Terrorism and Travel

Terrorism and Travel 787 218 Greg Ellifritz

This link provides an important batch of resources for researching terrorism trends in other countries. I find much of the information provided by the US government to be fear mongering.


I don’t pay too much attention to the US State Department Travel Warnings. I find that similar warnings from the governments of Australia and Great Britain to be far more accurate.


“Terrorism kills more people than sharks, but it still doesn’t kill many: your odds are 1 in 25 million worldwide (in the US, it’s even less likely). When you travel, it’s far more likely (1 in 5,862 in the US) that you’ll die in a plane crash than you will in an act of terrorism.”


Everything you need to know about terrorism and travel

The ISIS Bus Attack

The ISIS Bus Attack 150 150 Greg Ellifritz



Although it went virtually unmentioned in the US national media, ISIS perpetrated a vicious massacre against members of a different Islamic sect in Pakistan.  The terrorists targeted a bus full of Shiite Muslims on their way to a community center.  Six terrorists used motorcycles to ride along side the bus and shoot the passengers. They then boarded the bus and systematically shot all of the passengers in the head.  At last count 43 people were killed and an additional 13 were wounded.  For more details of the attack, read THIS ARTICLE.


Why is this important to my readers?  Two reasons:  One is that some of my readers use public transportation in foreign countries and need to be prepared for such an attack.  The second is that Islamist terrorists worldwide use the battleground in the middle east to refine terrorism tactics, techniques, and procedures so that they are more successful when utilized in other locations (like here in the USA).  Unless our society takes measures to prevent it, what we are currently seeing in Pakistan will someday be used against our own citizens here in the USA.  It’s prudent to be prepared.


Take a minute to think it through.  What would you do if you were a passenger in a bus that came under attack from a band of gun-toting motorcycle riders?  It’s likely that the six attackers were doubled up on three bikes so that the driver could maneuver, allowing the passenger to fire.  How would those three bikes most effectively stop the bus and perpetrate their attack?  How would you respond?  Here are some things to think about…


1) Don’t stop moving.  In an attack like this, the moving bus is the best weapon available.  If you are a passenger, don’t let the driver stop.  Even if you need to threaten the driver with force, make sure he keeps the bus up to speed.  Ideally, he should be trying to strike the motorcycle riders as he makes his escape.


The terrorists may intentionally target the driver with the first bursts of gunfire, forcing him to crash and stop.  Are you prepared to drag the driver’s body out of the seat and drive the bus yourself?  If you are sitting close enough to the driver, that may be the most successful intervention you can pull off.  Waiting until all six guys are on the bus and firing doesn’t leave you with many viable options.


2) Choose your seats wisely.  In addition to being seated near the driver as mentioned above, sitting close to one of the exits is beneficial.  It’s likely that these terrorists didn’t execute the attack perfectly.  There may have been a brief escape opportunity during an early part of the attack.  If you aren’t sitting near an exit, you won’t be able to get off quickly.


Aisle seats are important on public transportation.  If you plan on escaping or fighting, you’ll need quick access to the aisle.  Climbing over two other sleeping passengers to make your escape is less than optimal.


Don’t forget that some of the widows serve as emergency exits.  Don’t be afraid to break one with the little hammer mounted nearby and make your escape if things look nasty.


3) Block the aisles.  In a bus, attackers can be easily thwarted by physically blocking the aisles.  It’s tough for the terrorists’ teammates to get around you to join the fight or to victimize other passengers if you are fighting the lead attacker in the aisle.  In multiple attacker situations, it’s generally a good plan to “stack” (line up) your attackers so that you only have to fight one at a time.  There’s no place easier to do that than a bus aisle.  Don’t stay in your seat.  If you are going to fight, get to the aisle and make the terrorists fight there.  Even if you get killed, blocking the rest of the terrorists from penetrating deeper into the bus may facilitate some other passengers’ escapes.


4) You may have to play dead.  Although I generally don’t think that playing dead is usually a very successful tactic in the event of an active shooter event, it has worked in some past incidents.  If I couldn’t get out of the seat or I was too late and multiple shooters were already in the aisle spraying rounds with an AK-47, I might hit the ground and play dead until I get a better opportunity to act.  Draw whatever weapon you have available and wait for one of the terrorists to walk past your seat.  Attack him as soon as he passes by shooting him in the back of the head or bring him down by stabbing him in the leg.  Get control of his weapon and go to work on his buddies.


This may not have a high likelihood of success, but it seems like a better option than wildly charging several rifle-armed gunmen if you are unarmed.


