A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Suicide Attacks in Pakistan 2007

The Pak Institute for Peace Studies' Security Report has some interesting data on suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2007. Actually there is all manner of data covering many aspects of the violence plaguing Pakistan but I've only had time to play with the suicide bombing data. Digging deeper into the numbers reveals some interesting facts.

Suicide Attacks by MonthCasualties Due to Suicide Attack by Month

If we examine the number of suicide bomb attacks per month we see a peak in July 2007. This coincides with an active suicide bombing campaign against predominantly military and police targets. However if we compare it to the adjacent chart showing casualties due to suicide bomb attacks we can see another peak in November and the start of one in December. The July, November and December peaks coincide with attacks on Pakistan Peoples Party rallies and/or attacks on the party chair, Benazir Bhutto.

Incidents of suicide bomb attacks and casualties by region of Pakistan
This chart reveals that most of 2007's suicide attacks occurred in the NWFP. The single but very lethal attack in Karachi also stands out.

Assessed Intended Target of Suicide Bomber

Attacks probably intended to target the military accounted for 47% of suicide attacks with attacks against the police accounting for another 20%. Assessing the actual target of suicide attacks is difficult since the perpetrators are no longer around to explain their intent so these numbers are approximate. The 'mixed' category in particular may be the result of bombers attempting to attack police or military targets without regard for nearby civilians.

Nine percent of the attacks were assessed to be primarily intended to target civilians while 13% where assessed as being intended to attack government personnel and/or political entities, including VIPs.

A comparison of BBIED vs VBIED as method of attack

In 2007 suicide bombings in Pakistan were almost evenly split between Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs) and Body Borne Improvised Explosive Devices. There were a small number of 'complex attacks' involving either multiple bombers or combinations of suicide bombers and conventional attacks.

Relative lethality of VBIEDs and BBIEDs

It was a comparison of the relative lethality of the variants of suicide attacks that surprised me somewhat. I had expected complex VBIED attacks to produce the highest number of casualties per incident yet we can see that complex BBIED attacks on average produced two and a half times as many casualties. However, on second examination it becomes apparent that suicide bomber on foot are able to get much closer to their targets and are able to merge easily with large crowds. Even a relatively small quantity of explosives will cause many casualties when employed indiscriminately at political rallies and religious festivals. In addition it appears that VBIEDs were employed primarily against harder military and police targets.

I would have liked to compare civilian victims of suicide bombers against total casualties but unfortunately the data fidelity is just not there. However PIPS did have a table showing total civilian casualties as a result of 2007's cumulative attacks and clashes. Once again civilians seem to bear the brunt of the violence as the chart below shows.

Casualties of Clashes in Pakistan 2007

So what does all this mean for NGO's and others wanting to increase their personal security? Well there shouldn't be any surprises here. The data supports the tried and true advice:

* Avoid potential targets including military and police personnel and facilities as best you can.
* Don't wear clothing that might be mistaken for a uniform.
* Don't mingle with military or VIP convoys while driving.
* Avoid travelling on routes and at times used by military convoys and/or VIPs.
* Avoid political rallies especially when VIPs are present.
* Avoid large crowds including during religious festivals.

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This work by Kevin Toomer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
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