Learn more about Suicide attack
|War on Terrorism|
A suicide attack is an attack in which the attacker or attackers intend to kill others and intend to die in the process (see suicide). In a suicide attack in the strict sense the attacker dies by the attack itself, for example in an explosion or crash caused by the attacker. The term is sometimes loosely applied to an incident in which the intention of the attacker is not clear though he is almost sure to die by the defense or retaliation of the attacked party.
In modern times, such attacks are often carried out with the help of vehicles or explosive materials such as a bomb (a suicide bombing), or both (i.e. a vehicle loaded with explosives). If everything goes according to plan, the attacker is killed upon impact or detonation.
Suicide attacks are a kind of tactic, planned and organized by extremely committed military or paramilitary groups. According to Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on suicide terrorism and expert on suicide bombers, ninety-five percent of such attacks in recent times have the same specific strategic goal: to cause an occupying state to withdraw forces from a disputed territory. Pape notes that in recent decades suicide attacks as a political tactic are used against democratic countries in which public opinion plays a role in determining policy.
As a military tactic aimed at causing material damage in war, suicide attacks became widely known during the Second World War in the Pacific as Allied ships were attacked by Japanese kamikaze pilots who caused maximum damage by flying their explosive-laden aircraft into military targets. Since the 1980s, the apparent low cost and high lethality of the tactic perhaps explain its increased use by resistance movements, including guerrilla and insurgent groups -- termed "terrorist groups" by the targeted governments. Most notably, the tactic has been used in the Middle East and Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers, who have been waging a terrorist campaign against the Sri Lankan government, were, as of 2000, "unequivocally the most effective and brutal terrorist organization ever to utilize suicide terrorism"<ref>according to Yoram Schweitzer of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel: </ref>. Suicide bombings by Islamist militants, mostly in the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Iraqi insurgency, have been the most frequent and cumulatively destructive. The September 11, 2001 attacks used hijacked airplanes to become the largest and most destructive individual suicide attacks on one day.
Military historians classify suicide bombing as a form of armed violence, belonging to the tactics of asymmetric warfare—suicide bombings are only common when one side in a violent conflict lacks the means for effective, conventional attacks. The cost-benefit analysis, expressed here by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, is simple: "The method of martyrdom operation [is] the most successful way of inflicting damage against the opponent and the least costly to the mujahidin in terms of casualties".<ref>http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/ayman_bk.html</ref> The strategic rationale may be military, political, or both; the target may be military, in which case the bombing is usually classified as an act of war, or civilian, in which case it is usually considered terrorism. Civilians are the favored targets, being easier to attack than fortified installations, armored vehicles, or armed and wary soldiers. The political message of the suicide bomber's action is potent, and the difficulty of deterring an attacker who is willing to die sparks greater fear than other forms of terrorism. The fact that the attacker dies in the attack eliminates the need for the attacker to have a plan to escape and avoid capture after he has completed the attack. The regular targeting of civilians, however, often calls into question the moral legitimacy, and often erodes the broader credibility, of the bomber's cause (although in some of the perpetrating group's base population, it may be thought to enhance those qualities).
The bombers themselves are predominantly male. Females bombers make up a minority of such attackers, and are more common among the Tamil Tigers, Chechen rebels, Palestinian militants and the Kurdistan Workers Party). But even among these groups, suicide operatives are still overwhelmingly male <ref>Robert Pape (2005), Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Random House, ISBN 1-4000-6317-5 </ref>. They are often from middle-class backgrounds in countries with little political freedom. They are usually well-educated and hold strong political or religious beliefs; they are generally not poverty-stricken or mentally ill, though some may have had difficult childhoods. The ritualistic communion of the extremist groups to which they belong ("lone wolf" suicide bombers are rare), in addition to their strongly-held beliefs, helps motivate their decision to commit suicide; for the religious, e.g. Hamas, the rewards of an afterlife may provide additional impetus. Coercion and deception are occasionally factors.
|Types of suicide|
|Suicide by cop|
|History and methodology|
|History of suicide|
|List of suicides|
|Parasuicide (threats of suicide)|
|Views on suicide|
|Right to die|
|Resources for dealing with suicidal thoughts|
|Assessment of suicide risk|
|Crisis hotlines by country|
|Medical views of suicide|
Suicide attacks throughout history have taken various forms and have been encouraged by the lionization of those who laid down their lives for causes they deemed righteous. There are numerous examples, from Samson's suicidal destruction of a Philistine temple (as recounted in the Book of Judges) to the legendary Swiss hero Arnold von Winkelried to the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II. The first modern suicide bombing—involving explosives deliberately carried to the target either on the person or in a civilian vehicle and delivered by surprise—was in 1981; perfected by the factions of the Lebanese Civil War and especially by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, the tactic had spread to dozens of countries by 2005. Those hardest-hit were Lebanon during its civil war, Sri Lanka during its prolonged ethnic conflict, Israel and the Palestinian Territories since 1994, and Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Responses and reactions to suicide bombings are mixed, so that a full assessment of the action's impact—especially whether it helped or hindered the cause in whose name it was carried out—is difficult. The public response of politicians is usually one of determination and condemnation. Military and law enforcement are mobilized to disrupt or destroy the organization which planned the attack. The root cause of the violence is often obfuscated by the occupying power in order to avoid discussion of the military occupation that evokes the violent countermeasures. Often the bomber is portrayed as irrational and motivated by blind hatred. Those who support the bomber's cause will often hold him up as a hero; for example, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, who are mainly Hindus and Marxists, publish celebratory books containing the photos of those they regard as heroic freedom fighters; militant Islamist groups like Al Qaeda, for example, make use of religious language to lionize suicide bombers, calling the bomber Shahid, or 'martyr'.
