested interests of Regional & Extra Regional Powers and upto some extent, owing to sectarianism, Terrorists’ Activities of varying nature and dimensions have been witnessed in various parts of the country. Although Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been successful to quite an extent to minimize Terrorists’ Activities but still there is a need to remain alive to the fragile Security Situation. Off late, Terrorists have started targeting Soft Targets like Mosques, Shrines and Educational Institutions. Use of IEDs has been an easy way with terrorists, to inflict damage to life and property. Terrorists are using improvised detonators and centrally remote control car alarm system. Some are using non-metal objects and sometimes hide IEDs along-with other metallic objects to conceal & avoid detection. An improvised explosive device (IED) is a type of unconventional explosive weapon that can take any form and be activated in a variety of ways. They target soldiers, law enforcement people and civilians alike. In today’s conflicts, IEDs pose an increasing threat and will continue to be part of the operating environment in foreseeable future. Military & other law enforcement personnel must remain prepared to counter IEDs in view of asymmetrical threats we face today. List of potential explosive threats is much greater and more varied than one can imagine. Terrorists’ networks usually exploit friendly vulnerabilities. Extremists keep finding new ways to develop IEDs using creative and unexpected deployment methods. IEDs are used by the bad guys; you call them criminals, vandals, terrorists, suicide bombers and insurgents. IEDs come in many forms, ranging from a small pipe bomb to a sophisticated device capable of causing massive damage and loss of life. IEDs can be carried or delivered in a vehicle; carried, placed, or thrown by a person; delivered in a package; or concealed on the roadside. IEDs may incorporate Military or Commercially sourced explosives and may be made with HME.

2. Definitions

a. An improvised explosive device (IED) is a bomb fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy or incapacitate personnel or vehicles.

b. An improvised explosive device (IED) is a bomb constructed and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action. It may be constructed of conventional military explosives, such as an artillery round, attached to a detonating mechanism. IEDs are commonly used as roadside bombs.

c. An improvised explosive device (IED) attack is the use of a “homemade” bomb or destructive device to destroy, incapacitate, harass, or distract people.

3. Background & Historical Uses of IEDs

IEDs & Booby Traps have been used ever-since the invention of Gun-powder. The earlier examples of IED’s & Booby Traps use are from Germans and Belarusians in WW-II. Term comes from the British Army in the 1970s, after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) used bombs made from fertilizer and Semtex smuggled from Libya. IRA made extensive use of IEDs during 1969-97 campaign. They came up with more sophisticated designs & deployments of IEDs. Use of Barrack Buster Mortars, Remotely Controlled IEDs & Victim Operated IEDs (VOIEDs) became common-place. Afghan Mujahideen used IEDs against Soviet forces, more often made from Russians’ unexploded ordnance. IEDs were also used extensively by the Tamil Tigers against military targets in Sri Lanka. Tamil Tigers used IEDs against Sri Lankan Forces during periods of insurgency. The term IED came into common usage during the Iraq War that began in 2003. In Iraq War, IEDs were used extensively against US-led forces and they accounted for approximately 63% of coalition deaths in Iraq. They are also used in Afghanistan, Pakistan & India by terrorists and have caused 66% coalition casualties in Afghan War. Homeland Security, USA identified that no of IEDs used in Afghanistan increased by 400% since 2007, resultantly, increasing the troops killed by 400% & wounded by 700%. IEDs have been declared the number one cause of death among NATO troops in Afghanistan. In past few years we have witnessed no of IED attacks in the West. Besides Syria, Iraq, Yemen & Afghanistan, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Libya, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Lebanon & Pakistan are some of the other countries where IEDs have been used

4. Types of IEDs (By Warhead)

a. The Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms includes two definitions for improvised devices:-

(1) Improvised Explosive Device (IED)

(2) Improvised Nuclear Device (IND)

b. Primarily they have been categorized to cover all types of likely materials that can be used:-

(1) Explosive

(2) Incendiary

(3) Chemical

(4) Biological

(5) Nuclear or Radiological

c. This categorization helps to standardize first responders and military personnel for building operational picture

5. Types of IEDs (Delivery Mechanism)

a. Vehicle-borne IED or VBIED. VBIED is a military term for a Car or Truck bomb but can use any type of transportation such as:-

(1) Boat

(2) Bicycle

(3) Motorcycle

(4) RPV/ Drone (RC-VBIED)