One final thing to note: At least one of the terrorists in this attack was wearing a police uniform.  This is becoming a go-to strategy for Islamic terrorists.  I’ve written about this tactic extensively in past articles but it bears mentioning again.  Don’t make assumptions when you see someone in a uniform.  It might be a ruse that is designed to make you hesitate just long enough to get you killed.





Safe Hotel Rooms

Safe Hotel Rooms 634 419 Greg Ellifritz

International Active Killer Attacks

International Active Killer Attacks 631 311 Greg Ellifritz

Stratfor is one of the large outfits providing intelligence and analysis of international terrorist attacks.  When digging through some old articles, I found their advice about dealing with an active killer attack while on foreign soil.


It’s exceptional advice.  Read it at the link below.



How to Counter Armed Assaults

Fighting Against the Odds

Fighting Against the Odds 620 465 Greg Ellifritz

Read the story below:

In Kenya, Al-Shabab gunmen slay 28 bus passengers who could not recite an Islamic creed


A band of 20 Islamist terrorists armed with automatic weapons tried to stop a bus filled with local citizens in Kenya. The driver heroically kept driving. The terrorists raked the bus with gunfire before bringing it to a stop by using an RPG round.


Terrorists quickly take control and separate Muslims from non-Muslim passengers. The non-Muslims were ordered to lie face down on the road as they are systematically shot in the back of the head.


This story hit me pretty hard. I’ve spent a lot of time on buses just like this one riding through rural Kenya.   It could have very easily been me on that bus.  This is one of the few “unwinnable” scenarios that everyone will occasionally face. You are unarmed and have no friends on the bus with you.  Have you considered what you might do?


I find it curious here that no one tried to fight or escape. Odds of winning are non-existent when facing 20-1 superior numbers, but why not try? You know you will be killed if you comply. There is a small chance you will get away if you fight or flee. The choice is pretty clear to me.


I’m going to use my folding knife to get one of terrorists’ guns and I’m going to take as many out as possible. I’ll probably be killed, but I’ll most certainly be killed otherwise. Who knows, with dumb luck it’s possible that I survive.


In any event, every terrorist I kill will reduce the chance that innocent people will be targeted in the future. My attack may also provide the distraction needed for a couple other  people on the bus to escape.  If more people fought back, these terrorists might start thinking twice about targeting civilian passenger vehicles.  If I’m going to die anyway, I may as well make my death as meaningful as possible.  Laying in the dirt as I get shot in the back doesn’t accomplish that goal.


I can’t tell you what to do if you are thrust into a situation like this.  I can tell you that there are a few times when compliance has a very poor record for ensuring your safety.  In my study of events like this terrorist attack, I’ve noticed some very clear trends.  If the terrorists/criminals start doing any of the following, your chances of survival are extremely low:

1) They start killing hostages

2) They order people to the ground

3) They start searching hostages for weapons

4) They start restraining people

5) They move people to another location


Those are my “go” signals.  I may fight.  I may flee.  I may make up some other strategy on the fly.  But when those things start happening, I know I won’t meekly comply.


Unfortunately, no one on the bus thought like I do. Have you considered what you might do in a similar “against all odds” situation?  You should.  Because if you don’t develop your “go triggers” in advance, you’ll end up just like all the poor folks on that bus in Kenya.



Kenyan security forces and others gather around the scene on an attack on a bus about 50 kilometers (31 miles) outside the town of Mandera, near the Somali border in northeastern Kenya, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, attacked the bus in northern Kenya at dawn on Saturday, singling out and killing 28 passengers who could not recite an Islamic creed and were assumed to be non-Muslims, Kenyan police said. (AP Photo)

Al Shabaab

Al Shabaab 884 663 Greg Ellifritz

I find it useful if travelers have at least passing familiarity with the terrorist groups operating across the world.  Learn something new.  Read this very comprehensive article about the fastest growing Islamist terrorist group in the world.



First They Attacked A Mall, Then They Repelled SEAL Team Six: The Rise of Al Qaeda 2.0

Lessons Learned from the Nairobi Mall Attack

Lessons Learned from the Nairobi Mall Attack 640 360 Greg Ellifritz

I think it’s instructive to look at past terrorist attacks to gain some insights about what we might experience in a worst case scenario.  One of my favorite incidents for study is the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.  It hits close to home because I actually visited that mall when I was in Kenya back in 2008.


CNN  gathered CCTV surveillance video showing the tactics used by the terrorists in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya.  The video is short and very instructive.  Watch it below…



I’ve discussed several of the lessons learned from the attack HERE.  This video brings up several more….


1) Long Guns.  All the attackers in this event were armed with AK style rifles.  You will be dramatically outmatched by them if you are carrying a pocket pistol.  Their choice of weapons also brings up the issue of using cover.  Quite simply, there aren’t many things you can hide behind that will reliably stop a 7.62x39mm round.  Traditional advice about “taking cover” is almost useless in this environment considering the terrorists’ weapon choice.


