Terrorism and asymmetrical warfare push the limits of engagement and foster the loss of ethical boundaries. Widespread fear, panic and social upheaval ensue, in addition to mass casualties and infrastructure destruction and disruption, whenever an act of terrorism is involved. Such is the case when even the most simplistic, but effective, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is detonated anywhere in the world.
As witnessed by a global audience of victims and spectators, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), have taken their place as prominent and widespread tools of insurgents, terrorist factions, and even “lone-wolf“ actors. While the toll of IED detonations have taken their toll in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF), the stories of the casualty count from other areas of geopolitical instability, such as Africa, are moderately, or even rarely shared or mentioned, especially among the ”casual observers” within the global population. Denial is bliss, and complacency replaces and thwarts awareness and preparedness. One tends to dispel the fact that what occurs on the other side of the globe may one day appear at their doorstep.

Tactical ultra-violence utilizing an IED detonation lacks discernment between combatants and non-combatants, and with approximately 300 global incidents monthly poses a grave humanitarian threat with profound implications for both military and civilian components of societies. The following statement from Ajmal Samadi, Director of the Afghanistan Rights Monitor, makes clear the impact of IEDs on international safety and security: “The death of a foreign soldier in an improvised blast often makes headlines, but we have failed to communicate to armed opposition groups and their foreign supporters that IEDs kill and maim hundreds of innocent people and this is a clear violation of all war laws”.

In addition to the physical casualties requiring both emergent and/or chronic care and rehabilitation, IEDs adversely impact societal stability, security/public safety and the progression of sustainability in many regions of the globe. This includes economic losses, population displacement in conflict-affected regions, destruction of infrastructure, loss of personal property and assets.
Terrorism and political violence in Africa is not a new, or even, recent phenomenon. Historically, coercive strategies utilizing ultra-violence have been a mainstay of achieving social and/or political goals in African states, ever since the earliest post-colonial period. The entire story, and examples of the use of IEDs against both governmental and non-governmental entities and populations in Africa are too numerous and complex to mention in this forum.

A growing transformation into radical Islamic and other genres of terrorism in regions such as North Africa and the sub-Saharan country of Nigeria, for example, poses grave implications for the entire African continent and other areas of the world, including the U.S. and West. Nigeria serves as a model, as its security and stability is essential not only to the entire African continent, but to intercontinental security.
The facts that surround Nigeria to being a central player in both continental and global security and stability stem from Nigeria’s importance in economic growth in the 21st century, as well as being the most populous nation-state in Africa, having substantial petroleum resources, and thus becoming one of the world’s largest producers of oil. The infiltration of the black market into oil production and distribution has created an atmosphere of disenfranchisement and victimization, and has encouraged and generated insurgency and ultra-violence.

The death toll consisting of well over 118 individuals in the aftermath of a dual terrorist bombing in the central Nigeria city of Jos is just a prime example of widespread use of IEDs in the West African region. Suicide bombings, vehicle-borne-improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), and stationary IEDs have become commonplace in Africa. The trend of illicit small arms proliferation, such as the AK-47 assault rifle and the related armed assaults committed with this more conventional weaponry, is a phenomenon which has preceded the use of IEDs, and may serve as a strong indicator of unconventional and asymmetrical attacks utilizing IEDs. Therefore, vigilance must be maintained to thwart the trafficking of both conventional arms and high order energetic-explosive materials.

Some of the other root causes of tactical ultra violence within the African continent must also be addressed, such as poverty, endemic disease, famine, drought, and other natural and man-made events that have impacted both internal and global security. We have been aware of several terrorist factions on the African continent, such as al-Shabaab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa, and all are adept at devising, deploying and detonating IEDs. Africa has served as a foundation and base for international and state-sponsored terrorism that have impacted other global stakeholders, as well as a fertile ground that spawns and spreads terror and political violence utilizing widely available, unconventional and opportunistic weaponry: the IED.

The disruption of funding streams for terrorist activity, as well as continued and aggressive strikes against the ability for terrorist factions organize, operate, communicate, and a robust “no-holds barred” position on non-proliferation and interdiction of both small arms and energetic materials that is enforceable must be the integrated methodology to dismantle the use of IEDs and other armaments on the African continent.
This strategy combined with realistic and achievable humanitarian and policy-making efforts to address root causes, such as poverty and corruption will continue to be the routes of achieving geopolitical stability and security in Africa and thwart the proliferation and use of the ubiquitous IED.

This strategy combined with realistic and achievable humanitarian and policy-making efforts to address root causes, such as poverty and corruption will continue to be the routes of achieving geopolitical stability and security in Africa and thwart the proliferation and use of the ubiquitous IED.