(5) Animal (ABIED)

b. They are typically employed by insurgents, can carry relatively large payload & can also be detonated from a remote location

c. VBIEDs can create additional shrapnel through the destruction of the vehicle itself and use vehicle fuel as an incendiary weapon

d. The act of a person being in a vehicle and detonating it is known as an SVBIED

e. Collar. IEDs strapped to the necks of farmers have been used by guerrillas in Colombia for extortion. American pizza delivery man Brian Douglas Wells was killed in 2003 by an explosive fastened to his neck. In 2011 a schoolgirl in Sydney had a collar bomb attached by an attacker

f. Suicide/ Person Borne IED. An IED worn or carried by a person either willing or unwillingly, such as a vest, belt, backpack, box or a briefcase is called PBIED

g. Parcel

h. Rocket, Improvised Mortar or Artillery Shells

i. Of increasing popularity among insurgent forces in Iraq, is the House-borne IED (HBIED)

j. Drone-borne – RC-driven VBIEDs

k. Experimental IEDs

6. Types of IEDs (By Trigger Mechanism)

a. An IED can be triggered / initiated by a variety of methods depending on the intended target:-

(a) Wire or trip wires

(b) Radio

(c) Cell Phone

(d) Victim Operated (VOIED)

(e) Infrared

(f) Magnetic Triggers

(g) Pressure-sensitive Bars

b. In some cases, multiple IEDs are wired together in a daisy chain to attack a convoy of vehicles spread out along a roadway

7. Elements / Components of an IED

a. An IED consist of a variety of components that include:-

(1) An initiator (Fuse)

(2) Activator (Switch)

(3) Main Charge (Explosive)

(4) Power Source (Battery)

(5) A Container (Body)

b. IEDs may be surrounded by or packed with additional materials or “enhancements” such as nails, glass or metal fragments designed to increase the amount of shrapnel propelled by the explosion

c. IEDs are extremely diverse in design and may contain many types of initiators, detonators, penetrators and explosive loads

d. Antipersonnel IEDs also typically contain fragmentation-generating objects such as nails, ball bearings or even small rocks to cause wounds at greater distances than blast pressure alone could

e. Materials used as explosives in IEDs are commonly available materials, such as fertilizer, gunpowder and hydrogen peroxide

f. Explosives must contain a fuel and an oxidizer, which provides the oxygen needed to sustain the reaction


1. Effects of IEDs

a. IEDs are intended to affect:-

(1) Our long term strategic policy

(2) Our operational goals as well as immediate tactical situations

b. At Strategic Level. Intended to make a political statement in order to erode the political will of target countries

c. At Operational Level. Intended to isolate population from host nation control, disrupt freedom of movement and create a perception of insecurity among the populace

d. At Tactical Level. Intended to disrupt normal activities, destroy material & cause personnel casualties

2. What are the Effects?

a. The extent of damage by an IED depends on its size, construction and placement besides whether it incorporates a high explosive or propellant

b. The damage radius is based on the volume of explosive and the type of bomb. Some of the effects are:-

(1) Damages to Structures and Infrastructure

(2) Disruptions in Municipal Services. Water, Gas, Electricity, Casualty Evacuation, Fire Fighting, Medical or Emergency Services

(3) Possibility of Secondary Device(s)/ Multiple Explosions

3. Secondary Hazards. Bomb can cause secondary explosions if gasoline, natural gas or other flammable material is ignited. Secondary hazards include fire with toxic smoke, disruption of electricity, ruptured natural gas lines, water mains and debris. Loss of traffic control & traffic accidents involving fleeing citizens

4. Immediate Health Effects

a. Over-pressure damage to the lungs (Blast lung injury cause of immediate death), ears, abdomen and other pressure-sensitive organs

b. Blast throws a victim into another object (causes fractures, amputation and trauma to the head and neck)

c. Thermal injuries caused by burns to the skin, mouth, sinus and lungs

d. Exposure to toxic substances, cause injuries and aggravation of preexisting conditions (asthma, congestive heart failure)

5. Delayed Health Effects. Some health effects caused by IEDs including eye injuries and abdominal injuries may not be apparent initially but can cause symptoms and even fatalities hours to weeks & months after the incident

6. Psychological Effects in attack survivors, first responders and others are not unusual in the aftermath of a high-casualty event

7. Assistance from Mental Health Professionals. While most symptoms diminish with time, in some cases assistance and guidance from mental health professionals may be required

8. Counter Measures

 a. Detection of IEDs

(1) Detection of IEDs presents a real challenge for security screeners, employees, first responders and military personnel

(2) Training security guards, airport staff and other personnel to be alert for suspicious behavior and IED indicators is the most common and best defense

(3) Various bomb detection technologies continue to be developed for use in high-risk areas or situations such as airports and high profile events. These technologies include “trace detectors” that identify trace amounts of commonly used explosives in the air and “millimeter-wave technology” that detects dense objects hidden under clothes

(4) Explosives-detection dogs, trained to detect and locate chemical explosives are used in many security scenarios

(5) The use of conventional and unconventional IEDs represents a growing issue in modern conflicts, making it more critical than ever to employ tools in the field that support both pre-detonation operational needs; allowing for rapid identification and neutralization of threats as well as vital post-detonation technical intelligence gathering