The term dates back to the 1940s, when it was used in reference to certain German and Japanese battle tactics, but did not gain its present meaning until 1981. Various alternate terms have been used to frame the act differently: the Islamist use of shahid for the bomber or martyrdom operation for the bombing emphasizes the self-sacrificial aspects, while the term "homicide bombing" (preferred phraseology of the George W. Bush Administration and right-leaning media outlets such as Fox News) emphasizes the fact that the bomber kills others.
In the case of using explosives, a suicide attack does not require remote or delayed detonation. In the case of causing a crash, it allows human guidance of the weapon (carrying it, driving a car or boat, flying a plane, etc.) without the need for remote or automatic control as in a guided missile. Also, obviously, the attack plan does not require a plan on escaping to safety from the enemy after the attack.
- Suicide attack on foot: explosive belt
- attempted suicide attack with a plane as target: Richard Reid on American Airlines Flight 63
- Suicide car bomb: 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, Central Bank bombing, numerous incidents in Iraq since 2003
- Suicide attack by a boat with explosives: USS Cole bombing, attacks by the LTTE Sea Tigers.
- Suicide attack by a submarine with explosives (human-steered torpedo): Kaiten, used by Japan in World War II
- Suicide attack by a plane with explosives: kamikaze
- Suicide attack by a hijacked plane with fuel: September 11, 2001 attacks, possibly Air France Flight 8969 and attempted by Samuel Byck
- Suicide attack by diverting a bus to an abyss: Tel Aviv Jerusalem bus 405 massacre
- Suicide attack with guns: Kashmiri insurgents on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 killing 15 people.
In some cases a nuclear attack on a nuclear power may be considered a suicide attack in the wider sense, with the attacking country being sure or almost sure of going to suffer many fatalities in a retaliation. See also mutually assured destruction.
See also suicide weapon.
Suicide attacks usually (but not always) target poorly-guarded, non-military facilities and personnel. It can be either a military tactic, a political one, or a mixture of the two. It may qualify as terrorism when the intention is to kill, maim or terrorise a predominantly civilian target population, or fall within the definition of an act of war when it is committed against a military target under war conditions.
As a political tactic, suicide attacks send a message of impassioned opposition to enemy forces (that the attacker is willing to die for his or her cause) and a message of desperate recklessness to third parties (that the attacker feels the justice of the cause so strongly that he would rather die than submit and that he is giving little thought to the danger). However, it may backfire, as suicide attacks ignite rage and hatred and undermine the belief in the humanity of those who perpetrate them.
When used against civilian targets, suicide attacks usually cause fear in the target population greater than that caused by other forms of terrorism, as the fact that the attacker intends to die makes deterrents ineffective.  However, use against civilian targets has differing effects on their goals (see reaction below). Some economists suggest that this tactic goes beyond symbolism and is actually a response to commodified, controlled, or devalued lives, as the suicide attackers apparently consider family prestige and financial compensation from the community as compensation for their own lives. Whether such motivation is significant as compared to political or religious feeling remains unclear.
The doctrine of asymmetric warfare views suicide attacks as a result of an imbalance of power, in which groups with little significant power resort to suicide bombing as a convenient tactic (see advantages noted above) to demoralize the targeted civilians or government leadership of their enemies. Suicide bombing may also take place as a perceived response to actions or policies of a group with greater power.  Groups which have significant power have no need to resort to suicide bombing to achieve their aims; consequently, suicide bombing is overwhelmingly used by guerrilla, and other irregular fighting forces. Among many such groups, there are religious overtones to martyrdom: attackers and their supporters may believe that their sacrifice will be rewarded in an afterlife. Suicide attackers often believe that their actions are in accordance with moral or social standards because they are aimed at fighting forces and conditions that they perceive as unjust.
 Profile of a bomber
A common reaction to a suicide bomber is to assume that he or she was motivated by despair, and probably came from a poor, neglected segment of society. Both President George W. Bush and the Dalai Lama have made this claim. However, anthropologist Scott Atran found in a 2003 study that this is not a justifiable conclusion. A recently published paper by Harvard University Professor of Public Policy Alberto Abadie "cast[s] doubt on the widely held belief that terrorism stems from poverty, finding instead that terrorist violence is related to a nation's level of political freedom."<ref>http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~.aabadie.academic.ksg/povterr.pdf</ref> More specifically this is due to the transition of countries towards democratic freedoms. "Intermediate levels of political freedom are often experienced during times of political transitions, when governments are weak, political instability is elevated, so conditions are favorable for the appearance of terrorism".<ref>http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/11.04/05-terror.html Quote</ref><ref>http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~.aabadie.academic.ksg/povterr.pdf Original Paper</ref>
From 2003 to 2004, women were more frequently involved in suicide attacks in the Middle East and elsewhere. In Messengers of Death: Female Suicide Bombers, Clara Beyler writes that women have channeled the frustration stemming from their role in society into ruthless behavior.<ref>http://www.ict.org.il/articles/articledet.cfm?articleid=508</ref> This can demonstrate strength and power in societies where women have a submissive role. That women have become more involved in suicide bombings makes it more difficult to profile a suicide bomber.