2) Running.  How many people do you see running in the video?  Hundreds.  Are you physically fit enough to escape?   If not, you will be one of the folks shot down if you are stuck in the next hostage siege.  This article may help you get back on track.  Another point is to wear suitable shoes in public.  Flip flops and running over broken glass make for a slow escape.


3) Hiding vs. Escaping.  I get in passionate arguments on this topic with people who teach active shooter tactics.  Many folks advocate “locking down” or hiding as the first choice in such an event.  I don’t.  While those tactics work well if there will be a rapidly responding police entry, in some cases (like this) police intervention will take days.  The people who “locked down” were found, tortured, and killed.  The people who hid were shot.  Watch the video around the :56 second mark for proof.  If you hear gunshots in a public area GET OUT!


4) Playing dead.  Similar to the response of hiding that I wrote about above, playing dead should be a last resort response.  Take a look at what happened to the person playing dead in the mall at the 1:46 mark.  The same thing happened to students playing dead at both Columbine and Virginia Tech.


5) Team Tactics.  In most of the footage, the terrorists operated in teams of two.  Their tactics were far from state of the art, but they were effective.  Have you ever trained to defeat attackers working as a team?  Program yourself now to immediately start scanning for multiple attackers in situations like this.  Be careful who you attack.  Your “victim” may have friends nearby.


6) Surveillance video.  If your long term survival plan is to hide, lock down, or “shelter in place”, have you considered the effect of video cameras?  Undoubtedly, the terrorists took control of the video feeds.   Watch the video around the 2:30 mark to see the terrorists attempting to identify where the cameras were positioned.  You may have been able to hide from a single gunman, but can you hide from the cameras?  Have you thought about how you could disable any cameras near your hiding place?


Remember folks, this video was just from the first day.  The torture and mutilation had not yet begun.  I doubt the rest of the video footage will ever be released, but it is likely to be even more brutal.  Come up with a plan now so that you don’t end up tortured and killed when the attacks  start happening here.



Istanbul Airport Terrorist Attack

Istanbul Airport Terrorist Attack 300 238 Greg Ellifritz

On June 28, 2016, three ISIS terrorists conducted  simultaneous attacks on the unsecured areas of Istanbul’s international airport.  They entered the airport armed with AK rifles and suicide bomb vests.  They split up, went to separate areas of the airport and began shooting and blowing up their bombs.  A total of 42 people were killed and 238 more were injured.


Why should we care?  We should care because the same terrorists have stated that they will perform similar attacks in the United States.  We can study the tactics used in their overseas attacks and develop countermeasures before they bring them stateside.  Here is a discussion of the key elements of the attack and what we all need to do in order to avoid being killed if a similar event happens here.


-Guns and Bombs- All of the terrorist attacks with the largest number of fatalities involve both guns (usually long guns) and explosives.  To prepare for an active shooter requires that you also be prepared to deal with a terrorist bomber.  The two groups use both methodologies simultaneously.

DM GRAB - Ataturk Airport International Terminal terrorists images appeared on the departures floor. Images of the Russian national airline Aeroflot experienced moments of horror in front of the bank where the check-in office and this was reflected in the cameras. (Haberturk News Centre)

One of the terrorists who initiated the attack with rifle fire.


Most shooters don’t know enough about bombs.  You must understand how terrorist bombs are detonated, how they are used, and how far away you must get to be safe.  Take a bomb class.  Until then read this article.  Then understand about secondary devices.  This type of information can truly save your life.


– Three Pronged Attack.  A hallmark of Al Qaeda (and now ISIS) attacks is the three pronged attack.  They are continuing the trend here with three attackers at the airport.  They use multiple attackers to ensure that at least one makes it to the target if the others are interdicted by the police before arriving on site.  It’s basically a back-up plan.  In this case, the three attempted to enter the airport.  They were stopped by police at the entrance of the building (this airport has additional metal detectors at the airport entrance).  When they realized they couldn’t make it through security with their guns and bombs, one terrorist pulled out a gun and began shooting at police.  That provided enough of a distraction to allow the other two terrorists to slip inside unnoticed.


The key thing to remember is if you witness one terrorist attack, you should assume that more are coming.  There will always be a followup attack.  Don’t hang around.  Get yourself to safety.  The followups may not be in the same location like these were.  Police need to be aware of the three pronged strategy.  If one attack occurs, the police should be deploying additional resources to protect other pre-identified targets for attack.


– Heavy clothing and large bags remain the best indicators of a potential bomber.  Take a look at the photo below from this article.  All three terrorists are wearing heavy coats that were wholly inappropriate for the June Mediterranean weather.


