Dr Rajiv Desai

An Educational Blog




The image above shows victim of terrorism.



The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of some people who are evil, but because of good people who don’t do anything about evil people. In human history, terrorism is widely recognized as the world’s most famous enemy of mankind. As history itself will admit that terrorism is annihilation with far-reaching and destructive effects, it is also the cruelest of crimes against humanity. Its remains have turned neighbors into enemies and have made our societies and the whole world unsafe for living. Its aims and applications are global and uncompromising. Neither terrorism nor perpetrators are new. Even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded time, not history itself can keep, with precision, the number of lives and properties lost to terrorism. Terrorism has been most succinctly defined as “the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims.” During the past 35 years, the world has witnessed nearly 20,000 terrorist incidents, ranging from the hostage takeover during the 1972 Munich Olympics to the 2002 and 2005 tourist bombings in Bali. These incidents have resulted in more than 90,000 casualties worldwide. Terrorist attacks are often targeted to maximize fear and publicity. They usually use explosives or firearms, but there is also concern about terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction. Terrorist organizations usually methodically plan attacks in advance, and may train participants, plant “undercover” agents, and raise money from supporters or through organized crime. Communication may occur through modern telecommunications, or through old-fashioned methods such as couriers. This article is written with the sole intention to eliminate terrorism and save lives no matter the motivation of terrorism.


I quote from my article on ‘Science of Crime’:

I have defined terrorism as death and destruction of any human being or property, intentionally, in order to achieve political goals. Spread of fear and publicity are the two things most terrorist master minds want and we must deny it. If bombs are planted in trains, all trains must run full. If bombs are planted on high court, all courts must run full house. By this way we can combat terrorism. Media must not give publicity to terrorists by showing terrorist acts 24 hours on television or talking to terrorists on phone and showing it “live”. Take the fear and the publicity out, and you will find terrorist becomes an ordinary criminal.


The inquiry into the Marathon Day bombings by the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston on April 15, 2013, which killed three and injured more than 260 people, is seeking explanations as to the motives of the perpetrators. What were the fundamental reasons for the deadly attack?  Why did a 26-year-old Muslim married man with a small child, with no apparent training and no declared affiliation or connection with a terrorist group and aided only by a 19-year-old younger brother, become a brutal and callous murderer? How was the older man, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who had been a boxer in the United States and had some education before dropping out of college, transformed at some point in 2009 into an Islamic extremist who gave up boxing and drinking?  Why did the younger brother Dzhokhar, a member of the wrestling squad at school, a pre-medical student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and a lifeguard at a Harvard pool, agree to assist Tamerlan? After Boston bombing, more Americans think that occasional attacks will be a part of life in the U.S.


The subject of terrorism is by its very nature highly emotive, and it can be very easy to be swayed by personal feelings. What is terrorism? It is tempting to answer this simple question with Saint Augustine’s comment about time: ‘If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know’. The word ‘terrorism’ immediately calls up spectacular and murderous attacks. The more murderous they are, the more obviously ‘terrorist’ they seem to us. In this respect, the 9/11 attacks function as a prototype of the terrorist act, the supreme accomplishment of a category of phenomena whose existence is henceforth beyond dispute. Terrorism, although it has individual victims, is an onslaught upon society itself. Terror is a natural phenomenon, and terrorism is the conscious exploitation of it. Terrorism is coercive, designed to manipulate the will of its victims and its larger audience. The degree of fear is generated by the crime’s very nature, by the manner of its preparation or by its senselessness, wantonness, or callous indifference to human life. This terrible fear is the source of the terrorist’s power and communicates his challenge to society. The equation of terror with a state of chronic fear is permissible in lay language, but in psychiatry, terror is an extreme form of anxiety, often accompanied by aggression, denial, constricted affect, and followed by frightening imagery and intrusive, repetitive recollection. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.” Of course, humans can find terror in just about anything — some people are deathly afraid of birds or even cats. But the most palpable fear is that of death, and the will to avoid it is hardwired into our genes. Terrorism leverages the threat of imminent death to achieve a goal. Because of the incredibly large body count associated with 9/11, it is easy to forget the 1984 fatal shooting of outspoken Denver talk-show host Allen Berg by members of a neo-Nazi group known as “The Order,” whose members raised funds through committing a series of robberies of banks and armored cars as well as counterfeiting. Or, right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 massacre of 168 men, women, and children at a federal building in Oklahoma City. Or, Eric Rudolph’s 1996 murder of two and injury of another 150 in his bombings of Olympic Park in Atlanta as well as two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub.


