West Africa - SahelBlog Analysis

IEDs, robust tools, continuous threat in the Sahel

(B2) With several deaths in Operation Barkhane, in quick succession between the end of December and the beginning of January, the threat of mines and other homemade explosive devices appears to be growing. In fact, this is not the case.

IED detection by soldiers from Barkhane (Credit: EMA – DICOD – Archives B2)

A rather regular figure every year

« Every year, we discover, detect and prevent the explosion of around twenty IEDs planted by terrorist groups » indicates Colonel Barbry, spokesperson for the army general staff. This figure is “ roughly stable » from one year to the next. “ Every year, there are around ten attacks, not all of which result in victims. » There is « no upsurge or pause » . The true " attacks peaked in 2015 ". Since then, he is actually " decreasing ».

Adding products to double the explosive effect

What changes instead is the valorization » of the machines installed, with what we call “Home made exclusive” (HME). In other words, the addition of chemical precursors or other products (e.g. nitrates, etc.) inside the device which increase the effect of the explosion. “ Depending on the charge placed, you obtain proportional damage with the materials placed inside. “Since 2013, we have observed” the addition of exclusive Home made in IEDs ". Loads can be significant: up to 40 kg. Without automatically increasing doses of explosives.

Proven local manufacturing

The IED systems used in Mali are “ basic and rudimentary ", usually " pressure ". The making " remains robust but relatively simple » to place. But there is no improvisation. There are logistics centers “ producers "And" necessarily artificers » able to manufacture the IEDs on site.

An anti-IED device

The French have a fleet of 400 jammers, put in place especially since the intervention in Afghanistan. “ More than two thirds are deployed in particular in the Sahel. “These jammers set up a “ safety bubble "," particularly effective on RcIEDs », radio-controlled IED devices, triggered by a mobile phone for example (2). But they can do much less against explosive devices without remote control, in particular against PP-IEDs, triggered by pressure (the passage of a vehicle for example). It is these pressure devices that we “ mostly found in Mali and the Sahel in general.

Route openings

Faced with more rudimentary IEDs, it is the practice of reconnaissance by a route opening and protection detachment which is used with emblematic vehicles Buffalo (1) and Souvim (Mined Route Opening System) . “ This system of opening mined lands allows you to travel approximately 150 km between 8 and 10 hours. » Or a speed of progress of around ten km/h in the Sahel. Speed ​​which may seem slow. But we are here on rough and complicated abrasive terrain ».

Vital human intelligence

The problem is that devices can be placed after the reconnaissance vehicles have passed. Which requires armies to have a “ certain organization » and especially to resort to « human intelligence " A " need " in " the hunt for security [...] in order to go up the chains, to locate the manufacturing centers, the logistic plots and those who implement them "...

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. A reinforced MRAP (Mine Resistant and Ambush Protected) wheeled armored military vehicle, built by Force Protection, a division of General Dynamics.
  2. The most recent system, the so-called active-reactive 'Barrage' program with goniometry, is currently being deployed. It should eventually replace other systems. Six 'Barrage' are already deployed in the Sahelo-Saharan strip (BSS in military terminology).

These answers were given to the various journalists present during the DICOD press briefing on 15.1, in which B2 participated (via audio conference).

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “IEDs, robust tools, continuous threat in the Sahel"

  • The shore

    Although it is slightly tangential, the expression IED displeases me supremely because on the one hand it is vulgarly American gibberish and on the other hand an inappropriate Western arrogance. Gibberish: Improvised Explosive Device. Device means everything and says nothing, trick, thing, thing, device, etc. Arrogance because Improvised implies that it was not thought out, and (alas) maturely mounted. Installers are not amateurs. Certainly they do not have the heavy Western structure with calls for tenders, approval of plans, manufactures, tests and the like, but they act with cunning. Finally, aping the Americans by taking their faults is not necessarily a positive sign. In short, of course we were not talking about artisanal mines.

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