Note the terrorists' heavy coats, hiding bomb vests

Note the terrorists’ heavy coats, hiding bomb vests

The heavy coats are what attracted the initial police attention.  The cops thought these guys were thieves or robbers based on their dress.  Pay attention to people wearing clothing inappropriate for the weather conditions and people who are carrying large bags.


– If you plan on shooting a suicide bomber, you must realize that it is likely a suicide mission.  One of the bombers is running through the airport with a rifle in hand.  He is shot from ambush by a courageous police officer.  The terrorist falls to the ground and his rifle goes skidding across the floor.  The cop approaches, noticed that the man is wearing a bomb vest and runs away.  The man detonates.  The cop was killed in the explosion.  Watch the video of the incident below:


It’s likely here that the cop didn’t know the terrorist was armed with a bomb until after he shot.  The correct course of action after seeing the bomber trying to detonate is to fire multiple head shots.  The problem is that even if you immediately incapacitate the terrorist with head shots, there’s no guarantee that you will be safe.  The bomb could be on a timer.  The bomb could be remotely controlled by a handler.  You just don’t know.  That’s what I mean.  Taking the shot may save the day.  It may also get you killed.


For a hand carried or worn bomb vest, one must be between 200 and 400 meters away from the blast to be safe from the shrapnel.  None of us are going to make a pistol shot through a crowded airport at 200 meters.  If you are close enough to take the shot, you are within range of being killed by the bomb.


Luckily, this cop’s shots to center mass didn’t detonate the explosive vest.  That wasn’t the case in Paris, where one of the cops hit a bomb vest and blew up the bomber.  The unstable homemade explosives in the bomb vest may detonate when hit by a bullet.  That means head shots should be the rule.  How far away can you reliably make a head shot under stress?  Most of you won’t be able to do it beyond 50 feet.  Some of you may have to be much closer.


The bad news is that in all suicide bombing attacks studied, victims within five meters of the bomb suffered 100% fatalities.  At the 15 meter range (around 50 feet), the victims were slightly more likely to live than die after the blast.  Anyone inside of 50 feet is more likely to die than live.  How far away can you guarantee a head shot again?  If you are close enough to make the shot, you will have at best a 50% chance of survival if the bomb blows.


These are sobering statistics, but they are critical to understand.  If you choose to play the hero and engage the bomber like this heroic cop, you will likely suffer his same fate.


– The terrorists may be hiding their weapons during the attack.  This article describes how one of the bombers was concealing his handgun after firing several shots.

“He turned around and started coming towards us. He was holding his gun inside his jacket. He looked around anxiously to see if anyone was going to stop him and then went down the escalator. We heard some more gunfire and then another explosion, and then it was over.'”


Note this picture from The Daily Mail of another killer with a long gun.  See how he is attempting to conceal the weapon?


Terrorist hiding long gun

Terrorist hiding long gun


Adaptation on the part of the killers and the defenders is constantly occurring.  Both groups are learning from the mistakes made in past attacks.  In past active killer events, the killers brazenly walked their killing fields with guns exposed, targeting anyone they could find.  Now we are seeing killers exercising more caution.  As cops and armed citizens are training to hunt and kill the attackers, the attackers know that if they are obvious about carrying a gun, they will likely be killed before getting the body count they desire.


When you are either fleeing the scene of an active killing or hunting the killer, watch people’s hands.  The killer might not be running around with a shouldered long gun as he does his killing.


– Unsecured areas of airports are very vulnerable.  There have been numerous attacks to the unsecured areas of airports all around the world.  Get inside and through security as quickly as possible.  Although airport security is a joke, you are still far more likely to get killed in the unsecured area than past the body screening machines.


Don’t dawdle in the unsecured area.  Avoid checking baggage if possible.  Print your boarding passes at home.  Fly first or business class whenever possible so that lines at the ticket desk are shorter.  Get TSA Pre-check or Global Entry to speed your way through security lines.  Anything you do to speed up the time you spend in the unsecured area of the airport will improve your chances of survival.  One study showed that for every 15 minute time period that you avoided the security line, your chance of surviving a terrorist bombing was improved by 50%.  Again, anything you do to make it through security faster will improve your odds of survival.


– You must be an active participant in your own rescue.  That’s a saying from my friend Dave Spaulding and it fits this situation perfectly.  Look at this video.  Watch the response of the victims here immediately following the blast.  They are sitting down on the floor, immobile and cowering in fear with no idea what to do.  They are sitting ducks if the attack had additional components or in the event another bomber/shooter returned to the area.


Get out!  Don’t wait for an inept police force to save you.  Find the closest door and use it.

Daily Mail summary of the incident