Location: an exercise ground just outside Eksjö. The explosion, a demonstration. The charge remotely triggered from a bunker and both the photographic bureau's cameras radio controlled.
A demonstration here. In Iraq and Afghanistan, a reality - a threat classified as high risk. In Kosovo the classification is lower, but a risk nonetheless .
As this article is written, on the 31st of August, Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, reports on a 15 year old girl taken in by Iraqi military in the province of Diyala - before her bomb belt could be detonated.
A quite ordinary story in this war torn land, if it weren't for two factors: the youth of the would-be suicide bomber; and the fact that the military arrested her in time to prevent the bomb exploding. This fortunate turn of events could well have been a result of the subject of the present article - experts refer to it as C-IED, but we can can call it terrorist bomb disposal.
Two Swedish fatalities
Those four letters stand for Counter Improvised Explosive Device, that is the prevention of explosives made from improvised materials.
We could be talking about a road side bomb made out to look like a heap of refuse, or a person - as in the example above - with explosives hidden away beneath their clothes.
Two Swedes have been killed by IED in Afghanistan. Two more have been injured, one severely so.
"The threat of IED can be reduced significantly. A few years ago this was considered impossible. Today, we know that it can be done. But it is a puzzle that only the methods of science can piece together."
Major Lars Samuelsson, based at Armed Forces Headquarters in Stockholm, has the task of developing anti-bomb strategies, based partly on NATO practices and partly on Swedish ideas.
"It's about disturbing routines and breaking up patterns of behaviour, seeing the whole picture, life on the street, political groups, criminal organisations, paramilitary groups, identifying financial backers, changing our own behaviour, increasing personal protection in camps, vehicles..."
That the Swedish perspective hails from across the Atlantic isn't something that Samuelsson, wishes to hide.
"None have greater experience of IED than the Americans, but it's been a tragically expensive affair. More than 1000 coalition soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and an even greater number of civilians."
The Swedish Armed Forces have been allowed into the innermost chambers of NATO, participating in, among other things, the working group responsible for formulating C-IED policy. This steering group is informed of all reports of attacks on military or civilian targets. Implementation of Counter IED is considered to be the cause of a dramatic fall in the number of coalition soldiers killed in Iraq. The number has been almost halved in the past six months.
"NATO is working on a comprehensive action plan. We still have a great deal to learn", Lars Samuelsson relates.
Breaking up patterns
The main thrust of C-IED lies in disturbing patterns of behaviour; and that includes not only the enemy's "chain of action", recruitment of personnel, financing, manufacture of IEDs, tactics, placement – but also the way in which international forces act and re-act:
"If we look at ourselves, we can see that we need to avoid acting in a predictable manner, with well established routines in and around our bases. Transport, for those going on leave, always due on the same day and at the same time of day, patrols that set off after the morning meeting and take the usual route along the normal roads according to routine. Adopting a more irregular pattern of behaviour makes things considerably more difficult for those who would wish to attack us."
C-IED, the art of dealing with the threat of explosive devices, can be summed up, albeit in extremely simplified form, in three phases:
Attack the perpetrator/network, render the explosive material harmless and collect evidence. The last mentioned phase demands an ability to mount an advanced crime scene investigation, with the primary goal of learning lessons for future use.
”… realistic environment”
"A pre-condition for our units based overseas being able to cope with the threat of IEDs is that their training appropriately reflects the current threat situation, and that they are trained in a realistic environment. And adequate training facilities are something we need to acquire quickly."
Lars Samuelsson leads a national Swedish working group on C-IED.
The group consists in representatives for ground warfare, the intelligence services, electronic warfare, ammunition and mine disposal, CBRN (chemical, biological and radiological weaponry), military police, security services and CIMIC (representing civilian and military co-operation.
"At home it is the job of the police to take care of intelligence, information gathering and communications interception, as well as disarming the actual bomb. Here our role is to assist if asked. Abroad, on international missions, we are expected to be able to deal with the entire bomb prevention chain. The risks our personnel face increase dramatically if only a single link in that chain is weak."
By SVEN-ÅKE HAGLUND
Photo: NICKLAS EHLÉN AND HENRIK HAGLUND, Försvarets Bildbyrå