Rameshwaram Cafe blast: What is an IED and when have groups used them in India?

The use of commonly available material makes IEDs extremely hard to detect.
Rameshwaram Cafe in Whitefield
Rameshwaram Cafe in WhitefieldBhuvan Malik
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In the wake of the shocking blast at Bengaluru’s Rameshwaram Cafe in Whitefield, police suspect IED was used. IED or improvised explosive device refers to the use of explosive material that has been upgraded in terms of trigger, packaging or containers that are usually not used in military actions. In India, many blasts in the past have seen the use of IEDs.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, an IED attack involves the “use of a ‘homemade’ bomb and/or destructive device to destroy, incapacitate, harass, or distract. Because they are improvised, IEDs can come in many forms, ranging from a small pipe bomb to a sophisticated device capable of causing massive damage and loss of life. IEDs can be carried or delivered in a vehicle; carried, placed, or thrown by a person; delivered in a package; or concealed on the roadside.”

As ‘homemade’ bombs, IEDs are constructed out of a variety of easily available materials such as fertiliser, hydrogen peroxide or gunpowder. Further, in order to heighten the intensity of the attack, the ‘packing’ material used in IEDs often contain glass pieces or nails or similar objects that increase the amount of shrapnel from the blast. Homeland Security also adds that one common substance encountered is ANFO — a combination of ammonia nitrate (found commonly in fertilisers) and fuel oil. It is this use of commonly available material that makes IED extremely hard to detect.

In this regard, NATO also cautions that, “IEDs can be hidden anywhere: on animals, planted in roads or strapped to a person. They can be detonated via cell phones or trip wires, among other methods. They can be deployed everywhere: in a combat environment or in the middle of a busy city. The adaptability of IEDs to almost any situation makes them difficult to detect and stop.” 

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) broadly categorises IEDs as Vehicle and Waterborne, Radio and Timer, Command and Victim-Operated and Suicide.

India has seen several IED attacks over the years. In October 2023, The Zamra International Convention Centre in Kerala’s Kalamassery was the site of three blasts where IED was used. In the ongoing Manipur conflict, IED blasts were reported in Bishnupur and Kangpokpi districts in June this year resulting in three children being gravely wounded.

In September, an IED explosion in Jharkhand’s Singhbhum district killed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable and injured an inspector.

The 2013 Hyderabad blasts also involved IEDs. Two bombs, minutes apart, were detonated near Konkan Theatre and Dilsukhnagar bus stand. Eighteen people were killed and at least 119 were injured.

Attackers in the 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune used a combination of Research Development Explosive (RDX) and ANFO. The bakery was situated near the Jewish Chabad House and the Osho International Meditation Resort. Eighteen people were killed and 60 others were injured.

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