A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Afghan Security Tight After American Kidnapped

Cyd Mizell, an aid worker with the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, and her driver, Abdul Hadi, were reportedly kidnapped in Kandahar on 26 January. This short AP video has a plea from her organization for her quick release.



According to relief web hundreds of Afghan women in Kandahar demonstrated to protest the kidnapping and demand her safe release.

Vacancy - NGO Security Coordinator/Program Manager - Gaza

CARE is looking for an NGO Security Coordinator/Project Manager for West Bank Gaza. This position at the leading edge of NGO security. Its not a position for the faint of heart but the successful applicant will have the opportunity to shape the future of NGO security in Gaza. You'll lead a small security team in collecting, analyzing and disseminating security information with the intent of allowing local and international NGOs to continue to operate in a fluid and challenging environment.

If you want an easy job look somewhere else. If you want to shape the future of NGO security apply here: NGO Security Coordinator/Project Manager

The Global Risk Report Rank Ordered

"Sources and Methods" has a great post on rank ordering the risks from the 2008 Global Risk Report. I'm not really conversant with all the math but his rank ordered list is pretty interesting. Where do you suppose international terrorism ranks compared to a pandemic? Or how about "failed and failing states" compared to "natural catastrophe: earthquake?"

Mick Farmer on Armoured Vehicle Mods

Mick Farmer has an interesting post on the inadvertent problems that poorly thought out armoured vehicle modifications can cause. Part I covers issues ranging from side view mirrors that can't be adjusted from the safety of the armoured vehicle to hub problems.

Imminent Threat: Potential for Violent Backlash over Anti-Qur'an Film

Although Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, has agreed to delay the release of his controversial anti-Qur'an short film the potential for a violent backlash remains. The pending release of the film has led to fears of a repeat of the worldwide Prophet Mohammad cartoon riots in 2006.

Wilders says his short will show that the Qur'an is "a source of inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror." Little else is known about the contents of the yet to be viewed video leading some to speculate that it may contain deliberately provocative acts.

NGO’s working in Islamic countries or in countries with significant Muslim communities should review their exposure to the risk of a violent backlash. Organizations that might be labelled as “Western”, “Christian”, “Dutch” or “Israeli” are especially vulnerable. Security plans should include responses for civil disobedience, demonstrations, and riots. With luck cooler heads will prevail and the plans won’t be needed but, as always, it is better to be prepared.

Courage, Passion and Lifelong Learning

This video, from the always inspirational TED Talk series, isn't even remotely connected to security. Watch it anyway... especially if, like me, your cynicism sometimes gets the better of you.

Deja Vu in Gaza

OK, I'm dating myself here but I find the the scenes on the Gaza - Egypt border very reminiscent of the exodus from East Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down. This is a very interesting development.

Gadget Roundup

NGO security is really about people... but a few gadgets can't hurt either.

MOGO Wireless Signal Booster

We've all worked in areas where mobile phone coverage is spotty at best. MOGO Wireless has a wireless signal booster for mobile phones that claims to reduce dropped calls and boost signal strength. There is a home version that plugs into the USB port of your laptop and also a mobile version that plugs into the power port in your car. The only down side is it seems they only do 800/1900MHz so globe trotting aid workers might want to wait until other antennas are available.


ATP GPS Photo Finder

I've been experimenting with geotagging lately. Its very useful for keeping track of where you took your facility security, post-incident , and other photos. Most systems are still a little kludgey but a friend pointed me to the GPS Photo Finder. Simply carry it around while you take your pictures. Later, put your camera's memory card into the GPS Photo Finder and all the location data is merged with the digital photos. Your photos can then be used GPS compatible photo software or sites such as Google Maps and Flickr.


Solio Universal Solar Battery Charger

Better Energy Systems has introduced a couple of new models of their universal solar battery charger known as the Solio. I've used the original model for a couple of years. It comes in really handy for keeping your mobile phone and gadgets charged when you are working in areas without reliable electricity. All of the models are small enough to fit into your field bag. It only takes about four hours of tropical sun to charge fully... longer at more temperate latitudes.

The only thing I don't like about the Solio is having to carry all the little adaptors needed to support my various phones, iPods and other gadgets. Of course that's really not Solio's problem. I pray for the day when gadgets come with standardized ports.

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.

Beware Barbara Moratek of the Ivete Foundation

According to Sunbelt, a security software company, there is a new email scam going around where small non-profit organizations are being targeted by a “Barbara Moratek” of the “Ivete Foundation“. Not only does the email seem to be a scam but Googling either name can take you to sites with fake codec Trojans and other potentially damaging sites. NGOs, especially smaller ones eager for donors, should also be aware of this potential threat.

Go to their site to read the whole post.

Colombian Hostages Talk of Captivity

Two Colombian hostages, freed by the FARC after six years in captivity, describe what it was like to be a hostage. For a more in-depth interview from a former kidnap victim check out "Being Buried Alive - Surviving a Kidnapping".

People and Power - Burning Issues

An Al Jazeera report from Balochistan, where nationalists struggle for greater control over their region's natural resources.


Tracking Kenyan Violence

Ushahidi.com is a brilliant website that gives Kenyans a simple way to report and follow post-election violence. The site offers a simple map-based way to see where violence is taking place, and collects eyewitness accounts and photographs. Its even possible to report incidents via SMS.

Ushahidi.com screenshot

If you want even more White African has a comprehensive list of blogs covering the post-election violence.

Googling Dangers

Dangers indexed by Google result
xkcd's take on assessing risk with Google. Try it with your own dangers.

Free Media and NGO Security

Yesterday the Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka, sent me an e-mail announcing their new website. A quick review of the new site reminded me of how valuable FMM and similar sites can be to NGO security officers. The risks faced by independent journalists are similar to those faced by NGOs working in the same area. Official and factional attitudes towards free media often reflect attitudes towards NGOs, especially human rights organizations. Therefore actions against journalists can be indicative of impending risks for NGOs.

There is another reason as well. Sooner or later you and your organization are going to face a crisis. When you do there is a very good chance you are going to have to talk to the media. Independent media sites can help you find credible, non-partisan journalists who will be willing to listen objectively to your side of the story.

The FMM site also has a link to “On Assignment: A Guide to Reporting in Dangerous Situations”, a security guide for journalists working in conflict zones. Although it is intended for journalists much of the information is of value to NGOs as well. It is worth the download just for the resource links.

Being Buried Alive - Surviving a Kidnapping

In this video from the Frontline Club BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston describes what it was like to be kidnapped and how he dealt with 114 days in captivity. Well worth watching if you or a family member have even a small chance of being kidnapped.

Other Stuff

Subscribe to Patronus in a feedreader
Subscribe to Patronus Analytical RSS Feed by Email

Low on bandwidth? Try this low graphics version


Lijit Search

Bloggers' Rights at EFF Global Voices: The World is Talking, Are You Listening?



Support CC - 2007

Creative Commons License
This work by Kevin Toomer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
Jun 2008
May 2008
Apr 2008
Mar 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008
Dec 2007
Nov 2007
Oct 2007
Sep 2007
Aug 2007
Jul 2007