The nail bomb is an anti-personnel explosive device packed with nails to increase its wounding ability. The nails act as shrapnel, leading almost certainly to greater loss of life and injury in inhabited areas than the explosives alone would. The nail bomb is also a type of flechette weapon. Such weapons use bits of shrapnel (steel balls, nail heads, broken razors, darts and bits of metal) to produce a large radius of destruction.
Nail bombs are often used by terrorists, in particular by suicide bombers, since they cause large numbers of casualties when detonated in crowded places. Nail bombs can be detected via electromagnetic sensors and standard metal detectors.
On March 6, 1970, in the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, three members of the Weather Underground were killed in the accidental explosion of a nail bomb intended to be set off at a non-commissioned officers dance at the Fort Dix, New Jersey Army base.
A number of nail bombings occurred during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, either by Republicans or Loyalists.
A number of nail-bombings occurred in 1999 when the Neo-Nazi David Copeland planted several devices in London targeted against ethnic minorities and homosexuals.
On 9 June 2004 a nail bomb was detonated in Cologne, Germany, by the Nazi terrorist group "National Socialist Underground" ( Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund ) in a popular Turkish shopping quarter called "Little Istanbul", wounding 22 people and damaging several shops and parked cars. According to the magazine "Der Spiegel" the Nazi group claimed responsibility for the attack in a DVD found in the ruins of a house in Zwickau (D) that exploded on 4 November 2011.
On December 31, 2005 an Indonesian marketplace was nail-bombed, and a second undetonated bomb was found nearby.
On June 28, 2007 a nail bomb that was assumed to be a part of a terror plot was discovered in a Mercedes car and was consequently defused by police in the West End of London. There was a second car bomb, further down the street that was apparently scheduled to detonate as evacuees and survivors fled down the street, to a nearby tube station. It is probable this bomb was also a nail/shrapnel device.
On December 21, 2007 a nail bomb was detonated in Sherpao, Pakistan by a suicide bomber. Detonation occurred inside a tightly packed mosque, filled with holiday worshippers. At least 50 people were killed, with over 100 injured.
In the 22 May 2008 Exeter bombing, a nail bomb explosive was detonated in the toilets of Giraffe caf in the Princesshay Shopping Centre in Exeter, Devon. The homemade bomb exploded in the attacker's face as he was trying to ready it in the caf toilet. Police then found another nail bomb inside the caf after everybody had been evacuated.
On April 11, 2011 a nail bomb was detonated in Minsk, Belarus. 15 people were killed and 149 people were injured.
During the 2011 Syrian uprising, security forces have been reported to have used nail bombs against crowds of protesters.
↑ "David Copeland: a quiet introvert, obsessed with Hitler and bombs" by Nick Hopkins and Sarah Hall, The Guardian, June 30, 2000