According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), around 70% of terrorist incidents worldwide involve explosives. In the USA, the FBI reports that 77% of attacks in 1994 involved explosives.

Why do terrorists use explosives?

There are many reasons why terrorists might use explosives. For example, they can be used to damage or destroy property, intimidate others, or kill people. Some explosives are even designed to cause massive casualties. However, probably the biggest reason for terrorist attacks with explosives is to create fear and chaos and to garner the attention of the press and ultimately the public. By using explosives, terrorists hope to cause widespread panic and disrupt normal life as much as possible.

How many terrorist attacks involving explosives are preceded by a threat or warning?

Using the same data provided by FEMA, only 4% of terrorist attacks involving explosives are preceded by a threat or warning.

How does the USA prevent terrorist attacks?

Terrorist organizations still plan attacks on the United States, its allies, and partners. The Department of State seeks to forge an international consensus to weaken and defeat these enemies as the risks posed by these groups continue to change. It collaborates with foreign government partners to develop the capabilities required to prevent, degrade, detect, and respond to terrorist threats through diplomatic engagement and international aid. This includes initiatives to improve crisis response, counter violent extremism, boost aviation and border security, deepen global information sharing, and bolster law enforcement and judicial capacities.

The State Department advocates greater burden sharing to combat terrorist threats through its global involvement and pushes nations to develop counterterrorism capabilities in their respective areas. It coordinates a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy for combating international terrorism in close collaboration with the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and the Intelligence Community.

How do terrorists smuggle explosives on board?

Terrorists are always looking for new ways to smuggle explosives onto planes. One of the most common methods terrorists use to smuggle explosives onto planes is putting them in luggage. However, TSA is now using technology to detect explosives before they get on the plane. 

Checkpoints use advanced X-ray and computed tomography technology systems to scan carry-on luggage for explosives and forbidden items. In some airport sites, passengers will start to view checkpoint computed tomography. By removing the need to take devices out of luggage, CT technology is more convenient for travelers and eventually might do away with the need to remove liquids, aerosols, and gels (LAGs) from carry-on baggage altogether. Additionally, it reduces the need for human searches of passenger belongings by giving a three-dimensional volumetric image of the bag’s contents.

How have terrorist passengers evaded controls on explosives?

It’s no secret that terrorist groups are looking for ways to evade explosives control. The difficulty in stopping these explosives has led to several innovative methods developed by terrorist groups. Here are three examples of how terrorists have evaded controls on explosives: 

  1. Bomb makers are using new and more sophisticated materials to make less detectable bombs.
  2. Terrorists use improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are more difficult to detect and disarm.
  3. Terrorists are using acid or other corrosive liquids to destroy sensitive equipment involved in detecting and disabling bombs.

Where do terrorists get their explosives?

There are many ways that terrorists can obtain explosives. Some of these methods include stealing them from military bases or buying them on the black market. Other methods include manufacturing them themselves by mixing certain chemicals such as those commonly found in fertilizers.