Some suicide bombers are educated, with college or university experience, and come from middle class homes. Most suicide bombers do not show signs of psychopathology. Indeed, leaders of the groups who perpetrate these attacks search for individuals who can be trusted to carry out the mission; those with mental illnesses are not ideal candidates. They often find solace in the ritualistic communion found in extremist circles, which are often headed by charismatic individuals looking for new recruits.
Much of the discourse that frames or responds to suicide bombing addresses the rationality of the action itself. Generally, the suicide bomber is understood as irrational—driven beyond the boundaries of rational thought by environmental, religious, political, and/or social factors—ergo capable of setting aside the "common sense" of self-preservation. Furthermore, isolated and independent violence clearly seems to be at odds with the idea of a "politics" and so seems ineffective as a tool of state—especially when considered in the context of global awareness and visual presence. Of course, irrational action can be made rational by reframing it in a specific historical and social context. For example, the section above references the entrenchment of the suicide bomber in the transition of a democratic state. In this instance, the presence or promise of democracy functions as the context within which the rationality must occur. It would seem clear at first that suicide bombing denies the effectivity of any democratic process—i.e.: it is murder and breaks law, it closes off dialogue, it happens by the decision of few or one, etc. However, the actions of the suicide bomber can still be explained as existing in a wholly rational dialogue with a democratic state.
For further illustration of this, it might help to turn to the way in which Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben illustrates the history of the theory of the "state of exception" in Western modernity. The state of exception can be understood as a temporary "suspension of the juridical order" claimed by governments in certain times when the nature of that democracy itself can be considered under threat. The state of exception is instituted through a determination of "necessity" and generally results in a temporary de facto rule by the sovereign. Importantly, the state of exception does not exist against the law, rather it exists in a relationship or mutual interdependence with the law, neither outside nor inside. It is exercised as a way to preserve the possibility of democracy in a moment determined incapable response through democratic process. For example, the current American War on Terrorism or the recent military tribunals in Guantanamo can both be understood as arising from a George Bush-appointed state of exception. The existence and persistence of terrorism, for Bush, creates a necessity by which—temporarily—law does not apply. These actions exist in a relationship with law, but they are not bound by law; they are carried out in order to preserve the possibility of law and democracy. This is an interesting paradox: democracy is simultaneously the goal and part of the problem and ultimately not utilizable as the way to a solution.
The dependency upon the state of exception in a time of necessity can then also be applied to Palestinian suicide bomber. Agamben points out that "the problem of the state of exception presents clear analogies to that of the right of resistance", but the case of the Palestinian suicide bomber complicates the division—in this case the needs of the state are folded onto the rights of resistance of that state, and the representative parties of state and resistance are the same. The suicide bomber acts as both Palestinian representative and resistance to Israeli state control, as Palestine sits in the unusual position of being a transitionary state under the control of another state. The suicide bomber here takes the same step as the executive power. He or she dictates a state of exception whereby the rational action needs to disregard law in order to enable it to exist in the first place.
The comparison here is not that American executive power and suicide bombers are guilty of the same actions, rather that they share in a similar exercise in rational exception of the law through self-proclaimed necessity.
Often acts of terrorism, such as the suicide bombing of civilians, are compared to the self-sacrifice of soldiers in wartime. The principal difference is that the soldier is implementing the policy of a nation and is thus held responsible, whereas a civilian may or may not support their nation's policies and may or may not consider the terrorist's nation (or peoples) an enemy.
The concept of self-sacrifice has long been a part of war. From the earliest days of honoring fallen soldiers as heroes, those who sacrifice themselves to further a political, moral, or cultural ideology have been and are still highly regarded figures in their respective societies. Soldiers who lay down their lives to protect their comrades are commonly awarded the highest recognition for courage in battle, while those who survive combat are honored for their physical and psychological sacrifice. An example of such self-sacrifice in warfare in medieval legend is Arnold von Winkelried. The earliest reference of a suicide attack outside a context of warfare has been suggested to be the Biblical story of the Amorites attacking the Jews:
The Amorite who dwell on that mountain went out against you and pursued you as the bees would do; they struck you in Seir until Hormah. (Deuteronomy 1:44)
The French 11th century rabbi Rashi suggested this to mean that the Amorites attacked like bees do, i.e. stinging and then dying, not that they attacked in swarms. Modern Bible scholarship has however abandoned his interpretation, as seen for instance in the Swedish translation of 2000.
A less controversial example is from the time of the Crusades, when the Knights Templar destroyed one of their own ships, killing 140 Christians in order to kill ten times as many Muslims. Another early example of suicide bombing occurred during the Belgian Revolution, when the Dutch Lieutenant Jan van Speijk detonated his own ship in the harbour of Antwerp to prevent being captured by the Belgians.
The act of deliberately destroying oneself to inflict harm on an enemy is more restricted to modern times and the era of explosives. The line between the two is considered by some a matter of subjectivity, as in the argument that many WWII soldiers killed were "martyrs" (in the sense that they were to suffer for the sake of a principle, rather than dying as the penalty for refusing to renounce a belief) because their life expectancy in combat was very low—often averaging only two or three months.
Modern suicide bombing as a political tool can be traced back to the assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia in 1881. Alexander fell victim to a Nihilist plot. While driving on one of the central streets of St. Petersburg, near the Winter Palace, he was mortally wounded by the explosion of hand-made grenades and died a few hours afterwards. The Czar was killed by the Pole Ignacy Hryniewiecki (1856-1881), who died while intentionally exploding the bomb during the attack.
