The CIA learns what makes suicide bombers tick
In 2013, according to “The Times of Israel” newspaper, al Qaeda posted want ads for suicide bombers. The job offer appeared on a closed Internet forum and sought applicants who were utterly committed to completing their mission.
Apparently, al Qaeda was low on bombers, so they’ ran a (short-term) employment advertisement on its Shumukh al-Islam Internet forum. Under the heading “Area of activity: The planet Earth,” the ad sought jihadists to carry out suicide attacks.
The Hebrew Daily reported that these ads state “Applicants must be Muslim, mentally mature, dedicated, able to listen, and utterly committed to completing their mission”.
Several email addresses were provided for applicants. While their real names were not required, candidates were asked to send details of their nickname or handle, along with their age, marital status, languages spoken and a list of passports in their possession.
The ad on the forum, which is accessible only to al Qaeda members, specifies the targets of the terror attacks that applicants will be expected to carry out, including “People who fight Islam and Muslims” and enemy “financial, military and media targets.” The ad indicates that the anticipated attacks will be solo operations: “Only one person will be in charge. He will gather all of the intelligence; he will prepare the operation — and he will complete the attack.” A “military panel” will oversee the bomber’s training and select the target. The job description promises only a “very slight chance of being caught.”
The ad elicited several positive responses, and one forum participant requested that Germany, Denmark and Sweden be specified as potential targets. The same participant warned the forum to be very careful about what it publishes, for fear that the enemy may see what the group is planning.
In the MISSION OF VENGEANCE spy thriller, the training and skills of suicide bombers is brought out. When researching this group of terrorists, I realized that to win the war on terror, the U.S. must analyze and understand the nature of al Qaeda and its penchant for suicide bombings. We must know why they employ this effective tactic in order to better counter it. Policymakers, first responders, and students of homeland security must fully understand and deal with the growing threat of suicide terror by analyzing such attacks and by pinpointing our vulnerabilities in order to predict high-risk scenarios for future attacks.
CIA Spymaster Corey Pearson went through this cognitive process to predict where in the Caribbean a suicide attack might take place. It pinned it down to two possibilities: A Jimmy Buffett concert in the Dominican Republic or an OAS meeting on Cat Island, an outer island in the Bahamas. I won’t spoil the MISSION OF VENGEANCE plot by divulging in which location the attack took place, except that the suicide bomber was a woman wearing a fake “belly bag” to look pregnant. The bag held 25 pounds of high explosives and lots of nails. Thanks to Corey, the U.S. prepared and implemented an effective and quick response that minimized casualties and losses of life.
The U.S. Intelligence Community is getting into the hearts and minds of suicide bombers by conducting what psychologists term “suicidal autopsies”. They learn how they were raised, the “formal” education they had, what mosques they attended, who they admired, the kinds of enticements they fell for, what their traumatic and enjoyable childhood experiences were, etc. Such data is obtained from interviews and gathering open-source intelligence, and the CIA uses this info to counteract the radicalization and recruitment of future suicide bombers.
A decade ago, multiple suicide bombings occurred in southwestern Afghanistan that killed 27 and wounded 110 people in the city of Zaranj. According to police, at least three of the attackers’ suicide vests exploded but several more bombers were involved. Authorities killed two of them and captured three more after killing several others in the afternoon before they could detonate their explosives.
Here’s a snippet from the MISSION OF VENGEANCE spy thriller, a scene which demonstrates Corey Pearson’s training in identifying suicide bombers:
Phillips asked, “So, we’re looking for someone exhibiting suicidal behavior?”
Corey shook his head. “Not exactly. We’re searching for a Hezbollah terrorist who may be overjoyed by his impending martyrdom and may display what Shia Islamics call bassamat al-farah, the ‘smile of joy’. You’ll be profiling for pre-attack behaviors. Observe everybody, but specifically for a male in his late teens to mid-twenties who is by himself and not married. Although Lebanese features vary, he’s likely to have dark hair, brown eyes, medium olive skin and a large nose. He may have a handler conducting surveillance to see if anybody pays particular attention to him, so blend in, be inconspicuous and apply your counterintelligence skills. The handler may be present the day of the OAS meeting to trigger the bomb from a distance with a cell phone.”
An unsmiling Murray asked, “What if we don’t find the bomber? What’s our strategy on the day of the presumed attack?”
Corey noted the somber tone of her voice. He knew the prospect of death was on all their minds. “I don’t want anyone to take undue chances. We’ll position ourselves around the Fountain Bay grounds. The dogs will sniff around the meeting area for any timed devices that may have been planted, then mingle around any people nearby. They’ll detect anyone wearing a vest, backpack or carrying a satchel packed with explosives. Be on the lookout for bulges on anyone wearing a t-shirt or other lightweight shirts. It’ll be hotter than hell, but he may wear a heavier top or bulky clothes to conceal the bomb, so watch for inappropriate dress. Because of the closed-circuit security cameras, he may wear a baseball cap or headgear pulled down low over his eyes to obscure his face. Obviously, he doesn’t have an escape plan or plane ticket back home, but the Hezbollah leaders in South America won’t want his photo shown all around the world.
Moments before the attack, he may begin sweating profusely, acting nervously, licking his lips or checking his satchel if he’s carrying one… just before placing his hand into a pocket where the dead man switch is. You’re all excellent marksmen with your Glock 30’s. A .45 caliber hollow point to the nose if you end up facing him or an inch below the base of his skull if you’re behind him will do the job.”
Murry replied, “That beats a round to the chest with a guy wearing an explosive vest.”
“Exactly, a head shot is the only option, but we’re not going to go there. I’m not going to ask you to get close enough to make a lethal hit with your pistol before he presses the switch… trying to kill a suicidal bomber with your Glock is suicide.”
Agent Phillips said, “Besides, his handler could detonate it even if the head shot was successful. Mr. Pearson, you said ‘we’re not going there’… if not us, who is?”
“I requested Morrison to send two OSAK teams. That’s why I’m kayaking into the Bonefish Creek mangroves, to retrieve the cache that was parachuted in last night. It has the gear they need.”
A hazmat tech asked, “What’s OSOK?”
Murray answered. “It stands for ‘One Shot, One Kill’. They’re Marine sniper teams that CBIF calls in for help now and then.”
Corey added, “They’re well-versed in delivering long-range kill shots from a concealed position up to a thousand yards away. I called them in to protect you people. They’ll be observing the Fountain Bay Resort grounds. We won’t see them, but they’ll be watching us. We’ll be in instant communication. If the dogs or any of us spots the bomber, raise your left arm with a fist, point to him with your right hand, and his head will explode in one second.”
Lastly, check out this video: Suicide Bombers- and how to beat them.
Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.