The effect of a suicide bombing on a hard or soft target can be very devastating and traumatic to both victims and the security services tasked to counter it. As from August 2015, suicide bombing has been used worldwide almost every 1.29 days killing more than 1,294 souls and injuring thousands more . In the context of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist group in the Sahel region with numerous rival factions, the success of the current hardline military strategy against these AQ and ISIL affiliated factions is seriously being undermined by the group’s operational tactics of using suicide bombings with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) almost every 48 hours with devastating consequences.
The current Country Threat Index (CTI) over the past 30 days, as of Dec 2016 puts Nigeria in the top 10 of most dangerous countries in the world alongside Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya…  To excuse Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic must not be misconstrued as a low threat indicator because recent suicide bombings with the use of IEDs in these states indicates seriousness of suicide bombing as a major terror tactic in the Lake Chad region in general.
The use of suicide bombing has a long history from 20th Century Russia, Japan and Sri Lanka by the now defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In recent times, this tactic has been used as a unique type of human weapon by Boko Haram, Hamas, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party or PKK, Al-Qaida and ISIL as a last resort and a desperate measure to inflict maximum casualty on their unsuspecting adversary particularly where every other conventional strategy including coordinated assault and Guerrilla Warfare has not worked successfully towards achieving their prescribed goals and objectives. Groups like ISIL, AQ and Boko Haram continue to use suicide bombers to penetrate well protected areas that are vulnerable to human access but not accessible by other means due to perimeter fencing defences against Vehicular Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs).
For any group to succeed in using this tactics, they need volunteers, a community to shade them from security services, precursor materials for making IEDs, experts to train potential volunteers, and experts to make body worn or other related IEDs vest. Some of these training can also be accessed online from well known Jihad training manuals.
Most recently and particularly for the past six months, suicide bombing has become a common tool by some ISIL/Boko Haram factions especially immediately after 2015 when the military base was transferred from Abuja to Maiduguri by President Buhari on his inauguration speech of May 29th . His promise of hardline military strategy first and other soft approach later may have triggered fear within the leadership structure of Boko Haram that a change of tactics was necessary to continue the insurgency.
From all past incidence , Boko Haram selected perpetrators are usually vulnerable boys and girls some as young as 10 years old. Other insurgency groups use adults for maximum effect. Book Haram initial high value targets are often unsuspecting civilians and military/police personnel. However there has been a recent increase in attacks around places of worship, social gatherings, markets and other soft locations including the attack on Maiduguri University. It is important to note that Boko Haram has also used elderly men and women as suicide bombers, making it difficult for security experts to build a concrete profile of a typical suicide suspect.
The significant use of vulnerable girls and women, including the elderly as suicide bombers is very concerning and threatening to security services with no particular typology to profile . On the one hand, it indicates that the military is inflicting some serious punches on Boko Haram as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari because they continue to change tactics to stay rele. On the other hand it indicates that Boko Haram is desperate and losing man power which is also thanks to the recent military strategy of weakening their human capacity. But this desparate reaction means a disorganised insurgency with no known pattern. To militate against this military success, Boko Haram has now specialised in using the most vulnerable and unsuspecting individuals as suicide bombers to target the most vulnerable population at the most vulnerable times.
Suicide bombing is an expensive strategy for most terrorist groups because it affects the manpower of the group. Since not many militants have the mindset to die in such circumstances, it is difficulty to persuade members to take the cause either voluntarily or by coercion. Strangely, it appears that insurgency groups like ISIL & Boko Haram seem capable of getting willing volunteers for this tactics and that aspect itself is a huge concern for any optimist looking at the end game of insurgency suicide activities in the Lake Chad and globally.
To carry out a successful suicide attack, groups need a volunteer, an IED suicide vest and a soft or hard target. Killing a suicide bound terrorist just before they succeed to detonate the suicide vest or locate their intended target is a 50/50 chance reactive strategy based on pure luck and extreme vigilance. The chances of success is very low , and can sometimes result in the killing of innocent suspects.
Practical and proactive measures to counter suicide bombing and bombers are equally complex since perpetrators cannot be physically profiled from normal people. The truth is that, suicide bombers are increasingly becoming unsuspecting individuals ready to die themselves with or without taking others along. These ‘death-bound’ perpetrators easily blend into the local communities that they are familiar with without any notice of their intentions. In the Republic of Chad and Cameroon measures like dressing down or even banning full face veils have been implemented but the suicide bombers keep adapting to changes. Recent spiral in attacks using suicide bombers in Chad and Cameroon indicates that this measures of banning full face veils/dressing down has done little to deter willing suicide bombers.
The first and most effective measure is to cut the supply chain of volunteers who are recruitment by various terrorist groups. To achieve this requires tackling the fragile environment of extreme poverty, ignorance and lack of care and protection that groups like Boko Haram take advantage of. A better alternative to what these groups provide will naturally hinder voluntary recruitment.
Community based awareness programmes should be flooded into affected and vulnerable regions via varied methods using experts to create public awareness. Since trust in an issue, affected states must rebuild and strengthen their intelligence based trust with the communities that provide space for suicide bombers to infiltrate and blend.
Secondly, there is an urgent need for both national and regional states to implement a counter IED precursor material and bomb making equipment acquisition strategy, working in collaboration with public and private businesses dealing with these materials, equipments or logistics of same. This will ensure that precursor materials like detonators , used to make IEDs and VBIEDs which is readily available in the open market, are comprehensively policed using existing methods of reporting and detecting that have yielded success elsewhere.
Thirdly, the absence of good and reliable database system in most of these states affected by Boko Haram activities has a major effect in achieving a milestone of success. It is high time States work towards the building of a comprehensive national regional database in Africa. This requires time but a database system must be started now for effective information gathering and sharing. Without community awareness, policing these precursor materials through a regional database, the use of suicide bombing and home made IEDs will continue to flourish and cause more havoc to innocent citizens in places where they least expect. To win any battle or war of this nature, the national intelligence estimate of all possibilities must be right from the onset and continue to be enhanced and evaluated as terrorist groups become smarter and improvise on tactics and strategy. If these proactive measures are achieved in good time + other practical measures to cut terrorist groups capacity to buy arms and ammunitions from within and without, technically defeating Boko Haram or ISIL will not be an overstatement or a ridicule of an effective global counter terrorism strategy.
Note: The author reminds readers that mitigating efforts against suicide bombers using IEDs or VBIEDs is only one strategy against many in countering a terrorist group like Boko Haram or ISIL or any other violent extremist group. Other countermeasures to address the underlying ideology must work in complement to achieve different goals simultaneously.
 Global Terrorist Tactic Stats as of 11 August 2015 at Http://www.intelcenter.com/reports/global-tactics-stats/index.html
 10 Most Dangerous Countries; Country Threat Index (CTI) Http://www.intelcenter.com/maps/cti.html
 Chad Bans face veils , also see Cameroon http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-3316622
David Otto Institutional Representative of SECINDEF (Security Intelligence and Defense) Israel-USA International Consulting Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom and collaborating analyst of OCATRY (Observatory against the Terrorist Threat and the Jihadist Radicalization) David Otto is the Director of TGS Intelligence Consultants Ltd and the Preventing Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Programme – Step In Step Out (SISO) – based in the United Kingdom. He is also Senior Counter Terrorism Advisor for Global Risk International.