The ritual act of self-sacrifice during combat appeared in a large scale at the end of World War II with the Japanese kamikaze bombers. In these attacks, airplanes were used as flying bombs. Later in the war, as Japan became more desperate, this act became formalized and ritualized, as planes were outfitted with explosives specific to the task of a suicide mission. Kamikaze strikes were a weapon of symmetric war used by the Empire of Japan chiefly against United States Navy aircraft carriers.
The Japanese Navy also used both one and two man piloted torpedoes called kaiten on suicide missions. Although sometimes called midget submarines, these were modified versions of the unmanned torpedoes of the time and are distinct from the torpedo-firing midget submarines used earlier in the war, which were designed to infiltrate shore defences and return to a mother ship after firing their torpedoes. Though extremely hazardous, these midget submarine attacks were not technically suicide missions; while the early kaiten were equipped with escape hatches, there is no evidence that they were ever used or that the pilots had any intention of using them. Later kaitens, by contrast, provided no means of escape.
After aiming a two-person kaiten at their target, the two crew members traditionally embraced and shot each other in the head. Social support for such choices was strong, due in part to Japanese cultural history, in which seppuku, honorable suicide, was part of samurai duty. It was also fostered and indoctrinated by the Imperial program to persuade, often through coercion (such as through doping), the Japanese soldiers to commit these acts.
In 1972 in the hall of the Lod airport in Tel-Aviv, Israel, three Japanese used grenades and automatic rifles to kill 26 people and wound more than a hundred. The group belonged to the Japanese Red Army (JRA) a terrorist organization created in 1969 and allied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Until then, no group involved in terrorism had conducted such a suicide operation in Israel. Members of the JRA became instructors in martial art and Kamikaze operations at several Hezbollah training camps bringing the suicide techniques to the Middle East.
Examples of suicide attacks and self-sacrifice can be found in American history. Americans who voluntarily stayed at the Alamo in Texas against what was known to be an overwhelming force of well armed Mexican regular soldiers are one example. In 1863, in both Fredericksburg, Virginia and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Americans conducted shoulder-to-shoulder charges over vast fields of fire against well defended soldiers with rifled firearms (the Stone Wall at Fredericksburg and Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg). During the Civil War it was considered a high honor to carry the military banner of a unit even though soldiers who did were almost certain to be the first shot. Likewise, African American soldiers in the Union Army conducted a suicide attack against a Confederate position in South Carolina, as honored in the 1988 film "Glory." In 1944, Americans who led the Allied Forces onto the beaches on D-Day to a man did not expect to see the end of the day, and in most cases did not. Self-sacrifice in American culture is as honored and glorified in the same way as it is in the examples from the other cultures as cited above.
In Britain the stories such as those of the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, Horatio at the bridge, the lone Viking who held the bridge at the Battle of Stamford Bridge etc., suicide defences rather then suicide attacks, were once held up as examples of what an Englishman should aspire to be.
Australian soldiers fighting at Gallipoli conducted a suicide attack against the well defended positions of Turks in World War I. Military officers of the highest rank repeatedly ordered soldiers to charge positions that were defended with heavy automatic weapons, and they did.
 1980s to present
The first modern suicide bombing occurred in Iran in 1980 when 13-year old Hossein Fahmideh detonated himself as he ran up to an Iraqi tank at a key point in a battle of the Iran-Iraq War. Lebanon, during its civil war, saw a modern suicide bombing: the Islamic Dawa Party's car bombing of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, in December 1981. Hezbollah's bombing of the U.S. embassy in April 1983 and attack on United States Marine and French barracks in October 1983 brought suicide bombings international attention. Other parties to the civil war were quick to adopt the tactic, and by 1999 factions such as Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Ba'ath Party, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party had carried out around 50 suicide bombings between them. (The latter of these groups sent the first female suicide bomber in 1986. Female combatants have existed throughout human history and in many different societies, so it is possible that females who engage in suicidal attacks are not new.) Hezbollah was the only one to attack overseas, bombing the Israeli embassy (and possibly the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association building) in Buenos Aires; as its military and political power have grown, it has since abandoned the tactic.
Lebanon saw the first bombing, but it was the LTTE Tamil Tigers who perfected the tactic and inspired its use elsewhere . Their Black Tiger unit have committed between 76 and 168 (estimates vary) suicide bombings since 1987, using more than 240 attackers throughout South Asia. Their victims included former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (assassinated by Thenmuli Rajaratnam), many prominent Lankan leaders (among them the late president Ranasinghe Premadasa), Colombo's Central Bank, and even warships. Sri Lanka's only female president Chandrika Kumaratunga was blinded in the right eye in a suicide attack in late 1999.
In Northern Ireland, in the early 1990s, as part of the Provisional IRA campaign 1969-1997, the IRA used the tactic it called the "proxy bomb" - a sort of involuntary suicide bomb, where a victim was kidnapped and forced to drive a car bomb into its target. In one infamous operation in Derry in 1990, the PIRA chained a Catholic civilian to a car laden with explosives, held his family hostage and forced him to drive to a British Army checkpoint as a "human bomb" where the bomb exploded, killing himself and five soldiers. This practice was stopped due to the revulsion its caused among the Irish nationalist community.
Suicide bombing has, since 1993, been a particularly popular tactic amongst some Palestinian groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Bombers affiliated with these groups often use so-called "suicide belts", explosive devices (often including shrapnel) designed to be strapped to the body under clothing. In order to maximize the loss of life, the bombers may seek out cafés or city buses crowded with people at rush hour, or less commonly a military target (for example, soldiers waiting for transport at roadside). By seeking enclosed locations, a successful bomber usually kills a number of people.
