Jun 8, 2011 | 14:35 GMT

4 mins read

Above the Tearline: Mexico, Car Bombs and True VBIEDs

Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton explains why the recent car bombings in Mexico do not qualify as true vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In the last year we have seen seven bombings in Mexico which have been identified as car bombs or, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. In this week's Above the Tearline we are going to discuss why these seven bombings are not VBIEDs in our assessment and look at the tactical ramifications for the misidentification. The working definition of a VBIED is an IED delivered by any small, ground-based vehicle, and/or serves as the concealment means for the explosives with an initiating device. The problem with this definition of the VBIED is that it doesn't take into account blast effect, collateral damage, body count, building collapse, as well as the carnage that takes place when a true VBIED detonates. Let's take a look at what I mean and show you some examples of this with some recent alleged car bombs in Mexico. When you first look at this picture, take note of what you see in the background: the signs are still hanging, the windows are still intact, there doesn't appear to be any frag damage against the wall of the gray building on the left, the street signs are there, the power lines are intact. And also look at the street — you don't see huge divots in the road, it just is a car that has exploded. Now we're going to show you two pictures of an actual car bomb which detonated in a parking lot of a police station in Mexico. For the most part, both vehicles on each side of the actual device are intact and take a look at that white wall in the background: there is no damage, it doesn't appear to have any kind of blast effect into the building. From a tactical perspective, if you go back to the definition, you will see that in both instances, in Mexico, these can be grouped under the definition of VBIED. Having said that, we're going to show you, in our assessment, what a true VBIED is and I want you to take a look at the differences in the blast effect size and the collateral damage that you'll see shortly. This one is from May of 1986 in a Christian suburb of Beirut. As you look at the picture notice the building collapse, the upward blast effect that destroys the offices and apartments. You will note the lack of windows — they have all been blown out, you have an implosion of the walls onto the actual street. Here is an example of a VBIED that detonated last week in Benghazi, Libya, which is, I would say, one notch above the kind of the VBIEDs we are seeing in Mexico. You will notice that the VBIED was powerful enough to set the vehicles on each side on fire. However, what you don't see in the picture is the adjacent hotel that literally had zero damage, and that is probably due to standoff distance. The Above the Tearline aspect with this video is the kinds of devices that we're seeing in Mexico are not true VBIEDs. The cartels clearly have the money and resources to construct a true VBIED, but thus far they haven't. As you look at reports out of Mexico discussing car bombs, keep this video in mind with an eye toward the fact that we have not seen, thus far, a true VBIED in Mexico.

Connected Content

Regions & Countries

Article Search

Copyright © Stratfor Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved.

Stratfor Worldview


To empower members to confidently understand and navigate a continuously changing and complex global environment.