Books on terrorism:


The graph above shows that number of published books on terrorism has steadily increased. When so much material is available on the subject of terrorism, what is the need to write on terrorism by me? “To show my solidarity with the victims and kin of the victims of terrorism”.


Terrorism hype by media and politicians:

Terrorism pushes our emotional buttons. And politicians and the media tend to blow the risk of terrorism out of proportion.  But as the American statistics shows, terrorism is a very unlikely cause of death.

—You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

—You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

—You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane

—You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack


The figure above shows various causes of deaths and terrorism is indeed very low on the list. Again you may ask, what is the need to discuss terrorism as it is very uncommon cause of death. The issue is not number of deaths due to terrorism but the brutality and the gruesomeness of the evil human mind.


Introduction to terrorism:

The great German military theoretician Von Clausewitz noted that war was an extension of politics by other means. One should look at terrorism as an extension of war and hence of politics by different means.


Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, often violent, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no legally binding, criminal law definition. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political or, ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians). Terrorism has been practiced by a broad array of political organizations to further their objectives. It has been practiced by both right-wing and left-wing political parties, nationalistic groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments. An abiding characteristic is the indiscriminate use of violence against noncombatants for the purpose of gaining publicity for a group, cause, or individual. The symbolism of terrorism can leverage human fear to help achieve these goals.


Terrorism is a method of combat in which random or symbolic victims become targets of violence. Through the repeated use of violence or the credible threat of violence, members of another group are put in a state of chronic fear (terror).  The victimization of the target is considered extranormal by most observers…which in turn creates an audience beyond the target of terror…. The purpose of terrorism is either to immobilize the target of terror in order to produce disorientation and/or compliance, or to mobilize secondary targets of demand or targets of attention (Schmid 1983:111).  One must distinguish between the target of violence and the targets of attention. The target of violence involves the innocent victims.  There are three targets of attention: the target of terror; the target of demand; and the target of influence.  The target of terror refers to people who are in the same class or category as the victims.  The target of demand (similar to extortion and ransom kidnapping) is what a government, business, or leader must do in order to save lives. The target of influence is the Western world as a whole or the establishment or a silent majority.  It is toward these multiple audiences of attention that terrorist violence is directed against, and it is always combined with a sense of randomness and extranormality that it compels horrified attention.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) categorizes terrorism in the U.S. as one of two types:

Domestic Terrorism – is terrorist activities that focus on facilities or populations without foreign direction.

International Terrorism – is terrorist activities that are foreign‐based and/or sponsored by organizations or groups outside the U.S.

The distinction between domestic or international terrorism refers not to where the terrorist act takes place but rather to the origin of the individuals or groups responsible for it. For example, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was an act of domestic terrorism, but the attacks of September 2001 were international in nature. International terrorism poses the greatest threat to national security. Global trends indicate that the growing number of terrorist groups will become more networked and even harder to identify and track.