Palestinian television has aired a number of music videos and announcements that promote eternal reward for children who seek "shahada",<ref>http://www.pmw.org.il/tv%20part1.html</ref> which Palestinian Media Watch has claimed is "Islamic motivation of suicide terrorists".<ref>http://www.pmw.org.il/index.html</ref> The Chicago Tribune has documented the concern of Palestinian parents that their children are encouraged to take part in suicide operations.<ref>http://www.eufunding.org/Textbooks/EuropesPalestinianChildren.html</ref> Israeli sources have also alleged that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah operate "Paradise Camps," training children as young as 11 to become suicide bombers.<ref>http://www.adl.org/PresRele/IslME_62/4153_62.asp</ref><ref>http://www.cnsnews.com/ForeignBureaus/archive/200107/For20010723d.html</ref>
The September 11, 2001 attacks involved the hijacking of large passenger jets which were deliberately flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon, killing everyone aboard the planes and thousands more in and around the targeted buildings, thus making it one of the most destructive suicide attacks in history. The passenger jets selected were required to be fully fueled to fly cross-country, turning the planes themselves into the largest suicide bombs in history. The 'September 11' attacks also had a vast economic and political impact: for the cost of the lives of the 19 hijackers and financial expenditure of around US$100,000, al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist group responsible for the attacks, effected a trillion-dollar drop in global markets within one week, and triggered massive increases in military and security expenditure in response.
In December 22 2001, Richard Reid attempted to destroy the American Airlines Flight 63 by the means of a bomb hidden in a shoe. He was arrested after his attempt was foiled when he was unable to light the bomb's fuse.
After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi and foreign insurgents carried out waves of suicide bombings. They attacked United States military targets, although many civilian targets (eg. Shiite mosques, international offices of the UN and the Red Cross, Iraqi men waiting to apply for jobs with the new army and police force) were also attacked. In the lead up to the Iraqi parliamentary election, on January 30, 2005, suicide attacks upon civilian and security personnel involved with the elections increased, and there were reports of the insurgents co-opting disabled people as involuntary suicide bombers.<ref>http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Handicapped-boy-made-into-bomb/2005/02/01/1107228705132.html</ref> Professor Pape suggests that the bombings of Iraqis by Iraqis target those believed to be in the service of the American occupation.
Suicide bombings have occurred in more than 30 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Croatia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Panama, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. (Suicide planes were also used in the United States).
 Range of opinions
World leaders, especially those of countries that experience suicide bombings, usually express resolve to continue on their previous course of affairs after such attacks. They denounce suicide bombings and sometimes vow not to let such bombings deter ordinary people from going about their everyday business.
Suicide bombings are sometimes followed by reprisals. As a successful suicide bomber cannot be targeted, the response is often a targeting of those believed to have sent the bomber. In targeting such organizations, Israel often uses military strikes against organizations, individuals, and possibly infrastructure. In the West Bank the IDF formerly demolished homes that belong to families whose children (or renters whose tenants) had volunteered for such missions (whether successfully or not),<ref name="demolition">Through No Fault of Their Own: Punitive House Demolitions during the al-Aqsa Intifada B'Tselem, November 2004</ref> though an internal review starting in October 2004 brought an end the policy.<ref>Human Rights Issues for the Palestinian population - April 2005 Ed Farrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs</ref> The effectiveness of suicide bombings—notably those of the Japanese kamikazes, the Palestinian bombers, and even the September 11, 2001 attacks—is debatable. Although kamikaze attacks could not stop the Allied advance the Pacific, they inflicted more casualties and delayed the fall of Japan for longer than might have been the case using only the conventional methods available to the Japanese Empire. Subsequently, Japanese leaders acknowledged the great cost in losing many of their best young men in these actions. The attacks reinforced the resolution of the World War II Allies to destroy the Imperial force, and may have had a significant effect in the decision to use atomic bombs against Japan.
In the case of the September 11th attacks, the long-term effects remain to be seen, but in the short-to-medium term, the results were profoundly negative for Al-Qaeda as well as for the Taliban Movement. Furthermore, since the September 11 attacks, Western nations have diverted massive resources towards stopping similar actions, as well as tightening up borders, and military actions against various countries that the U.S. and its allies believe to have been involved with terrorism. However, critics of the War on Terrorism suggest that in fact the results were profoundly positive, as the proceeding actions of the United States and other countries has increased the number of recruits, and their willingness to carry out suicide bombings.
It is more difficult to determine whether Palestinian suicide bombings have proved to be a successful tactic. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the suicide bombers were repeatedly deployed since the Oslo Accords.<ref>http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Palestinian+terror+before+2000/Fatal+Terrorist+Attacks+in+Israel+Since+the+DOP+-S.htm</ref> In 1996, the Israelis elected the conservative candidate Benjamin Netanyahu who promised to restore safety by conditioning every step in the peace process on Israel's assessment of the Palestinian Authority's fulfillment of its obligations in curbing violence as outlined in the Oslo agreements.
In the course of al-Aqsa Intifada which followed the collapse of the Camp David II summit between the PLO and Israel, the number of suicide attacks drastically increased. In response, Israel mobilized its army in order to seal off the Gaza Strip and reinstate military control of the West Bank, patrolling the area with tanks. The Israelis also began a campaign of targeted assassinations to kill militant Palestinian leaders, using jets and helicopters to deploy high-precision bombs and missiles.
