Rameshwaram Cafe IED Blast: A wake up call for mitigation

By Girish Linganna
Feb 2: An explosion took place at the Rameshwaram Cafe in Bengaluru on Friday afternoon, resulting in injuries to at least ten individuals.
Karnataka's Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah, stated that the explosion was triggered by an improvised explosive device (IED), mentioning that a man had left a bag with the device in the cafe.
The Deputy Chief Minister, DK Shivakumar, mentioned that the suspect has been spotted on CCTV footage. He described the suspect as being between the ages of 28 and 30 and noted that the individual had ordered Rava Idli at the cafe.
The Deputy Chief Minister further stated that the suspect departed from the cafe without consuming his meal and abandoned the bag containing the device.
Sources mentioned that the police informed the Chief Minister that no additional IEDs were discovered on the premises besides the one inside the bag.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah revealed that the individual who left the bag in the cafe had taken a token from the cashier, who is currently being interrogated.
When questioned about the possibility of a terrorist motive behind the incident, the Chief Minister stated that it remains unclear, and investigations are ongoing, as reported by the news agency PTI.
He noted that the blast was not of a large magnitude but was caused by an improvised explosive device. He acknowledged that such incidents have occurred in the past and emphasized that they should not happen. He compared this incident to one that happened in Mangaluru during the BJP's tenure, noting that this was the first occurrence of its kind under his administration.
In relation to the explosion, a legal case has been filed at the HAL Police Station in Bengaluru under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Explosive Substances Act.  
Based on the CCTV footage from the Rameshwaram Cafe in Bengaluru, the moment of the blast was recorded. Employees were gathered near the counter shortly before the explosion, which resulted in the camera's view turning white and clouds of smoke billowing up.
Images captured at the scene following the explosion depict individuals fleeing the cafe. The force of the explosion ripped their clothing, and numerous individuals were observed sustaining injuries.
Shortly after the explosion occurred, groups consisting of police officers, firefighters, forensic experts, and a bomb disposal unit convened at the location. 
IEDs Explained: Components and Defense Tactics 
Insurgents and terrorists often choose homemade bombs, also known as IEDs or booby traps, as their weapon of choice. These bombs are easy to make, can be hidden easily, and cause a lot of damage. 
Booby traps are hidden dangers designed to harm or surprise someone when triggered, often made to look like everyday objects.Example Cooker, Tiffin Carrier etc
During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong (a political Organisation and army in South Viet)  noticed that U.S. soldiers often kicked empty soda cans on the road. So, they started hiding bombs (IEDs) inside soda cans to ambush the soldiers when they kicked them.
IEDs are homemade with five basic parts:
1. A source of electricity, commonly supplied through car batteries or alkaline batteries used in flashlights or Torches.
2. A method to activate the device, either directly or indirectly, using things like trip wires, timers, or buttons. Remote triggers, such as cell phones or garage door openers, are often used by someone observing from a distance.
  • Trip Wire : A thin wire set up to trigger an explosive or alarm when disturbed or broken.
  • Buttons  : Buttons are small controls pressed to activate or operate a device, like starting a machine.
  • Garage door openers : are devices used to automatically open and close garage doors, typically controlled by a remote. Garage door openers are devices used to automatically open and close garage doors, typically controlled by a remote.
3. A detonator is a small explosive device that triggers the main explosion. These are often electrical and similar to those used in construction blasting.
  • Think of a detonator like a spark plug in a car. Just as a spark plug creates a small spark to start the engine, a detonator creates a small explosion to set off a larger explosive charge. 
4. The main charge is the main explosive responsible for the large explosion. Unexploded landmines are examples of this. 
5. Additionally, a container is used to keep all components together and can be shaped to direct the explosion in a certain direction. 
  • Extra items might be added to the bomb, like metal pieces, nails, or rocks for shrapnel, and dangerous chemicals that can be poisonous, cause burns, or start fires.

