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                                    Dr. Prashant Mehta
phones using hacked or untraceable SIM cards, at peak hours to cause maximum harm
to innocent people. Each time security f...
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Past, Present And Future Dimensions Of Terrorism


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Small writeup on how terrorism have evolved over the period and how it is changing with adoption of technology

Published in: News & Politics
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Past, Present And Future Dimensions Of Terrorism

  1. 1. PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE DIMENSIONS OF TERRORISM Dr. Prashant Mehta Assistant Professor, National Law University, Jodhpur Email: Terrorism over the years has changed in ways and methods that makes it more dangerous, lethal, and even more difficult to combat. If we analyse present scenario of terrorism activity we will find that terrorist have not only adapted technology and its latest developments but have also outsmart the intelligence set-up in both planning, tactics, and technology. In past the method of operation for most terrorists groups were guns and conventional weapons which causing limited destruction and created threat perception in mind of people. However today, evidence suggests that some of the “new” terrorist groups may be willing to inflict mass casualties by using sophisticated technologies. This use of advanced technology was quite evident from series of serial bomb blasts had identical footprints of well planned, well managed, and well executed operations that rocked major Indian cities. Each operation was either followed or preceded by emails to several newspapers, TV channels using hacked email accounts or sent from public WiFi zones. The high-tech bombs, which were Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), contained the latest generation of explosives (ammonium nitrate) that are difficult to detect and has today become a object of terror. Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is not a high-quality explosive like RDX (it is difficult to procure and use RDX as it is banned substance) but intelligent use in combination with engine oil, gelatin sticks, concrete shrapnel, pebbles, nuts, bolts, packing, and proper fuel mix like diesel converts it into a low cost high impact explosive. The explosion becomes more lethal when the bomb composition is packed in tight containers, concrete blocks, tiffin boxes, and pipes etc. Packing bombs in tight containers increases the impact. In this reaction ammonium nitrate acts as an accelerant (producing oxygen gas at a very fast rate) which in turn speeds up the rate at which the fuel burns, producing a huge explosion. The basic difference between the RDX and ammonium nitrate is that the former can be used alone for causing blasts whereas the latter has to be laced with some fuel or oil for causing the explosion. This chemical mixture was then connected to an embedded chip which acted as an electronic timer device planted at busy locations and detonated remotely by cell
  2. 2. phones using hacked or untraceable SIM cards, at peak hours to cause maximum harm to innocent people. Each time security forces and intelligence agencies thought they had some clues, they ended up finding they had been outfoxed by tech savvy well trained, well planned and educated terrorist. Today threat comes from Terrorist’s familiarity and their in-depth knowledge of using electronic communication technology. Terrorist had knowledge to hack into servers, clone the IP addresses to erase their trails of origin by resorting to cyber attacks on information systems. Not only this, the terrorists use cell phones freely to communicate between themselves but such calls are rarely traced since the terrorists use a combination of foreign SIM cards and computer hacking to trespass into Indian communication networks making detection of the origin of the calls almost impossible. Besides encrypted emails and SMS services, the encryption keys of which are not available to the government, were also used extensively. All blasts used high- technology where conventional timers were replaced by integrated circuits (ICs) to trigger the blasts at equal intervals and to even leave some of the bombs unexploded to convey the message that they can strike anywhere and at will. The third and future dimensions will come from new fast emerging technologies, how the world might change in the years ahead and how it will counter challenge the possible future developments of the terrorist threat. The emergence of a new breed of terrorists less constrained by traditional or present methods of destruction, coupled with the diffusion of know-how about nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, may increase the probability of terrorist incident with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The unregulated growth and diffusion of the new biotechnologies and genetic engineering could open up a wide array of new potential threats like enhancement of bacterial and viral virulence, heterologous gene expression and protein engineering of toxins, agro-terrorism (create biological pathogens to destroy agricultural livestock), nanotech bombs and genetic weapons (targeted towards special genomic race) etc may become a reality in future. At the moment, the production of such weapons and their use by terrorists is only a theoretical possibility but recent developments indicate that in a not-too-distant future and the gap between possibility and reality may close. Thus changing nature and means of operations is making it dangerous and difficult to combat terrorism. Countering this threat requires deterring laws, preventing as much as preparing public and private capabilities to respond to actual attacks.