Terrorism Classified by Place

1. Domestic — by residents of a country within that country
2. International — by representatives of a country against another country
3. Non-state — extremism and revolution for its own sake 
4. State-sponsored — by a government against its own people or in support of international terrorism against another government
5. Internecine — conflict that spills over into another country or fought on foreign soil  


Terrorist acts frequently have a political purpose. Terrorism is a political tactic, like letter-writing or protesting, which is used by activists when they believe that no other means will affect the kind of change they desire. The change is desired so badly that failure to achieve change is seen as a worse outcome than the deaths of civilians. This is often where the inter-relationship between terrorism and religion occurs. When a political struggle is integrated into the framework of a religious or “cosmic” struggle, such as over the control of an ancestral homeland or holy site such as Israel and Jerusalem, failing in the political goal (nationalism) becomes equated with spiritual failure, which, for the highly committed, is worse than their own death or the deaths of innocent civilians. Very often, the victims of terrorism are targeted not because they are threats, but because they are specific “symbols, tools, animals or corrupt beings” that tie into a specific view of the world that the terrorists possess. Their suffering accomplishes the terrorists’ goals of instilling fear, getting their message out to an audience or otherwise satisfying the demands of their often radical religious and political agendas.  


Terrorism is systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. It has been used throughout history by political organizations of both the left and the right, by nationalist and ethnic groups, and by revolutionaries. Although usually thought of as a means of destabilizing or overthrowing existing political institutions, terror also has been employed by governments against their own people to suppress dissent; examples include the reigns of certain Roman emperors, the French Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and Argentina during the “dirty war” of the 1970s. Terrorism’s impact has been magnified by the deadliness and technological sophistication of modern-day weapons and the capability of the media to disseminate news of such attacks instantaneously throughout the world. The deadliest terrorist attack ever occurred in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, when members of al-Qaeda terrorist network hijacked four commercial airplanes and crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City and one into the Pentagon building near Washington, D.C.; the fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers. The crashes resulted in the collapse of much of the World Trade Center complex, the destruction of part of the southwest side of the Pentagon, and the deaths of 3,000 people including19 hijackers aboard the four planes.


Acts of terrorism include threats of terrorism; assassinations; kidnappings; hijackings; bomb scares and bombings; cyber attacks (computer-based); and the use of chemical, biological, nuclear and/or radiological weapons. High-risk targets for acts of terrorism include military and civilian government facilities, international airports, large cities, and high-profile landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, utilities and corporate centers. Terrorists are also capable of inducing panic by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail.


David Rapoport has described modern terrorism such as that perpetuated by al-Qaeda as part of a religiously inspired “fourth wave.” This wave follows three earlier historical phases in which terrorism was tied to the breakup of empires, decolonization, and leftist anti-Westernism. Rapoport argues that terrorism occurs in consecutive if somewhat overlapping waves. The argument is that modern terrorism has been a power struggle along a continuum: central power versus local power, big power versus small power, modern power versus traditional power. The key variable is a widespread perception of opportunity, combined with a shift in a particular political or ideological paradigm. Thus, even though the newest international terrorist threat, emanating largely from Muslim countries, has more than a modicum of religious inspiration, it is more accurate to see it as part of a larger phenomenon of antiglobalization and tension between the have and have-not nations, as well as between the elite and underprivileged within those nations. In an era where reforms occur at a pace much slower than is desired, terrorists today, like those before them, aim to exploit the frustrations of the common people (especially in the Arab world). According to Rapoport, a second, related phase of modern terrorism associated with the concept of national self-determination developed its greatest predominance after World War I. It also continues to the present day. The mid-twentieth-century era of rapid decolonization spawned national movements in territories as diverse as Algeria, Israel, South Africa, and Vietnam. An important by-product was ambivalence toward the terrorism phenomenon in the international community, with haggling over the definition of terrorism reaching a fever pitch in the United Nations by the 1970s.


