The information that you are about to read is written by Frank Mba. Frank Mba is the current Nigerian  Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO).

Suicide Bombing is an act whereby an individual personally delivers explosives and detonates them with the sole aim of inflicting the greatest possible damage, killing himself in the process in order to serve the interests of the sponsoring individuals or organizations.

Records have revealed that suicide bombers are capable of carrying out very wicked, audacious and highly destructive acts that are shocking on the account of their specific intention to destroy critical infrastructure and kill mostly unsuspecting civilians or injure anyone within the range of the explosion. But if I may ask, what kind of a person would sacrifice his life in order to kill innocent people?, and what would possibly motivate that person to take the offer of becoming a suicide bomber?

In the wake of several tragic incidents, the government, civil society as well as security agencies have always found it difficult to objectively analyze the causes and processes through which suicide bombings are carried out since there is no single theory as to what brings about such wicked act.Although many people have cited negative indoctrination, radicalization and religion as prime motivators but the act involved a wide variety of motivation including politics, quest for revenge, humiliation as well as altruism.

The willingness of the perpetrator to kill himself shows a very high symbolic value and dedication to whatever may be his cause. However, the truth is that suicide bombing has become most accessible weapon of choice available to the terrorist groups because of its cost-effectiveness, lethality, ability to cause confusion as well as the tremendous amount of publicity and fear sit generates as clearly witnessed in the series of bomb attacks across the nation. For example, immediately after the last bomb blast, the usual crowd witnessed at motor parks, night clubs and other social event centres, in no time, disappeared because of the wide speculations through the media that there was likely to be another bomb attack in those areas. This is a classical example of the effect of fears associated with terrorism.

There is no specific profile for anyone who engages themselves in suicide bombing. A suicide bomber can come from nearly every cultural background, religion, race, creed or gender. However, the following are common characteristics of a potential suicide bomber:

Through his behavior
1. He behaves in a way similar to someone with no future.

2. His mental state could present clues – his eyes are secretive, he makes obvious attempt to avoid eye contact with the people he perceived to be his enemies and always looking at every possible exit.

3. Mumbling prayers – may be fervently praying to himself, showing the impression of whispering to someone else.

4.    He shows no response to any authoritative voice, command or      instruction.

Through his appearance

1. He wears clothes that are unsuitable for the present-day weather. For instance, wearing of sweater or rain-coat during hot weather.

2. He wears slack or puffy clothes. This gives the impression that his body is excessively larger than his head or feet.

3. Sweating – resulting from tension and stress or wearing of unsuitable clothes. For instance, wearing a heavy coat during high weather temperature.

4. He appears to be focused and more vigilant on his target.

5. He will usually have his hands placed in the pocket, around the button of the detonator and ready to set off the bomb at the slightest opportunity.

6. He carries big bags or backpacks tightly with wires piercing out of the bag.

7. He may most likely have a clean shave or low hair-cut especially when he is ready to carry out the task. This may be done to disguise his real appearance.

8. He displays signs of drug use. For instance, his pupils become enlarged with fixed staring.

9. His breathings are heavy and rapid.

10. Mostly male who falls between the age range of 16-30 years of age.

11.  He looks aggressive, restless, irritable and nervous.

Through his movement

1. He walks awkwardly or clumsily in an unusual and odd manner. This is usually due to the unsuitable attire he is wearing and sometimes due to the weight of the explosive devices tied around his body.

2. He tries to be evasive in movement. This unusual gait is adopted to evade security agents and some other persons who may foil his plans.

3. Often times, he may not know the route to his target destination very well, hence he may occasionally ask for directions.One of the suicide bombers that struck at a church in Kaduna in late 2013 had to ask commercial motorcyclists severally for direction to the Church he eventually struck.

Through his kind of person/other features
1. He tries to blend into a group which he clearly does not belong to. For instance, he tries to attend Church worship Services even as a non-Christian with clear
intention to carry out surveillance and identify vulnerable areas before attack.

2. He demonstrates forceful actions in order to reach his desired target by pushing the crowd so as to find his way into a restricted area or showing desperations to reach a crowded point or particular target.

