Improvised Explosive Devices - II: The Targets

26 Feb, 2000    ·   331

Mallika Joseph explains the reasons for the non state actors using the IEDs mainly against the security forces

For the Non State Actors (NSAs), their main battle is against the State. Therefore any person, institution and building representative of the State becomes the target for IED use. Security forces – military and paramilitary including police are the most targeted section. In addition to targeting personnel, the NSAs also target the police stations, police outposts, military checkpoints and bunkers. The next target is the State’s infrastructure that includes railway lines, roads and highways, power stations, bridges, buses and trains. Of all these targets, bridges are the most vulnerable and most targeted: it is not only easier to blow up a bridge because it naturally and effectively camouflages the IED, but also paralyzes the movement of the security forces more. The militants in North East India and Kashmir have resorted most often to blowing up of bridges and in Kashmir valley alone the Indian Army has reconstructed 90 bridges.  Oil pipelines are part of the infrastructure that has been regularly targeted by the militants in North East resulting in damage amounting to millions. The Naxals in Hyderabad have mostly targeted government owned buses and telephone exchanges, again with damage caused amounting to millions. However, it has now become increasingly difficult to target infrastructures because they are heavily guarded at all times. Other areas that are often targeted are places like schools (in Kashmir ) and water spots (in Hyderabad ) that the generally vehicle harbour areas for security forces that are on the move. This mode of targeting is particularly in semblance with the ‘nuisance mining’ resorted to by regular armed forces in warfare.



Despite security forces being the primary target, there has always been significant collateral damage caused to civilians in the vicinity of the blast: of the 2584 casualties in Hyderabad due to extremist violence, only 405 were policemen. A similar ratio of civilian – security personnel causality exists in Kashmir . It is indeed rather ironic that the more the NSAs attempt to narrow down on their specific targets, the more they tend to have civilian causalities. In a mine blast incident that occurred on 3rd January 2000 in Jammu , the militants had placed an IED in a vegetable handcart in a busy market place and timed the device for the explosion at a time when usually the security forces arrive for their purchases. However, in the particular explosion, which was heard within a radius of 4 kms and detonated with remote control completely damaging vehicles near by, 16 people died which included 2 from the army and 5 from the border security force. The rest were civilians.



The next list of targets includes sections of the public who are either informers to the police or are against the NSA. The militants also hunt down people or things that are seemingly against their cause. The Kashmir militants have targeted the Cable TV operators because satellite television propagated the kind of culture that was ‘un-Islamic’. When there seemed to be popular support for the democratic process in the last held elections the militants intimidated the voters and there was an alarming increase in poll-related violence. As a result, security forces had to literally force people out to vote, with the result that the whole election process was made a farce. In Hyderabad , the Naxals constantly target the landowners and businessmen, extorting money and material from them. Since they are basically against the democratic process, there is marked increase in poll related violence in the Naxal-infested areas.



A disturbing trend that is occurring in Kashmir is the targeting of civilians. The general policy of the NSAs there has been to avoid civilian casualties as there could be some kith or kin in the vicinity who might get injured and to prevent general alienation from the people for whom they are fighting for. However, with the increase in foreign militants in Kashmir , this family bonding no longer exists and civilians are targeted equally. Since their primary aim is not fighting for a cause but to heighten the law and order problem in the state, they are not apprehensive about alienation from the public. Also being noticed in recent incidents in Kashmir is the targeting of places or people that are likely to capture media attention, and thereby attract probable funders. Groups that are keen to establish themselves and are on the lookout for further external funding for their activities are known to have indulged in these kind of targeting.



IEDs are target-specific devices. However with increased counter-insurgency measures which bring the civil and military closer, and with the security forces themselves being made conspicuous targets, the line between civilians and security personnel has become blurred. This has resulted in NSAs choosing targets where there would be security as well as civilian casualties.