There are three perspectives of terrorism: the terrorist’s, the victim’s, and the general public’s. The phrase “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is a view terrorists themselves would gladly accept. Terrorists do not see themselves as evil. They believe they are legitimate combatants, fighting for what they believe in, by whatever means possible to attain their goals. A victim of a terrorist act sees the terrorist as a criminal with no regard for human life. The general public’s view though can be the most unstable in some countries like Pakistan. The terrorists take great pains to foster a “Robin Hood” image in hope of swaying the general public’s point of view toward their cause. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is a master mind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks killing 164 people and wounding at least 308; but he is perceived as benevolent individual by people of Pakistan as he works for charity and lend a hand during floods and other calamities. This sympathetic view of terrorism has become an integral part of their psychological warfare and must be countered vigorously by governments, the media and other organizations.   



Extremism (represented on both sides of the political spectrum) is any ideology or political act far outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common moral standards. In democratic societies, individuals or groups that advocate the replacement of democracy with an authoritarian regime are usually considered to be extremists; in authoritarian societies, people who espouse democratic or otherwise liberal ideals are labeled as extremists by the ruling class or government. Extremism is usually contrasted with moderation, and extremists with moderates. Political agendas perceived as extremist often include those from the far left or far right as well as fundamentalism or fanaticism. All terrorists are extremists but all extremists are not terrorists.   


Killing innocent civilians:

Terrorism is a form of politico-military combat that attacks civilians for two reasons. The first is that the terrorists can’t get at the political and military figures they really want to kill. Chechen nationalists fighting for separation from Russia would happily blow up President Putin and his entourage but they have a problem with the security that surrounds him. Hamas and Islamic Jihad would not kill Israeli civilians if instead they could kill Israeli PM and his cabinet. The second reason terrorists kill civilians is that it shocks and frightens populations and may dispose them to make compromises or offer concessions to the terrorist cause. Israel finally withdrew from that part of Lebanon which it had occupied since its first invasion of that country in 1978 because after more than two decades the Israeli public grew weary of Hezbollah rockets from Lebanon falling on Israeli towns. They were tired of having young conscript soldiers killed in ambushes in what was supposed to be the country’s security zone in Lebanon. It is a fact of political life and history that terrorism is the weapon that oppressed populations have always employed against those they consider their oppressors, usually because it is the only weapon available. Ask the Irish what liberated Ireland, or the Serbs what liberated Serbia from the Turks in the 19th century, or the Vietnamese what freed them from French colonialism. In World War II, Britain was not the first to bomb cities. But after the blitz had been defeated, Britain made terror bombing its principal weapon against Nazi Germany from 1941 forward. Bombing was the only way it could strike at Germany, and the heavy bombers of the period were incapable of the accuracy that would allow discrimination between industrial and civilian targets. A deliberate decision followed: to bomb civilians so as to destroy Germany’s will to war. The effort culminated in the great 1944-1945 firestorm raids on German cities, replicated in Japan by the United States. More Japanese civilians were killed by the firebombing of Japanese cities in the summer of 1945 than were to die at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Well, am I mixing up terrorism, freedom fight and war? No. However, innocent life lost is innocent life lost no matter whether it is 9/11 attack or American drone attack.


Combatants vs. non-combatants:

Who is innocent civilian? Can a combatant not on duty be compared to civilian non-combatant?  Who is combatant and who is non-combatant? The quintessential difference is that a combatant operates on the battlefield with an established uniform and weapon according to international standards. An example that seems to blur the line between combatant and non-combatant is Nidal Malik Hassan who attacked soldiers at Fort Hood. He must be considered a terrorist because the soldiers he attacked were not on the battlefield. Also, his immediate objectives follow that of a terrorist rather than an insurgent. Hassan supposedly believed that the “War on Terror” was a war against Islam and believed Muslims should not be in the military. His motivations appeared to follow revenge for America’s actions in the Middle East. He was not trying to gain followers to fight the military on equal ground. This case shows it is possible to determine whether violence is by an insurgent or a terrorist based on their targets and objectives.   