(6) Evolving threats have led to a rapid movement towards the development of new technology that enhances situational awareness and enables rapid, actionable intelligence for civilian users, first responders and military teams at the point of need

(7) Counter-IED efforts are done primarily by military, law enforcement and intelligence communities which involve a comprehensive approach to countering the threat networks that employ IEDs, not just efforts to defeat the devices themselves

9. What Should People Do to Protect Themselves?

a. The number one way to protect yourself and others from an IED attack is to be alert to your surroundings

b. Advanced technologies help police and other law enforcement authorities to detect possible dangers, but an even more effective tool is to encourage individuals to be alert for and to report anything that is out of the ordinary in their daily routine

c. Examples include bags or boxes in unusual places, unusual smells and suspicious behaviors such as someone dressed in a heavy coat in summer

d. Detection and disarmament is the job of law enforcement people

e. Military forces and law enforcement agencies from Canada, India, Israel, Pakistan, Spain, UK & USA are at the forefront of counter-IED efforts, as all have direct experience in dealing with IEDs used against them in conflict or terrorist attacks

10. What should be a Counter IED Action Plan?

a. A C-IED Plan focus on three main areas:-

(1) Defeating the device (DtD) itself

(2) Attacking the network (AtN)

(3) Preparing the forces (PtF)

b. With DtD, various law enforcement agencies look at how to:-

(1) Detect and neutralize IEDs

(2) Exploit the IEDs as a source of information

(3) Prepare and train soldiers for an IED environment

(4) Develop technology to prevent IED attacks and protect soldiers and civilians

(5) Neutralization of IED may be the most visible part of the C-IED effort but in order to be truly effective, it must be preceded by efforts to identify and disrupt the networks building, procuring & emplacing IEDs. If the IED network is disrupted, the timeline is extended/disturbed and chances of placing IEDs reduce greatly

c. C-IED Plan should also lay emphasis on following critical aspects related to and IED attack:-

(1) Before placing an IED intended target is kept under surveillance. Therefore, any unusual activity or movement or presence of individual(s) be reported without fail

(2) Terrorists hire or recruit an Emplacer who will implant potential IED. In this regard again 24/7 vigilance and monitoring of areas around sensitive installations or targets should be exercised

11. Disrupting IED Attack Timeline. An IED attack follows a general sequence for developing, manufacturing, transporting, emplacing and detonating an IED. So, interdicting any portion of this sequence will disrupt the enemy’s ability to carry-out an IED attack

12. If you are at Managerial Posn of some Organization, Be Aware..!!!

a. Many commercial products can be used to construct IEDs. These simple steps can avoid unwittingly enabling an IED attack:-

(1) Recognize hazardous chemicals in your product inventory

(2) Check your inventory and report missing or stolen products

(3) Ask for customer identification and maintain a log of large purchases

(4) Know your customers and report suspicious/ unusual purchases to authorities

(5) Watch for suspicious behavior, which can include:-

(a) Nervousness

(b) Vague knowledge of a product’s proper use

(c) Purchasing unusual quantities of a product

(d) Large cash purchases

b. In storage facilities, customers utilizing a facility at unusual hours; odors, liquids, or fumes coming from a storage unit; discarded chemical containers

13. What We Need to Do & Look For in Our Surroundings?

a. More vigilance and deliberate checking of vehicles be ensured

b. Unidentified/ unknown case/ box/ bag should be approached very carefully

c. Proactive measures be adopted by all concerned to keep their surroundings under strict watch/ observation

d. Transportation of bulk supplies inside cantt/ educational institutions be thoroughly checked

e. Every person moving around should remain vigilant/ suspicious and avoid contact attractive items

f. Following ground signs should be carefully looked for:-

(1) Freshly dug earth

(2) Temporary objects placed on the road

(3) By-pass from main route/ track

(4) IED/ aiming marks


The threat from IEDs is likely to remain high in a foreseeable future and will continue to evolve in response to our abilities to counter them. A wholesome approach that integrates Federal, Provincial, Local & Private Sector participation in C-IED efforts can best serve our country to discover plots of using IEDs. In our specific environment. The best C-IED approach may be defined as being vigilant to our surroundings and proactive towards any unusual activity while not allowing the enemy to exploit our weaknesses





U.S. Department of Homeland Security:-



Federal Bureau of Investigation:–


Federal Emergency Management Agency:–


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:–


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:–


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives:–


Technical Support Working Group, Improvised Device Defeat Subgroup:–


Local and state government websites often contain information regarding emergency preparedness and response to mass casualty events, including IED attacks. This report brief was prepared by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council of the National Academies in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For more information, contact Randy Atkins at 202-334-1508,, or visit:-







Researched By: Saeed Muhammad

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly