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Suicide Bomber Profile

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Tendencies of Suicide Bombers

Suicide terrorism is the targeted use of self-obliteration of human beings against non-combatant individuals (usually civilian populations) with the objective of causing political change within a country. Even though a suicide attack is aimed to destroy an initial target, its primary use is a weapon of psychological warfare intended to affect a larger public audience. The main target is not those who are killed, instead it is aimed at those made to witness it. In the last 3 decades, it is estimated that there has been around 1200 suicide attacks taking place in different parts of the world, making up about 4% of all terrorist attacks but 32% (14,599 individuals) of all terrorism-related deaths. Approximately 90% of these attacks have occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel alone. Although there is an association between suicide and suicidal behavior and homicide and violence to others, few studies on suicide comment on the phenomenon of the ‘suicide’ bomber. In the absence of any universally agreed definition of the term ‘terrorism’, the term tends to be very subjective: One person's terrorist may be another's freedom fighter. According to some authors on the history of terrorism, suicide or self-sacrifice associated with terrorist violence is not a new phenomenon. [1]
In fact, suicide attacks are very old modus operandi. In ancient times two notorious sects, the Jewish Sicairis and the Islamic Hashishiyun became infamous for such attacks. In the 18th century, suicide tactics were used on the Malabar coast of Southwestern India, in Atjeh in Northern Sumatra and in Mindanao and Sulu in the Southern Philippines. In all of these places Muslims carried out suicide attacks in their fight against Western hegemony and colonial rule. [6] . More recently in history, the use of suicide attacks has occurred in different instances, especially with the Japanese pilots during the World War 2 called “Kamikaze”. Suicide attacks became a specific kind of attack during the 80s using explosives purposely carried either on the individual or in vehicles and delivered by surprise to the target. After the truck bombing of two buildings in Beirut that killed 300 people in 1983, the American and French Multinational Force removed their troops from Lebanon. This successful event became a new popular tactic among insurgent groups, quickly spreading to Islamist groups such as Hamas. . In the past decades, the ratio of suicide attacks has increased considerably , from an average of 5 attacks a year in the 80s to about 180 attacks in early 2000’s and up to 460 in 2005. Military and civilian targets have been hit hard by attacks in Sri Lanka and Israeli targets since early 1990’s. In particular, hard-hit by attacks have been Iraqis since the US-led invasion of that country in 2003, and Pakistanis and Afghans since 2005. . Many critics believe the main reason why suicide attacks have become popular is due to their lethal effectiveness; however, suicide attacker’s motivation is still debated. For Robert Pape (American political scientist known for his work on international . security affairs) over 90% of attacks prior to the Iraq Civil War is attributed to a goal of withdrawal of occupying forces. Anthropologist Scott Atran argues that since 2004 the overwhelming majority of bombers have been motivated by the ideology of Islamist martyrdom, and these attacks have been much more diverse.
It is said that even though suicide attackers are used by terrorist organizations for political purposes and claim to be ideologically-driven "martyrs," they are actually people who posses a fragile psychology of killing themselves for a particular cause, suicidal individuals attempting to escape personal crises and clinically deranged. Also, it is noticed that threats from foreign occupiers to local culture has been the major driver.for.suicide.attackers. From a sole strategic point of view, suicide bombings are frighteningly logical. By concealing explosives on willing smugglers, a small amount of perpetrators can bring death into a large populated area or close to key targets. The accuracy of the delivery method surpasses even the most sophisticated missile guidance systems, which allows the willpower of a single perpetrator to dispute the technological means of the superpowers.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, there is a correlation between the increased suicide terrorism attacks and the failure from foreign occupiers to establish reasonable relations with the local community leaders. These same attacks tend to decrease when the foreign occupiers had considerable relations with the local population and leadership. Most Iraqis who have joined extremist religious groups during the insurgency, have severed connections with their families. They will only call them once before the suicide mission to say goodbye. Experts say that the waiting is the hardest aspect of a jihadi's transformation into a suicide bomber. Volunteers have to undergo a program to discipline the mind and cleanse the soul. The psychological and spiritual training is supervised by field commanders and Sunni clerics sympathetic to the insurgency. Jihadist groups show recruits videos of successful suicide attacks and even visit the sites of previous bombings for inspiration. Would-be "martyrs" may use their waiting time to take care of business, such as paying off debts, resolving family matters, saying farewells. Some destroy any photographs of themselves; extremist Islamists regard pictures as a sign of vanity and therefore taboo. Some extremists dig graves for themselves and leave instructions on the way they should be buried, usually with simple headstones. According to contacts close to insurgent groups, the bombers have little or no say in planning their operations. The logistics such as choosing targets, preparing the bomb-laden vehicles or vests, checking out the site, are left to field commanders and explosives specialists. It is not unusual for a bomber to be told about the details of a mission only minutes before launching the attack. [2]
Historically, these are some of the suicide weapons and methods used by terrorists: * On foot: explosive belt, satchel charge: many, such the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. * Plane as target: Richard Reid on American Airlines Flight 63. * Explosives hidden inside the body: 2009 attack on Prince Muhammad Nayef. * Car bombs: 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, Sri Lankan Central Bank bombing, numerous incidents in Iraq since 2003. * Boat with explosives: USS Cole bombing attacks in Aden, Yemen by Al-Qaeda; SLNS Sagarawardena sinking in Sri Lanka by Tamil Tigers. * Submarine with explosives (human-steered torpedo): Kaiten, used by Japan in WW II * Bicycle with explosives: Assassination of Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). * Hijacked commercial jet airliner with fuel: September 11 attacks, possibly Air France Flight 8969 and attempted by Samuel Byck. * Private plane: 2010 Austin plane crash. * Diverting a bus to an abyss: Tel Aviv Jerusalem bus 405 attack. [3]