The suicide missions, having killed hundreds and maimed thousands of Israelis, are believed by some to have brought on a move to the political right, increasing public support for hard-line policies towards the Palestinians, and a government headed by the former general, prime minister Ariel Sharon. In response to the suicide bombings, Sharon's government has imposed restrictions on the Palestinian community, making commerce, travel, school, and other aspects of life difficult for the Palestinians, with the average Palestinian suffering due to the choices of the suicide bombers. The Separation barrier under construction seem to be part of the Israeli government's efforts to stop suicide bombers from entering Israel proper.
Social support by some for this activity remained, however, as of the calling of a truce at the end of June 2003. This may be due to the economic or social purpose of the suicide bombing and the bombers' refusal to accept external judgements on those who sanction them.
If the objective is to kill as many people as possible, suicide bombing by terrorists may thus "work" as a tactic in that it costs fewer lives than any conventional military tactic and targeting unarmed civilians is much easier than targeting soldiers. As an objective designed to achieve some form of favorable outcome, especially a political outcome, most believe it to be a failure. Terrorist campaigns involving the targeting of civilians have never won a war. Analysts believe that in order to win or succeed, any guerrilla or terrorist campaign must first transform into something more than a guerrilla or terrorist movement.<ref>http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20050723-092116-9131r.htm</ref> Such analysts believe that a terrorist cause has little political attraction and success may be achieved only by renouncing terrorism and transforming the passions into politics.
Often extremists assert that, because they are outclassed militarily, suicide bombings are necessary. For example, the former leader of Hamas Sheikh Ahmad Yassin stated: "Once we have warplanes and missiles, then we can think of changing our means of legitimate self-defense. But right now, we can only tackle the fire with our bare hands and sacrifice ourselves."<ref>Quoted in Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005) p. 3-4.</ref>
Such views are challenged both from the outside and from within Islam. According to Islamic jurist and scholar Khaled Abou Al-Fadl,
The classical jurists, nearly without exception, argued that those who attack by stealth, while targeting noncombatants in order to terrorize the resident and wayfarer, are corrupters of the earth. "Resident and wayfarer" was a legal expression that meant that whether the attackers terrorize people in their urban centers or terrorize travelers, the result was the same: all such attacks constitute a corruption of the earth. The legal term given to people who act this way was muharibun (those who wage war against society), and the crime is called the crime of hiraba (waging war against society). The crime of hiraba was so serious and repugnant that, according to Islamic law, those guilty of this crime were considered enemies of humankind and were not to be given quarter or sanctuary anywhere. ... Those who are familiar with the classical tradition will find the parallels between what were described as crimes of hiraba and what is often called terrorism today nothing short of remarkable. The classical jurists considered crimes such as assassinations, setting fires, or poisoning water wells - that could indiscriminately kill the innocent - as offenses of hiraba. Furthermore, hijacking methods of transportation or crucifying people in order to spread fear and terror are also crimes of hiraba. Importantly, Islamic law strictly prohibited the taking of hostages, the mutilation of corpses, and torture.<ref>Khaled Abou Al-Fadl: The Great Theft. Wrestling Islam from the Extremists (HarperCollins 2005. ISBN 0-06-056339-7) p.243</ref>
 The Islamic View
The vast majority of mainstream Islamic judicial opinion rejects suicide for any reason.<ref>http://islam.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=islam&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fatwa-online.com%2Fworship%2Fjihaad%2Fjih004%2Findex.htm</ref><ref>http://www.islamweb.net/ver2/Fatwa/ShowFatwa.php?Option=FatwaId&lang=E&Id=699</ref>
According to Professor Charles A. Kimball, chair of the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, "There is only one verse in the Qur'an that contains a phrase related to suicide", Verse 4:29 of the Qur'an.<ref>http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/004.qmt.html</ref> It reads O you who believe! Do not consume your wealth in the wrong way-rather through trade mutually agreed to, and do not kill yourselves. Surely God is Merciful toward you. Some commentators believe that the phrase "do not kill yourselves" is better translated "do not kill each other", and some translations (e.g. Shakir) reflect that view. (A note on the Qur'an's unique textual density is perhaps in order here: It is not uncommon for a single Qur'anic Arabic phrase to embrace two or more complementary meanings at the same time, and this may be the case with 4:29.)
Mainstream Islamic groups such as the European Council for Fatwa and Research use the Quran'ic verse Al-Anam 6:151 (And take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law) as further reason to prohibit suicide.<ref>http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?cid=1119503549272&pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaEAskTheScholar</ref> In addition, the hadith unambiguously forbid suicide.<ref>http://www.aljazeerah.info/Islam/Islamic%20subjects/2004%20subjects/June/Committing%20Suicide%20Is%20Strictly%20Forbidden%20in%20Islam,%20Adil%20Salahi.htm</ref>
A contrary view is presented by Faisal Bodi writing in The Guardian, who said many Muslims celebrate suicide bombers as heroes defending things they hold sacred.<ref>Template:Cite web - "In the Muslim world, then, we celebrate what we call the martyr-bombers. To us they are heroes defending the things we hold sacred. Polls in the Middle East show 75% of people in favour of martyr-bombings."</ref>
A tiny minority of Muslim clerics, while condemning the London bombings, have stated that under certain circumstances Islamic suicide bombings are justified. For example, Sayed Mohammed Musawi, head of the World Islamic League in London, insisted "there should be a clear distinction between the suicide bombing of those who are trying to defend themselves from occupiers, which is something different from those who kill civilians, which is a big crime."<ref>http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/22/AR2005072201629.html</ref> This is, however, far from the mainstream opinion; an overwhelming consensus of Muslim scholars hold that suicide attacks are simply forbidden.