3. He will usually have an unusual herbal smell. This is as a result of incense used in the final rituals performed on his him as he takes off for the suicide mission.


Before I begin my discourse on the modus operandi used by suicide bombers to carry out their operations, it is very important to make a clear distinction between suicide bomb attacks and other forms of terrorist attacks that are devoid of suicidal elements.

As a matter of fact, suicide bombing is just one of the several methods used by terrorists in carrying out their attacks. While virtually all suicide attacks are terror attacks, not all terror attacks are suicidal in nature. A suicide attack is an offensive operation which its success depends largely upon the death of the perpetrator in order to kill innocent persons and destroy property.

The modus operandi and weapons used depend largely on the nature of the target, access to the target, security arrangements around the target, the amount of destruction and publicity which the terrorist intends to accomplish.

As earlier stated, suicide attack has continued to be a choice method of attack by both large and small terror organizations. Its cost-effectiveness, lethality, ability to cause confusion as well as the tremendous amount of publicity and fears it generates clearly make it appealing to the average terrorist.

Below are some of the methods used by suicide bombers to execute their criminal and despicable acts:

A lone suicide bomber may attach an explosive to his body: Preventing such a person from having access into the vicinity of a target location is extremely difficult. Even if he is detected, safe arrest and defusing the explosives successfully are extremely difficult. However, the impact of such explosives is usually not as destructive as those used in other methods that will be discussed later.

You may need to know that sometimes, a suicide bomber is escorted by his ‘mentor’ up to the point where he will carry out the attack before leaving the bomber alone. The purpose of this is to direct and encourage the attacker particularly when his mentor is not sure whether the attacker will eventually change his mind if not thoroughly supervised. It is indeed puzzling why a young man should accept to carry out a suicide attack when his mentor himself is not willing to do so. Sponsors and mentors of suicide attacks mostly use other people’s children and hirelings instead of their own children.

In the case of a timed-bomb, sometimes, it detonates before the attacker gets to the target area. Recall the 2012 case of a 14–yearold boy in Maiduguri who attached timed-explosive around his body and wore a jacket to cover it. While trying to gain access to where the Shehu of Borno and other high personalities were at a religious gathering, the bomb went off, killing five persons including the Policeman who was preventing him from having access to the venue.

Suicide bomber may conceal explosives inside the booth of his vehicle. A good case of this is the recent discovery at Damaturu of a bomber who, having loaded his vehicle with explosives, decided to cover it with animal feeds. He was however arrested by vigilant police officers on duty before he got to his target. A suicide bomber will use his vehicle heavily loaded with explosives to cause serious damage by forcefully driving as if his vehicle’s brake system had failed just to get to his target location. Another good example of this particular method was used during the Force Headquarters attack, This Day Newspaper attack, the UN building attack and the infamous attack on Madala Catholic Church, among others.

Some of these bombs are constructed in such a way that any attempt by the suicide bomber to come out of the car, will cause detonation before he gets to his target area. This explains why he will never respond to any authoritative voice or instruction from any security agents. Yet, others are controlled by the suicide bomber himself and sometimes not timed but can be manipulated with the use of remote control devices.

These days, terrorists are increasingly targeting Airlines. The 9/11 attack and the failed attack on the US-bound Airline by AbdulMutalab exemplify this trend.

Suicide bomber may also carry an explosive device concealed in a receptacle- bag, briefcase, box, suitcase or similar container that fits the target environment to be detonated at the target vicinity. A good example of this method was used at a drinking bar in Wulari market, Maiduguri, where a bomb concealed in a small food-flask was given to a boy of less than 8 years-old to drop at a joint where customers were in large numbers. The boy might not have accepted to be a suicide bomber but he also died in the process!
In all these situations, experience has shown that it is not the mere sound from the explosion of the bomb that actually kills but the destructive and injurious effects resulting from  the mixture of metallic objects such as shrapnel, projectiles, nails, fuel and other dangerous substances in the explosives. That is why the farther one stays away from the explosion scene, the safer one may be, vice-versa.

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