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IEDs A Global Problem: Fact Sheet

The Trend. According to National Counterterrorism Center’s Worldwide Incident Tracking Systems (WITS)[1], there will be, on average, 119 IED incidents each month in 2011—not counting Iraq and Afghanistan. This is more than double the 53 IED incidents each month just five years ago in 2006. This trend poses a direct threat to overall global stability but also to the United States’ national security and economy (for additional information about this trend and its relationship to IED use in Iraq and Afghanistan see Appendix A).

imageThe Impact. Historically, IED use has occurred in all parts of the world during a variety of situations including conflict and post-conflict environments (Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Israel, Lebanon, & Palestine); illegal drug operations (Mexico, Columbia, & Peru); insurgencies (Chechnya, Russia, Nigeria, & Northern Ireland); election-related violence (Kenya, Nigeria, & Ivory Coast); religious crises (India, Pakistan, & Nigeria); ethnic conflicts (Nigeria, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, &Serbia); and other notable acts of terror (France, Norway, Russia, United Kingdom, & United States).

Data compiled by PIF’s Global Campaign against IEDs document global IED incidents at 291 and 308 per month in 2008 and 2009 [2]. In 2006, during a six month period, Landmine Action [3] found 1,836 incidents of explosive devices in populated areas across 38 different countries. Sixty percent (1,105 or 184 per month) involved “bombs” or “car-bombs”—predominantly IEDs.

The 2008 and 2009 incidents involved an estimated 13,771 killed (84% civilians) and 44,506 wounded (88% civilians). There were 196 killed and 28 wounded among those who deployed the IEDs. In cases where these incidents occurred in populated areas some 90% of reported casualties were civilians. Cumulatively just for Nigeria, Thailand, and India there were over 1,621 killed or injured in 2009 and 2010. In these three countries incidents rose 44% in 2010 as compared to 2009.

In Mexico, drug-related proliferation of illegal small arms and associated violence—known as precursors to IED use—foreshadowed the vehicle-borne IED incident in Cuidad Juarez on 15 July 2010. From no reported attacks in 2009, there were six additional IED incidents [4] through January 2011.

Taken together the preceding data indicate that IED use is proliferating.

Now, just this year in 2011, three events add credence to this conclusion at a global level. First, the perpetrator of the July attack in Oslo, Norway described the IED he detonated—prior to shooting 82 people at a youth camp—as a “marketing tool” for his extremist views. Second, the use of IEDs by Boko Haram in Nigeria, with its links to Al Qaeda, is a direct threat to the United States Homeland. This threat to our strategic security and economic interests arises due to the impact on natural resources in the Niger Delta. Third, the Department of Defense’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) reports 395 IED incidents in Pakistan since January. That is more than one each day.

At a domestic level, the United States has its own IED history, most notably the Oklahoma City Bombing. This history continues with the September 11th Attacks, and the more recent failed attempts by the Underwear Bomber, the Shoe Bomber, and the Times Square Vehicle Borne IED incident. All of this underscores a growing domestic threat. Left unchecked, might this lead to gang violence in the U.S. which includes the use of IEDs?

Our Approach. The Campaign's objective is to reduce the use of IEDs at a global level by (1) neutralizing local IED networks and (2) preventing new, effective IED networks from forming. The approach consists of three core elements using public, private, and military efforts where appropriate. The first element is locally led focusing on the socio-economic, cultural, and other root causes of IED activities. This embraces the whole community addressing the root causes of militancy, extremism and violence producing an environment that does not tolerate IEDs. The second core element treats IEDs as a crime under international law. This effectively moves IED use from a military problem to a law enforcement problem emphasizing the crime rather than the attacker’s political motivations. The third and last core element is fact-based information campaigns at global and local levels. These campaigns comprise balanced and objective reporting of IED incidents, social media that engages local civil and military populations as integral components of the solution, and an education component that counters instruction teaching children that terrorism is patriotic and a religious right.

In summary, IEDs represent direct (many of us have lost constituents in domestic incidents) and indirect threats to the United States. It is a global problem that we cannot and should not combat alone. PIF, through The Global Campaign against IEDs, correctly places the responsibility for dealing with IEDs on the global community. Participation by governments and civil society at national and local levels will be required to arrive at a solution for this problem.

[1] WITS, the National Counterterrorism Center, [ http://wits.nctc.gov ] Data retrieved 07 Dec 2011.

[2] WITS, the National Counterterrorism Center, [ http://wits.nctc.gov ] Data retrieved 12 Sep 2011.

[3] Richard Moyes, Policy and Research Director, Landmine Action, Presentation to the Group of Governmental Experts of Amended Protocol II of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW): IEDs and explosive violence – framing the humanitarian problem, 20 April 2009, page 3.

[4] Personal communication from United States Department of State, Overseas Security Advisory Council.





The trends are:

  • The events in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a self-sustaining global capability transitioning IED Tactics, Techniques, Procedures (TTP) and material to other parts of the world.
  • As the level of pressure increased on IED networks in Iraq and Afghanistan (such as the 2010 “Surge”) global IED incidents decreased.
  • The upward trend of IED incidents that exclude Iraq and Afghanistan likely mean that the IED threat will not diminish after transitions in those locales are complete. It will continue its expansion from regional conflicts to worldwide use.
  • As IEDs increase there will no longer be single points of pressure (e.g., the Surge in Afghanistan) to reduce global incidents. Multiple, complex, interdependent networks will require a holistic approach.