Even though suicide bombings have become notoriously regular events over the past years, with more than two thousand taken place since 2003, we still have only a limited understanding of the reasons why perpetrators commit them. It has become clear that suicide strikes have become more prevalent in countries under foreign military occupation or with high male to female population ratios; that terrorists are most often recruited by their friends; and very importantly, that suicide bombings are not correlated with poverty. Those important findings have been very useful in predicting where suicide bombings are likely to occur. However, they do not offer much insight into suicide bomber psychology, and what exactly triggers an individual to volunteer for martyrdom in the first place.[4] . Women, are no strangers to involvement in terrorist acts but not common in the Islamic context, where social attitudes towards the role of women remain more paternalistic, It has been suggested that the preponderance of young unmarried males as ‘suicide’ bombers in the Israeli—Palestinian conflict may be attributed to their limitation of sexual outlets arising from high unemployment. The suicide bombing act as being the equivalent of a massive explosive orgasmic catharsis. Such a psychoanalytically based explanation is likely to be very offensive to most Muslims, yet it gives a hypothesis as of why the suicide bombers are promised “70 virgins after death”.[1] . According to a report issued by intelligence analysts in the U.S. army in 2011, even though women only make up about 15% of the suicide bombers, they were responsible for 65% of assassinations; 20% of women who committed a suicide attack did so with the purpose of assassinating a specific individual, compared with 4% of male attackers The report further stated that female suicide bombers often were "grieving the loss of family members seeking revenge against those they feel are responsible for the loss, unable to produce children, dishonored through sexual indiscretion. Female suicide bombers are thus presented as being predominantly motivated by non-political factors, as opposed to their male counterpart. [5] . History is not short on examples of women terrorists. One of the better-known is Leila Khaled, who, on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, hijacked a plane in 1969. In 1987, North Korean Kim Hyon Hui helped plant a time bomb on a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 people on board. She tried to bite into a cyanide capsule when she was caught. . The profile of the Palestinian suicide bomber has changed over the past decade. In the past, the typical perpetrator was a "young man, probably 18 to 22, not well educated and of lower economic strata." . Many say this culture draws on a spirit of nationalism beyond religious fervor. "The role of women in this experience is really a function of what it is called the secularization of the phenomenon," says Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland. While Islamist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been less willing to embrace female suicide bombers, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a more secular group, has claimed all four attacks, it reportedly started a unit devoted to recruiting more women. . "An important hidden burden had shifted onto the women in the occupied territories," says M. Cherif Bassiouni, Egyptian teacher of law at DePaul University. "Younger women not wanting to remain in the hidden role of scavengers for food, or trying to find thread to put a shirt together after it was torn. Life has become so primitive." [6]
Indeed, one of the most impressive recent considerations of that question is not an academic study but a feature film. The courageous movie called ‘The Attack’ (2012) serves as an gritty case study of the mysteries surrounding suicide bombings. The film, which is based on a novel by the same name, tells the story of an upper-middle-class Israeli-Arab couple living a fulfilled life in a fashionable part of Tel Aviv. Amin Jaafari is a secular, apolitical surgeon from a Muslim family, celebrated for his skill and popular among his Jewish colleagues. His wife, Siham Jaafari, is a beautiful, mysterious woman whom the audience barely gets to know, aside from the fact that she is a house wife who seems to be deeply in love with her talented husband. One evening, after Amin receives a prestigious award, he discovers that his wife is among those killed in a suicide attack on a busy Tel Aviv café. Although he tries to embrace to the belief that she was an innocent bystander, the doctor eventually realizes that Siham, his dear wife, was the perpetrator of the attack and the person who shattered his life and the lives of many other families. But knowing she is guilty of the crime is not enough: he is determined to decipher what he now understands was her secret life. What led her to choose this path? Why did she do it?