Nevertheless, Islamist militant organisations (including Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad) continue to argue that suicide operations are justified according to Islamic law, despite Islam's strict prohibition of suicide and murder.<ref>http://web.archive.org/web/20041011230417/abdulhaqq.jeeran.com/ruling.html</ref><ref>http://web.archive.org/web/20041009222904/abdulhaqq.jeeran.com/fatwa_sheikh_qaradhawi.html</ref> Irshad Manji, in a conversation with one leader of Islamic Jihad noted their ideology.
"What's the difference between suicide, which the Koran condemns, and martyrdom?" I asked. "Suicide," he replied, "is done out of despair. But remember: most of our martyrs today were very successful in their earthly lives." In short, there was a future to live for--and they detonated it anyway.
Since the four suicide bombings in London, there have been many scholastic refutations of suicide bombings from Sunni Muslims. Ihsanic Intelligence, a London-based Islamic think-tank, published their two-year study into suicide bombings in the name of Islam, titled 'The Hijacked Caravan',<ref>http://www.ihsanic-intelligence.com/dox/The_Hijacked_Caravan.pdf</ref> which concluded that, "The technique of suicide bombing is anathema, antithetical and abhorrent to Sunni Islam. It is considered legally forbidden, constituting a reprehensible innovation in the Islamic tradition, morally an enormity of sin combining suicide and murder and theologically an act which has consequences of eternal damnation."<ref>http://mac.abc.se/home/onesr/ez/isl/0-sbm/The.Hijacked.Caravan.html</ref> The Oxford-based Malayist jurist, Shaykh Muhammad Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti, issued his landmark fatwa on suicide bombing and targeting innocent civilians, titled 'Defending the Transgressed, by Censuring the Reckless against the Killing of Civilians', where he states suicide bombing in its most widespread form, is forbidden: 'If the attack involves a bomb placed on the body or placed so close to the bomber that when the bomber detonates it the bomber is certain [yaqin] to die, then the More Correct Position according to us is that it does constitute suicide. This is because the bomber, being also the Maqtul [the one killed], is unquestionably the same Qatil [the immediate/active agent that kills] = Qatil Nafsahu [suicide]"<ref>http://www.livingislam.org/k/dcmm_e.html</ref>
In January of 2006, one of Shia Islam's highest ranking marja clerics, Ayatollah al-Udhma Yousof al-Sanei also decreed a fatwa against suicide bombing, declaring it as a "terrorist act".<ref>http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Terrorism&loid=8.0.245083220&par=0</ref>
 Usage and related terms
The usage of the term "suicide bombing" dates back to at least 1940. An August 10, 1940 New York Times article mentions the term in relation to German tactics. A March 4, 1942 article refers to a Japanese attempt at a "suicide bombing" on an American carrier. The Times (London) of April 15, 1947, page 2, refers to a new pilotless, radio-controlled rocket missile thus: "Designed originally as a counter-measure to the Japanese 'suicide-bomber,' it is now a potent weapon for defence or offence." The quotes are in the original and suggest that the phrase was an existing one. An earlier article (Aug 21, 1945, page 6) refers to a kamikaze plane as a "suicide-bomb."
The term with the meaning "an attacker blowing up himself or a vehicle to kill others" appeared in 1981 when it was used in an Associated Press article to describe the bombing of the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut.
In order to assign either a more positive or negative connotation to the act, suicide bombing is sometimes referred to by different terms. Islamists often call the act a isshtahad (meaning martyrdom operation), and the suicide bomber a shahid (pl. shuhada, literally 'witness' and usually translated as 'martyr'). The term denotes one who died in order to testify his faith in God (Allah), for example those who die while waging jihad bis saif; it is applied to suicide bombers, by the Palestinian Authority among others, in part to overcome Islamic strictures against suicide. This term has been embraced by Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah and other Palestinian factions engaging in suicide bombings. (The title is by no means restricted to suicide bombers and can be used for a wide range of people, including innocent victims; Muhammad al-Durra, for example, is among the most famous shuhada of the Intifada, and even a few non-Palestinians such as Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie have been called shahid.)
 "Homicide bombing"
Some effort has been made to replace the term suicide bombing with the term homicide bombing. The first such use was by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in April 2002.<ref>http://www.wordspy.com/words/homicidebombing.asp</ref> The Fox News Channel and the New York Post, both owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, are two media organizations that have adopted the term.
Arguably, "homicide bombing" is a less useful term. Although it correctly indicates that the bomber's primary objective is the death of others, it fails to capture the distinctive feature of suicide bombings, namely the bombers' use of means which they are aware will inevitably bring about their own deaths. For instance, Timothy McVeigh and Theodore Kaczynski could both ostensibly be called "homicide bombers," but neither could be called a "suicide bomber." To this extent it has also been argued that all bombings are "homicide bombings", as loss of life is their inherent aim.
 "Genocide bombing"
Another attempted replacement is genocide bombing. The term was coined in 2002 by Canadian member of parliament Irwin Cotler, in an effort to replace the term "homicide bomber" as a substitute for "suicide bomber."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The intention was to focus attention on the alleged intention of genocide by militant Palestinians in their calls to "Wipe Israel off the map."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> This term is not common.
