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Almost daily now, the media bombards us with detail of bloodbath orchestrated in different parts of the country. Thousands of innocent lives are lost. Our security forces seem either ill equipped or ill trained to combat the menace wreaking havoc on millions of innocent Nigerians and turning the country into one of the most dangerous places to be born in or to live in on earth.

The natural reaction of most Nigerians to these news is shock initially, which later reverts to anger at the senseless killings, frustration at the inability of security forces to curb the meaningless bloodbaths and eventually fear at the realization of their vulnerability. However, a few days or weeks of calm following the latest report, situation in the country and in the minds of the people returns to normal. The latest report is forgotten and people returns to their normal activities with the fear gone. Except for those families whose lives were directly affected by the killings, for the majority of Nigerians, it is business as usual until the next news of a horrific killings hit the airwaves.

A visitor from the fifties and sixties to present day Nigeria would marvel at this reaction in majority of Nigerians. What is wrong with the people? How could one react in this manner to news of indiscriminate or unwarranted slaughtering of innocent people?  The sad reality is fact that it is human nature to use selective amnesia as a form of protection against unpleasant memories or experiences. It is not as if Nigerians are in love with ceaseless bloodbaths, but seeing themselves helpless against a threat that seems too big for even trained security personnel to combat, many of us unconsciously forget these unpleasant incidents soon after they occur as long as it did not happen to us. It is safer to put it away and pretend/believe that the world we live in is still safe. Sadly, this is false. One cannot quench a fire by mere wishing it away or forgetting all about it. We either call the fire department or take up buckets of water, sand or a fire extinguisher to put off by oneself. Relating the fire analogy to the present security situation in our beloved country, what can we do to put off this menace of ceaseless bloodbath or to assist the relevant security agencies in putting it off? In essence, what can we as citizens do to ensure our safety and continued survival of our lives, families, loved ones and our country Nigeria?

Terrorist Activity  – Suspicious Activity – See Something, Say Something1 Most of the people who perpetrate terrorist activities are people known to us who at one time or the other lived among us or might still be living among us. They live every day, unobtrusive lives appearing suspicious while planning and preparing for their attack. They may be your neighbor, student or friend. Often they will need training or equipment that will arouse suspicion. They may also need to conduct surveillance on possible targets and gather information on the planned attack location. All of these things make terrorists vulnerable to detection, by those watching for certain characteristics.

Learn today to recognize the difference between normal and abnormal behavior. It can be a fine line. Stay alert in your travels and routines and get to know:

  • Who your neighbors are
  • What cars are normally in your neighborhood
  • Who regularly makes deliveries at work and in your neighborhood

Staying alert is NOT about becoming paranoid. Staying alert is being aware of one’s surroundings. Be alert to indications of possible trouble. They may include:

  • A local activity that could indicate problems in your community.
  • One of the clues that led to the recent break-up of a terrorist plot was that several of the cell members were spotted celebrating in an apartment complex on the anniversary of 911.
  • Previous activity or crimes.
  • Controversial issues being debated.
  • Suspicious thefts.

There has been no proven ways on how to or how not to  identify a terrorist, however, it is impossible to identify a terrorist by

  • Appearance
  • Nationality
  • Language

You can only identify a terrorist threat by observing or hearing about suspicious activity that may lead to a criminal act. Identifying suspicious activity is not a difficult science, just rely on your judgment. Your suspicion of a threat could be confirmed with only one incident or it could take a series of incidents. Your suspicions will need to be based on:

  • Experience
  • Judgment
  • Common sense

Review some possible suspicious activity. Here is just one example: Unusual Interest in High Risk or Symbolic Targets Maybe you are at a high profile location or, perhaps a National Monument, shopping malls (recall the shootings last year September at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi), cinemas etc and you notice a person nearby taking several photos. That’s not unusual. But then you notice that the person is only taking photos of the locations surveillance cameras, entrance crash barriers and access control procedures. Is that normal for a tourist? No. The following should cause a heightened sense of suspicion:

  • suspicious or unusual interest
  • surveillance (suspicious in nature)
  • inappropriate photographs or videos
  • note-taking
  • drawing of diagrams
  • annotating maps
  • using binoculars or night vision devices