As serious a dilemma as suicide terrorism is, we still know surprisingly little about the individual-level risk factors that triggers an average housewife to become a “martyr” and another individual to become a doctor, even when both of them grew up in the same political environment.
The audience is shown the shocking disparities in wealth between Amin’s life in Israel and that of his family living in Palestine under occupation. She refused to have his child, because, as an Israeli Arab, the child would have no homeland -- reason enough for the couple to remain childless. Siham witnessed the aftermath of the Israeli attack of Jenin, which occurred at the height of the second intifada, in 2002. The lack of a Palestinian homeland, the painful humiliation of Palestinians at the militarized border crossings, the disparity of wealth -- all played a role in her decision, it seems, but they are presented as partial and insufficient explanations. . Amin investigates the evidence at a more personal and intimate level. He recalls scenes from their marriage, some of which make clear that the relationship between the surgeon and his wife was less perfect than he previously believed. He is haunted by the fact that Siham scheduled the final preparations for her suicide attack for the very same evening that he was receiving his award. Was her planned attack an expression of anger, or of envy at her husband’s professional achievements? . The film conclusively draws a portrait of a woman, who, regardless of her political beliefs, was unhappy with her life. The same portrayal corresponds to academic research done by many researchers. For instance, American psychiatrist Jerrold Post argued that the essence of terrorist violence is not its apparent political motives but the violence itself. He goes on to explain that terrorists are people who feel “psychologically compelled” to commit violent acts; the political objectives they espouse are only a rationalization, just a means to an end. Another widely respected Israeli terrorism expert named Ariel Merari, has worked for 12 years interviewing 15 failed suicide bombers. Comparing them with a control sample of militants, he found evidence of depression in the first group. [4] . However, not many researchers have followed these trains of thought. These findings were also rejected by some scholars as “a series of anecdotes” rather than as data, and a reflection of Israelis’ unconscious wish to find psychological rather than political explanations for terrorism against their country. . Suicide attacks databases now available, although useful for some kinds of study, rarely include details about recruits’ personal lives or their psychohistory. Collecting such personal data is very difficult. It may be easier to interview family members of suicide bombers, but their observations and memories can easily be skewed by the wish to see their dead relatives in a positive light. . The movie “The Attack” also suggests another unusually unexplored explanation for suicide bombing: Suicide bombers are suicidal. That is a notion few scholars have seriously considered and ignoring an obvious truth: that “martyrs,” by volunteering to kill themselves for a cause, are by definition suicidal. One counterargument is that suicide attacks tend to come in waves. But this is also true for ordinary suicide, which has also been shown to be contagious. . The movie shows important clues to the fact that politics are not an adequate explanation to the tragedies of suicide bombings. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are depicted in the film as simply heroic or brave. Amin refuses to assist the police in its investigation of his family; meanwhile, many of the doctor’s Israeli colleagues turn against him, despite their awareness of his ignorance of his wife’s plot. Unfortunately, the Arab League has banned the film from being shown in Arab countries, on the basis that the filmmaker violated a decades-old law prohibiting Lebanese citizens from working in Israel, where the film was shot.. The author admits that growing up in West Beirut, “living through one Israeli bombing after another,” he thought of Israelis as “the Darth Vader of the Middle East.” But, over time, his view of Israel was “demystified,” he said. “We’ve tried armed resistance, and it did not work.” The film ends with the doctor recognizing that each side is locked in a cycle of trauma and fear of the other, each claiming to be the bigger victim of the others’ terror. He concludes that oppressive responses, by either side of the Israeli or Palestinian fence, will only make matters worse. Psychological insight is probably not a prescription for solving the conflict but it may be a crucial step along the way towards a never ending dispute. [7]
Conclusion

