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Booby Traps are psychological weapons that cause unexpected, random casualties and damage. The purposes of a booby trap are to confuse the enemy, destroy material, inflict casualties, and lower morale.

A young Bosnian boy was given a gym bag by an unknown man and told that it contained toys and cigarettes. When the boy opened the bag, it detonated. In another case, an elderly man noticed a Coke can sitting on a coat that was lying on the ground. When he moved the can to retrieve the coat, the can exploded. In both cases, the individuals were evacuated by TFE personnel, treated and transferred to civilian care. Fortunately, their injuries were not serious.

Booby Trap Avoidance/Safety Measures

Soldiers must be trained to avoid Booby Traps. The following TTP helped U.S. soldiers avoid casualties during operations in B-H.

  • Stay out of buildings and areas not approved by higher headquarters.

  • Suspect any object that appears to be out of place. Remember, what you see might be what the enemy wants you to see.

  • Stay on approved routes.

  • Never attempt to deactivate booby traps!

  • Stop, avoid, mark, and report known and suspected booby traps.

On 17 February 1996, a local civilian approached a Task Force Eagle checkpoint and complained that an unoccupied, partially destroyed house had been booby trapped. A patrol was sent to investigate, and verified that there was a SPK M79 grenade rigged to the door of the house. The patrol did not attempt to clear the booby trap. The house and the adjacent street were marked with mine signs, and the situation was reported to higher headquarters. The factional element in the area was instructed to remove the booby trap. The actions they took in this situation were correct.

1. The patrol investigated the booby trap report.

2. The patrol did not attempt to clear the booby trap.

3. The patrol reported their findings to the higher headquarters, the factions, and appropriate civilian authorities.

4. The patrol marked the area to warn displaced persons.

Booby Traps

A booby trap is an explosive charge or non-explosive device which is installed to wound, kill, or incapacitate an unsuspecting person when he or she disturbs an apparently harmless object or performs a presumably safe act. The former Yugoslavia manufactured some of the most advanced booby trap fuses in the world. The former warring factions used many clever emplacement techniques. The most common type of booby trap was an anti-handling device on a land mine.

Other booby trap techniques used included:

  • A grenade or similar device, with pin pulled, was placed on a table in a jar or glass attached to a door handle. When opened, the device fell, and the jar broke, releasing the grenade spoon, allowing it to explode.

  • Grenades or explosives were wired to stereos, TVs, radios, VCRs, or other valuable items so that they would detonate when the item was lifted. Additionally, grenades were rigged against the tops of doors so its spoons would disengage when the door was opened.

  • A small hole is drilled through a table top. Fishing line was passed through the hole and attached with glue to a glass at one end and an explosive at the other. When the glass was lifted, the string set off the explosive.

  • Some buildings were rigged with AT or AP mines placed under floorboards or staircase steps. Depressing the floorboard or stepping on the stairstep activated the mine.

  • Mines would be buried with a grenade placed underneath with its pin pulled. The grenade exploded when the covering mine was removed.

  • Fragmentation or bounding fragmentation AP mines with trip wires attached to door handles, fences gates, and windows. When any of these were either opened or closed, the trip wire was pulled, detonating the mine.

  • Antitank mines had the castings (pressure plate) intentionally cracked, thus reducing the pressure necessary to activate the fuse. In these cases, the mine took on an antipersonnel role.

  • Additional explosives were used in conjunction with AT or AP mines to enhance their effects.

  • Small amounts of explosive inside ink pens and flashlights were detonated by clicking the pen or switching on the flashlight.

  • Booby-trapped books that exploded when opened.

  • Light fixtures that initiated explosives when the light switch was turned on.

  • Fuel cans or drums filled with stones, explosives and fuel, detonated by command or trip-wire.

  • Untwisting device fuses which detonated when a lid was unscrewed. These were used on fuel tanks, jars, drums filled with chemicals, or water bottles.

Booby Trap Emplacement

During Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, most booby traps were found in areas vacated by one faction and occupied by another. This supports the assumption that those areas transferred between former warring factions after a conflict would have a higher probability of booby traps. It does not mean that these areas were the only areas that might have booby traps. Likely booby traps areas included:

  • In or around building, installations and field defenses.

  • In likely assembly areas.

  • On or around abandoned equipment.

  • In natural, covered resting places along well-used routes.

  • Near stocks of food, supplies or materials.

  • In and around road craters or any obstacle that has to be cleared.

  • On or near objects likely to be handled by a curious passerby.

  • At focal points or bottlenecks in roads or rail systems, particularly sites that could not be bypassed.

Booby Trap Detection

Booby Trap detection was normally accomplished by visual means. Visual indicators included:

  • Breaks in continuity of dust, paint work, or vegetation.

  • Trampled earth or footmarks.

  • Lumps or bulges under carpeting or in furniture.

  • Evidence of camouflage, such as withered vegetation or signs of cutting.

  • Disturbances of ground surface or loosely scattered soil.

  • Wrappers, seals, loose steel caps, nails, batteries, safety pins, wire or cord.

  • Improvised methods of marking traps, such as piles of stones or marks on walls or trees.

  • Anything that attracted one's attention!

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