Unusual or suspicious activity does not necessarily mean that terrorist activity is happening, but be aware of the following suspicious behaviors:

  • Individuals acting furtively and suspiciously
  • Individuals avoiding eye contact
  • Individuals departing quickly when seen or approached
  • Individuals in places they don’t belong
  • A strong odor coming from a building or vehicle
  • An overloaded vehicle
  • Fluid leaking from a vehicle, other than the engine or gas tank
  • Over dressed for the type of weather

Fraudulent Identification Many terrorists are usually illegal immigrants in a country and use fraudulent IDs. Altering or using false government identification in any way and for any purpose is against the law. Fraudulent ID’s include:

  • drivers license
  • voters card
  • national ID card
  • passport
  • birth certificate

If you believe someone is using or has altered government identification, please notify the law enforcement authorities. Do NOT request to see another person’s ID when not appropriate. Allow law enforcements to do the investigating. Terrorists, when not acting alone, need to meet with their conspirators and often times work within a cell. Pay attention to visitors and guests that

  • arrive and leave at unusual hours
  • try not to be noticed
  • act in a suspicious manner
  • park an unusual distance from the meeting
  • have an unusual number of unrelated people living together
  • Not all people who maintain privacy are terrorists. But people intent on doing illegal acts want to be left alone.

Some signs that may raise your suspicions

  • they only let you into the apartment or house with plenty of prior notice
  • they change the locks often
  • they keep certain rooms off limits
  • they cover tables and other pieces of furniture
  • they never allow maid service in a hotel room
  • they only take hotel room service outside the door
  • they only accept deliveries at the hotel’s front desk or outside a closed door

Deliveries are a common method for terrorists to carry out their attacks. Be aware of:

  • a vehicle with hazardous material parked or driving in an inappropriate area
  • unusual deliveries of chemicals or fertilizer
  • unattended bags or boxes in a public access place
  • fire extinguishers that may have been moved or tampered with
  • unusual or unexpected mail

Unusual Purchases or Thefts Terrorists need supplies to carry out their attacks and accomplish their goals. Pay attention to purchases, rentals or thefts of:

  • police, security, public utility, mail carrier, or airline uniforms and equipment
  • explosives
  • weapons
  • ammunition
  • propane bottles
  • toxic chemicals
  • vehicles able to contain or haul hazardous materials

Additional suspicious activity may include:

  • Someone bragging or talking about plans to harm citizens in violent attacks or who claims membership in a terrorist organization that espouses killing innocent people.
  • Suspicious packages, luggage, or mail that have been abandoned in a crowded place like an office building, an airport, a school, or a shopping center.
  • Suspicious letter or package that arrives in your mailbox. (Stay away from the letter or package and don’t shake, bump or sniff it; wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Someone suspiciously exiting a secured, non-public area near a train or bus depot, airport, tunnel, bridge, government building, or tourist attraction.
  • Any type of activity or circumstance that seems frightening or unusual within the normal routines of your neighborhood, community, and workplace.
  • Someone unfamiliar loitering in a parking lot, government building, or around a school or playground.
  • Anyone asking a lot of questions ‹ especially concerning routes or loads or drop-off times.
  • Recruiters should be alert for unusual employment applications. Don’t assume it couldn’t be an inside job.
  • A trucker returning to his or her vehicle from a restaurant or truck stop should make sure no one is loitering around the truck. Watch out for walk-around.

What do you do if you spot a suspicious activity? If you see suspicious behavior, do not confront the individuals involved. Take note of the details: SALUTE

  • S–        Size (Jot down the number of people, gender, ages, and physical descriptions)
  • A        Activity (Describe exactly what they are doing)
  • L-        Location (Provide exact location)
  • U–       Uniform (Describe what they are wearing, including shoes)
  • T–        Time (Provide date, time, and duration of activity)
  • E-        Equipment (Describe vehicle, make, color etc., license plate, camera, guns, etc)

Suspicious activity is often recalled after an event. We must train ourselves to be on the lookout for things that are out of the ordinary and arouse suspicions.   In the age we live in, eternal vigilance is the price we have to pay for our continued survival. So stay watchful and report any suspicious activity to the nearest law enforcement office.   Credits http://www.nationalterroralert.com/suspicious-activity/. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nationalterroralert.com.