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Lethal technology: Better investigation needed

March 22, 2013

THE targeting of a KESC official by attaching a magnetic bomb to his vehicle in Karachi on Tuesday reflects an emerging technique used by violent criminals. Magnetic bombs are not commonly used devices, having rarely been employed in attacks in the metropolis. Improvised explosive devices are a more popular method of sowing havoc; IEDs have been used in hundreds of acts of terrorism countrywide over the past few years. This suggests that militants are quite adept at changing their tactics and using technology to their advantage. Law enforcement agencies, unfortunately, have not been as quick when it comes to keeping pace with criminals. Similarly, it is not enough for police officials to say that 9mm pistols are the weapon of choice for those involved in targeted killings in Karachi. What is needed is for the police to investigate how arms are proliferating and how the networks responsible for the spread of illegal weapons can be shut down. But whether it is tracking the trend of magnetic bombs or establishing the source of illegal arms, there can be no forward movement unless forensic investigation techniques become part of the police’s standard operating procedure.

It is true that police, especially at the investigation level, lack the skills to carry out scientific probes, while the political will to encourage proactive policing is also missing. Simply increasing the police budget will not help unless officers are trained in forensic investigation skills and such techniques become part of the police culture. Also, private security guards must be trained in how to identify magnetic car bombs and what to do once they are discovered, while the police must issue public advisories informing citizens about what precautions to take to protect their vehicles.