Identifying potential bombers

Bombers, just like those carrying other weapons, will usually do things that indicate they may be up to no good. In most instances, a bomber in a house of worship is much easier to spot if you know what to look for. The key to spotting someone carrying an IED into a house of worship is to have situational awareness.

Similar to active shooters, bombers have specific psychological behaviors that tell us that the individual may have bad intentions. This can include nervousness, twitching, fidgeting, and profusely sweating. They may have no facial expression, they don’t smile or laugh when most people would, and/or something may not seem quite right. These are all behaviors that can be linked to a “fear of discovery” by criminals or terrorists

We can sometimes identify the physical behaviors of those carrying an IED or someone that might be a suicide bomber. In most instances suicide bombers  have certain looks and mannerisms. One or more people with a keen eye can in many instances spot these individuals in the parking lot, or as they enter your church.

Signs that someone may be wearing a suicide vest include wearing clothing that is uncommon for the season, such as a large jacket on a warm day, or they may be wearing a coat, suit jacket or windbreaker that appears to be too large to match their face and legs. As can be seen in the picture below, the person is wearing a large coat, much bigger than his frame. He is also wearing shorts, which is unusual.  He may be a homeless person, or he may be a bomber, but this is an uncommon behavior. No matter what the uncommon behavior is, it should raise red flags with the safety team and be investigated.

Another sign of explosives is that they may be walking uncharacteristically gentle, walking in a robotic manner, or they may be acting nervous and/or sweating. They may have controlled or shallow breathing, and in most instances they will not look anyone in the eye. They will usually stare straight ahead, sometimes as if they are looking right through you.

In cases of radical terrorists, you may see light skin on their face where they recently shaved a beard, or they may be mumbling prayers . They may keep one or both hand inside their pocket, or in the case of a backpack or bag bomb, they will be especially careful not to bump it.

There may be wires that can be seen running from the backpack or jacket back into their clothes. In many instances they will keep their hand their pocket or the bag, so they can keep their hand on the detonator. In some instances, they may keep the detonator outside of the pocket, especially if it is a dead man switch that triggers the IED when they let go of the trigger (see the second image).


While the vast majority of suicide bombers are male, it should be noted that there are female suicide bombers too. This holds especially true with religious zealots. If your church has trained safety and security personnel, there is an increased chance that they may be able to identify these individuals and isolate them from others, or exclude them from the church altogether. Either action will save lives!

Over the next few days, I will be blogging about the types of IED’s and how they may be delivered. As much as I dislike doing this, some of these posts may be discussing the same subject over multiple days, simply because there is so much information to share so we can keep you, and your church, safe. Until then, … Mark