The Suicide Bomber at Breakfast

Background to Event

In April 2019, the trip was arranged. We would fly to Sri Lanka to hold the business meetings, while staying in this place of beauty, arguably a place in paradise. Of course, staying in the brand-new luxury 5* hotel was an added bonus!


The first night was exciting, although somewhat exhausting, after such a long flight from the UK. Unfortunately, the body clock was still not set, as we went to breakfast early that morning. However, travelling down in the lift, we were joined by a man; he seemed quite happy and even acknowledged my greeting. Strangely, he was carrying a large rucksack on his back, which I felt to be somewhat odd. We walked into the restaurant, where the waitress greeted us and located a table in the foreground of the dining-room, in front of the very large glass window, so we could see the beach.

As I walked to my table, I stopped to pick up a smoothie, noticing the same man, wandering around the restaurant, still wearing a rucksack on his back. Once again, this did strike me as odd, since myself and the rest of the guests only had our room keys with us.

Anyway, I returned to my table, dismissing my thoughts about this man, as quickly as they came into my head. Then the nightmare happened – a large burning flash, noise, deafness, darkness, glass flying everywhere, debris from the room, and water spraying down from the ceiling. I found myself on the floor, feeling dazed, confused, frightened with ringing/humming in my ears.

Then as my hearing began to come back, I started to hear the screams and moans of the injured and the dying. There were people running, like a herd in panic. Then, just as quick as the first explosion happened, there was another one. A second terrorist had followed the survivors, as they conducted the normal human response during a crisis situation, that of herding. He followed the herd, as they ran for safety and then once amongst them all, he detonated his explosives.


As you can see, this was a nightmarish episode that one hopes and prays will never happen to oneself. At Staff Defence, we have compiled a list of points to consider, which helps one to develop situational awareness, a necessary component in dealing with such catastrophic events, as below:-

Points: –

Historically, such situations when analysed, demonstrate that suicide bombers put out certain characteristics, as they either walk or drive to their death. When captured on CCTV, in the moments leading up to their self-detonations of mass murder, these suicide bombers can be observed, eerily smiling and joking with each other; at one point, they are even saying ‘Good morning’ to people. Looking at this incident at breakfast, all of the hall marks, leading up to this attack, were present. Thus, the points below demonstrate how we must have an open and alert mind at all times, as follows:

  1. Terrorists can strike anywhere and at any time.
  2. These terrorists conducted blatant hostile surveillance within a hotel. They freely wander around, unchallenged, days before the attack.
  3. It is easy for us to be caught up in the surrounding luxury, dismissing that anything disastrous could ever happen here.
  4. We all desire to sit next to a large glass window, which provides a beautiful view as we enjoy our breakfast in a luxury hotel.
  5. The presence of a person, carrying a large rucksack, wandering around the hotel restaurant, where he/she is looking and pondering about when to detonate.
  6. Ask yourself – Do you know what to do, how to treat your injuries, and how to treat those around you that are injured?
  7. The threat from a secondary terrorist bomb remains, particularly in an area, where the survivors, by-standers or the emergency services, will all congregate.


Thankfully, Staff Defence provides the ideal HEAT (Hostile Environment Awareness Training) which covers how to manage such crises. During this training, you will be taught various lessons and you will be exposed to situations that combined together, will help you be more situationally aware at all times. For example, you will learn the following: –

  1. Danger of weapons commonly used by terrorists
  2. Understand which materials will provide you cover from the ballistic effect of terrorist weapons.
  3. You will know and understand the danger posed from glass windows, which in an explosion, will become secondary forms of shrapnel.
  4. You will develop a good knowledge of crisis incidents, which leads to an active application of situational awareness.
  5. You will cultivate the skills to assess not only your injuries but those around you, so you can provide the necessary treatment in any emergency situation.
  6. You will recognise the activity of hostile surveillance.
  7. You will be able to remain calm in such situations and will note the herding response from the majority, with the knowledge of how to avoid such action.

Alongside all of these skills, you will appreciate the importance of recognising the “Absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal”, which will keep you and your colleagues safe, whilst overseas on any trip, be it business or pleasure!

Finally, we all know that gut instinct can be a life saver, but without the training to help interpret what you are seeing, our gut instinct will amount to nothing.