Threat level:

Terrorist groups continue to plot destruction, and governments keep refining their methods of foiling such efforts. The Homeland Security Advisory System created by U.S. President George W. Bush in response to the Sept. 11 attacks marks one of those efforts. The goal was to create a national framework for the existing U.S. alert systems at the federal, state and local levels and tie them in with a warning system for businesses and civilians. By providing the public with a color-coded warning level, ranging from green for “low” to red for “severe,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security aims to convey the “appropriate level of vigilance, preparedness and readiness.”



The new National Terrorism Advisory System replaces the Homeland Security Advisory System that has been in place since 2002. The National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS, will include information specific to the particular credible threat, and will not use a color-coded scale. When there is credible information about a threat, an NTAS Alert will be shared with the American public. It may include specific information, if available, about the nature of the threat, including the geographic region, mode of transportation, or critical infrastructure potentially affected by the threat, as well as steps that individuals and communities can take to protect themselves and help prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat. The advisory will clearly indicate whether the threat is Elevated, if we have no specific information about the timing or location, or Imminent, if we believe the threat is impending or very soon.


Statistics of terrorism:


The graph below shows number of terrorist incidents and fatalities in previous few decades:



The graph below shows that 90 % of terrorist attacks were successful:


The graph below shows terrorist fatalities by geographical region:


The chart below shows total fatalities due to terrorism from 2002 to 2011 in various countries:


Chart above illustrates the distribution by number of terrorists per attack. The proportion of small attacks involving fewer than ten terrorists has been increasing and accounts for almost 100% of attacks. Although the overall shift is towards smaller groups, the category of greater than 50 combatants has increased suggesting larger groups may be forming. For example, in April 2011, Maoist conducted a terrorist act that involved 1000 armed rebels in India.


Chart above shows that attacks targeted at private citizens and property, business, government and police make up more than two thirds of all targets of terrorist attacks since 2002.


Statistics on Terrorism in 2010:

•In 2010, more than 11,500 terrorist attacks occurred in 72 countries, resulting in approximately 50,000 victims and almost 13,200 deaths.

•In 2010, more than 75 percent of the world’s terrorist attacks and deaths took place in South Asia and the Near East. The Near East and South Asia experienced a total of 8,960 attacks that caused 9,960 deaths.

•In 2010, 15 private American citizens were killed in acts associated with terrorism, totaling less than 1 percent (0.11 percent) of the worldwide total.

•In 2010, the leading method of terrorist attacks was armed attack (responsible for 41.6 percent of primary attack types), closely followed by bombing (responsible for 36.8 percent of primary attack types).

•In 2010, Iraq had the largest overall number of terrorist victims with 12,087, of whom 2,704 died.








Attacks worldwide






Attacks resulting in at least 1 death, injury, or kidnapping






Attacks resulting in the death of at least 10 individuals






Attacks resulting in the death of at least 1 individual






Attacks resulting in the death of only 1 individual






Attacks resulting in the death of 0 individuals






Attacks resulting in the injury of at least 1 individual






Attacks resulting in the kidnapping of at least 1 individual






People killed, injured or kidnapped as a result of terrorism, worldwide






People killed as a result of terrorism, worldwide






People injured as a result of terrorism, worldwide






People kidnapped as a result of terrorism, worldwide







Overview of the GTD:

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is an open-source database including information on terrorist events around the world from 1970 till date (with additional annual updates planned for the future). Unlike many other event databases, the GTD includes systematic data on domestic as well as transnational and international terrorist incidents that have occurred during this time period and now includes more than 104,000 cases. For each GTD incident, information is available on the date and location of the incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of casualties, and–when identifiable–the group or individual responsible. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) makes the GTD available via this online interface in an effort to increase understanding of terrorist violence so that it can be more readily studied and defeated.