In 1997, Professor Raphael Israeli coined the term Islamikaze as a proposed description for Islamic suicide bombers.<ref name=Islamikaze1>Template:Cite journal See also Israeli, Raphael (2002-05-01). Green Crescent Over Nazareth: The Displacement of Christians by Muslims in the Holy Land. Routledge (UK), 70, fn.23. ISBN 0-7146-5258-X., in which Professor Israeli repeats the claim that his 1997 article coined the term "Islamikaze."</ref> According to Professor Israeli, he developed the term "Islamikaze" in an effort to signify that the primary goal of "suicide bombers" is not suicide but the infliction of damage to the enemy.<ref name=JerusalemLetter>Template:Cite journal</ref>
The term has not entered into widespread usage.<ref name=MuslimPolitics>Eikelman, Dale, James Piscatori (2004-07-26). Muslim Politics. Princeton University Press, ix. ISBN 0-691-12053-6. “In this environment, Islamikaze, a term proposed by an Israeli colleague of Moroccan origin (Israeli 2003), is unlikely to catch on.”</ref> Primarily, it continues to be used in Professor Israeli's own publications and in works discussing Professor Israeli's publications. For example, the most prominent usage of the term is probably Professor Israeli's 2003 book.<ref name=Israeli2003>Israeli, Rafael (2003-08-30). Islamikaze: Manifestations of Islamic Martyrology. Frank Cass. ISBN 0-7146-8391-4.</ref> Other examples of recent usage of the term include Stephen Blackwell, who criticizes Israeli's coinage as a "flippant phrase" that "demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of Islamic culture",<ref name=Blackwell>Template:Cite journal</ref> and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who discusses whether Israeli's concept of "Islamikazes" as motivated by military rather than suicidal goals may be helpful in profiling possible suicide bombers.<ref name=Nunn>Template:Cite journal</ref>
 See also
- Jing Ke
- Hassan-i Sabbah
- Forlorn hope
- Human wave attack
- Baby Suicide Bomber
- Child suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- Female suicide bomber
- Using animals instead of suicide
- Al Fateh
- List of Hamas suicide attacks
- List of Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide attacks
- List of Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades suicide attacks
- The Tailor of Death
- Suicide attacks in popular culture
 External links, resources, references
 See Pierre Rehov's latest film : "Suicide Killers"
- The psychology of Palestinian suicide bombing and Israeli paranoia
- The Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Bruce Hoffman published in The Atlantic Magazine June 2003
- Suicide Bombers Why do they do it, and what does Islam say about their actions?
- The Hijacked Caravan Study refuting suicide bombing in Islam by Ihsanic Intelligence
- Defending the Transgressed Fatwa against suicide bombing by Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti
- What makes suicide bombers tick? - Suicide bomber profile and info
- The Culture of Martyrdom How suicide bombing became not just a means but an end by David Brooks in The Atlantic Magazine June 2002
- Erased In A Moment Suicide Bombing Attacks Against Israeli Civilians [Human Rights Watch]
- History of use of the phrase "suicide bomber"
- USAF Suicide Bombers Intelligence Brief
- Has Israel beaten the suicide bombers? The Telegraph.
- Women Armed for Terror - list of women terrorist-bombers.
- An Islamist view of Martyrdom Operations
- The mechanics of a living bomb
- Chronology of suicide bomb attacks by Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka
- How a laser device can detect a suicide bomber's explosives belt or chemical weapons from dozens of meters away - A web article
- short clip showing the victims of Palestinian suicide bombing Warning: Graphic Images
- An examination of the most thoroughly stated 'fatwa' approving of suicide bombing. By Abdassamad Clarke
- Suicide Killers - 2006 Documentary by Pierre Rehov
- Cult of the Suicide Bomber- a television history by ex-CIA agent Robert Baer
- Canadians Against Suicide Bombing Salim Mansur leading member
- Suicide Terrorism: Rationalizing the Irrational
- Concept Wizard - Mideast Conflict presentations Flash, various languages
- IMAGINE Flash, images of bombings
 Further reading
- Rex Hudson (2002), Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why: The 1999 Government Report on Profiling Terrorists, Lyons Press, ISBN 1-58574-754-8
- Mia Bloom (2005), Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-13320-0
- Robert Pape (2005), Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Random House, ISBN 1-4000-6317-5
- Diego Gambetta, Editor (2005), Making Sense of Suicide Missions, OUP, ISBN 0-19-927699-4
- Farhad Khosrokhavar, translated by David Macey (2005), Suicide Bombers: Allah's New Martyrs, Pluto Press, ISBN 0-7453-2283-2
- Martin Kramer. 1996. Sacrifice and "Self-Martyrdom" in Shi'ite Lebanon.
- Bernard B. Fall. 1966. Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu. Da Capo Press. (References to suicide bombers on pages 352 and 368).
- Rosemarie Skaine (2006), "Female Suicide Bombers", McFarland Publishers, ISBN 0-7864-2615-2
- M.R. Narayan Swamy. 1996. Tigers of Lanka: From Boys to Guerrillas, 2nd Ed. Vijitha Yapa Bookshop (Colombo).
- Dr. Eyad Sarraj. "Why we have become Suicide Bombers".התאבדות
- Gerhart Scheit. 2005. Suicide Attack ISBN 3-924627-87-8 (German)
- Reuter, Christoph trans. Ragg-Kirby, Helena. My Life is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 2004.
- Davis, Joyce M. (2004). Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6681-8.ar:عملية انتحارية
de:Selbstmordattentat es:Atentado suicida fr:Attentat-suicide id:Serangan bunuh diri he:פיגוע התאבדות nl:Zelfmoordaanslag ja:自爆テロ no:Selvmordsbombe simple:Suicide bomber fi:Itsemurhaisku sv:Självmordsbombning zh:自殺攻擊