Today in Terrorism: November 22, 2009 – ‘Bicycle bombs’ in Northeastern India

Terrorists can use just about anything to carry out an attack: their only limit is their imagination.

One of the many striking things about the terrorist attacks on 9/11 was the fact that passenger aircraft were used as weapons, not as bargaining chips. We were all used to seeing violent extremist seize a plane, force the crew to fly it to Cuba, issue demands, and finally free their hostages.

9/11 was of course unique: the planes themselves were the terrorist tool.

Commandeered shortly after take-off in New York and Boston, fully-fuelled aircraft were formidable flying bombs. The World Trade Center towers essentially melted because of the intense heat.

We have all heard of firearms and bombs, some of which are molded into vests and borne by suicide vests.

Some terrorists have demonstrated quite a bit of ingenuity when it came to their weapon of choice. We have all heard of firearms and bombs, some of which are molded into vests and borne by suicide vests. There are also cars and trucks used as weapons of carnage – Barcelona, London, Stockholm, etc. – and a variety of knives. There was even a golf club wielded by an Islamic State wannabe in Toronto in 2017! I wonder if she used a wood or an iron?

A blast victim being taken to Gauhati Medical College Hospital.
A victim of the terrorist bicycle blasts being taken to hospital

So, what do you think of a terrorist bicycle?

On this day in 2009, seven people were killed and over 20 wounded when two bicycles kitted with explosives detonated in the Indian state of Assam (a region that featured in an earlier Today in Terrorism blog). Police said the two devices were mounted on bicycles left near a police station and that while no group claimed responsibility they suspect that separatist terrorists from the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) carried out the blasts.

The ULFA was formed in April 1979 to establish a “sovereign socialist Assam” through an armed struggle. The whole region is rife with extremist groups and, as noted in that other blog, the situation will likely get worse.

Heath Ledger as the Joker in Dark Knight

That’s just Hollywood right?

But back to bizarre things terrorists use to cause mayhem. The sky is the limit. Case in point, did you see the 2008 Dark Knight film where Heath Ledger plays the Joker (news flash: my next podcast talks about whether the Joker can be seen as a terrorist – tune in!) where he plants a bomb in the abdomen of a prisoner? Sure, but that’s just Hollywood right?

Let’s hope it stays that way!

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