From a longer historical perspective, it may be concluded that suicide terrorism has not been a substantial “winning card” in the hands of terror organizations, nor has it changed the imbalance between states and terror organizations at all. Most of the terrorist groups involved in suicide terrorism either stopped using it or eventually reduced it considerably.
The bottom line is: How can you stop an enemy who believes he or she has nothing to lose? How can you restrain a potential perpetrator who has already forsaken everything they have for his or her cause? With the increasing violence of the current and ongoing insurgence, and with religious and secular political groups competing for predominance among Palestinians, suicide bombing has become an effective mainstream phenomenon. . Terrorism attacks have been notorious events throughout human history, but in recent times, they have become a major hazard. The existence of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) now makes terrorism a potential threat to the existence of human life. Such potential global destruction, supersedes even that of genocide in its lethality. Suicide bombings are a hard pill to swallow. A man, woman or even a child that gives up his or her life, in order to drag even more lives with them. Confronted with such senseless carnage, we often discredit them as brainwashed pawns or fanatical monsters without deeper historical analysis. . Despite all the misery and death these perpetrators embody, suicide bombers are merely human beings and far from being the result of a particular age or religion, their roots dive way deeper into the annals of world history. [8]

Works Cited 1. Harvey Gordon, “The suicide bomber: is it psychiatric phenomenon? http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/26/8/285.short , The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2014

2. Aparisim Ghosh, “Inside the Mind of an Iraqi Suicide Bomber” Time Magazine 26 June 2005

3. Chalk Peter, “Encyclopedia of Terrorism” , ABC-CLIO California 2013

4. Dr Thomas Riley Kennedy O’Connor “Definitions, Typologies, and types of terrorism” Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN 2014 http://www.drtomoconnor.com/3400/3400lect01.htm

5. Public Intelligence, International, Collaborative Research Project http://publicintelligence.net/ufouo-u-s-army-female-suicide-bombers-report/

6. Libby Copeland, “Female Suicide Bombers: The New Factor in Mideast's Deadly Equation” , Washington Post 22 March 2008, 1 of 3

7. Foreign Affairs by the Council on Foreign Relations, “The Suicide Tendencies of Suicide Bombers”, Review Essays 28 August 2013 http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139883/jessica-stern/the-suicidal-tendencies-of-suicide-bombers 8. Yoram Schweitzer, “Suicide Terrorism – Development and Characteristics”, Lecture, International Conference on Countering Suicide Terrorism at ICT, Herzeliya, Israel 21 February 2000.

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