  • Shrapnel refers to fragments from an explosive device that scatter at high speed upon detonation, intended to cause damage or injury to people, vehicles, or structures nearby. 
IEDs can also be part of a "dirty bomb" that spreads harmful biological or radioactive materials when it explodes.
Let's explore how these components function as a whole:
1. The power source provides electric power to both the trigger or switch and the detonator.
2. The trigger is like a switch that starts the explosion. It works in different ways: 
iSensing: It can detect when something is close enough to be a target.
iiDirect Activation: The target itself might do something (like stepping on a pressure plate) that activates the trigger.
iiiTimer: It can be set to go off at a certain time, like an alarm clock.
ivRemote Control: Someone can activate it from a distance, using something like a remote control.
Once the trigger is activated, it sends a signal to the detonator. The detonator then creates a small explosion that sets off the bigger explosion. This is how the whole process of setting off an explosive device begins.
3. The detonator explodes, releasing energy to ignite the main explosive.
4. Then, the main explosive detonates, creating a powerful shock wave or blast. This explosion can also send shrapnel flying, release poisonous chemicals, or spread substances that start fires.
An IED is just like any other bomb—it blows up. To really get what an IED does, it's useful to know what goes on when it actually explodes.
1. When the main explosive goes off, gases quickly heat up and spread out rapidly  forcefully.
2. The expansion generates shock waves or blast waves that move outward at roughly 488 meters per second, covering distances of several hundred meters or more, depending on the size of the explosive.
3. The explosion breaks apart the container, hurling shrapnel outwards at high speeds. If the IED was packed with other items like ball bearings, nuts, bolts, and pellets, these too would be propelled outward.
4. The explosion's heat can start fires.
5. This heat and any initial fires might lead to more fires breaking out.
6. The explosion creates a sort of empty space, making air rush back in quickly. This incoming air also brings back debris and shrapnel with it. 
So, the damage to vehicles and buildings from an IED explosion mainly comes from the shock wave, the heat, and the fires it causes.
On the other hand, people hurt by the explosion can be injured in many ways. The blast can send out shrapnel or turn things like broken window glass into dangerous flying debris.This flying debris can cut through the body in different spots, causing cuts, bleeding, broken bones, and even loss of limbs.
Next, the heat from the explosion can start fires, and both the heat and the fires can lead to serious burns. Also, the force from the explosion can be 1,000 times stronger than normal air pressure.This strong pressure can rupture your eardrums and push your brain against your skull, causing issues like concussion, blindness, hearing loss, and brain swelling.
  • A concussion is a type of brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a sudden jolt that shakes the brain inside the skull. It can lead to headaches, confusion, dizziness, and sometimes loss of memory or consciousness.
Also, the change in pressure can puncture organs filled with air, like the lungs and intestines. 
The strategy to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) encompasses a variety of measures, which include:
  • Collecting information on the bad guys' plans, which might show they're getting ready to set off bombs. This means watching people closely in areas where fights are happening and stopping them from getting the stuff and money they need for their bomb plans.

  • Finding the bombs before they go off, getting rid of or turning off the bombs that are found, and keeping soldiers and ordinary people safe from any bombs that have been found.

  • There are modern technologies that can find, interrupt, or neutralize IEDs, creating a safe zone around soldiers in combat zones. For instance, numerous military vehicles are fitted with devices that block radio frequencies, preventing the use of cell phone signals frequently employed to detonate IEDs.

  • A device known as NIRF, short for Neutralizing Improvised Explosive Devices with radio frequency, sends out a high frequency radio wave that can turn off the electronics of IEDs within a nearby range.

  • Devices that emit microwave pulses can also be employed to "cook" the electronic components of IEDs, rendering them inoperative.

  • A technology named LIBS, short for Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, utilizes lasers to identify the presence of IED explosives up to a distance of 100 feet (or about 30 meters). 

  • The military is looking into the use of robots and drones as a means to safeguard individuals against IEDs. Drones flying overhead could spot IEDs or unusual behavior without putting soldiers at risk, whereas robots could be deployed to inspect areas for potential devices or investigate suspicious packages, thus reducing the need for human soldiers to be directly involved.

  • In cases where detection efforts do not succeed, protective measures like Kevlar body armor help safeguard soldiers from the fragments ejected during an IED blast. Furthermore, military vehicles have been upgraded to better withstand the force of an IED explosion, enhancing the safety of those inside.

(The author Girish Linganna of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at: girishlinganna@gmail.com)



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