Characteristics of the GTD

  • Contains information on over 104,000 terrorist attacks (up to 2011)
  • Currently the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world
  • Includes information on more than 47,000 bombings, 14,000 assassinations, and 5,300 kidnappings since 1970
  • Includes information on at least 45 variables for each case, with more recent incidents including information on more than 120 variables
  • Supervised by an advisory panel of 12 terrorism research experts
  • Over 3,500,000 news articles and 25,000 news sources were reviewed to collect incident data from 1998 to 2011 alone


Origin of the term ‘terrorism’:

Terrorism comes from the French word terrorisme, and originally referred specifically to state terrorism as practiced by the French government during the Reign of terror. The French word terrorisme in turn derives from the Latin verb terreō meaning “I frighten”. The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105 BC. The Jacobins cited this precedent when imposing a Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. After the Jacobins lost power, the word “terrorist” became a term of abuse. For the next 150 years, the word “terrorism” led a double life — a justifiable political strategy to some, an abomination to others. The Russian revolutionaries who assassinated Czar Alexander II in 1881 used the word proudly. And in 1905, Jack London described terrorism as a powerful weapon in the hands of labor, though he warned against harming innocent people. By the mid-20th century, terrorism was becoming associated more with movements of national liberation than with radical groups, and the word was starting to acquire its universal stigma. One of the last groups willing to describe itself as terrorist was a Zionist organization called Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel), known earlier as the Stern Gang. In 1946, when Palestine was still under a British mandate, Lehi terrorists killed 91 people, 28 of them Britons, by planting a bomb in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Most of the Third-World movements that resorted to political violence in the 1950s and 1960s preferred terms like “freedom fighters” or “guerrillas” or “mujahedeen.” “Terrorist” became a condemnation by the colonial powers. That’s the point when news organizations started to become circumspect about using the word to describe groups like the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Defense Association or the African National Congress. It seemed to be picking sides, and perhaps a little imprudent — particularly when you consider that former “terrorists” like Nelson Mandela and Menachem Begin ended their careers as winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. By the 1980s, “terrorism” was being applied to all manner of political violence. By the 1990s, people were crying terrorism whenever they discerned an attempt at intimidation or disruption. Hackers who concocted computer viruses were cyberterrorists, cult leaders were psychological terrorists. Software companies accused Microsoft of terrorism in its efforts to maintain its Windows monopoly, and Microsoft accused Apple Computer of “patent terrorism” after the companies got into a dispute over intellectual property. And when photographer Spencer Tunik got 30 people to lie down naked for a picture in front of the United Nations Building in New York, a critic described the piece as “artistic terrorism at its best.” Although “terrorism” originally referred to acts committed by a government, currently it usually refers to the killing of innocent people by a non-government group in such a way as to create a media spectacle.


History of terrorism:


The table below shows various terrorist campaigns in historical perspective:


Historically the development of terrorism as a tool to achieve political goals is as follows:

1. Late 18th Century – The French Revolution
Government Sponsored Terrorism
Goal: Eliminate opposition and consolidate power. The word terrorism was coined.

2. Late 19th and Early 20th Century – The Anarchists
Individual Terrorism
Propaganda by deeds
Goal: Use terror to bring down a government

3. Early 20th Century – Russian Revolution
Government Sponsored Terrorism
Goal: Use terror to maintain power and control an entire population. Added systematic society wide use of terror to the concept of government-sponsored terrorism

4. Early 20th Century – Irish Rebellion
Selective Terrorism
Sustained Terrorism
Cell Operations
Goal: Use terror to gain independence

5. Middle 20th Century
Terror to End Colonialism
Goal: Use of selective terrorism on sympathizers and civilians

Between the French Revolution and the end of WWII, terrorism was local and organization of terror was confined to a specific area of conflict. The late 1960’s brought a new change.

6. The Middle East / Cold War -Late 1960’s
The Internationalization of Terrorism and State-Sponsored Terrorism
The unification of different terrorist groups as a worldwide network.

Additionally, due to the Cold War different countries supporting different terrorist groups in order to destabilize rival governments.

Terrorist groups allied in order to bring attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

7. The Middle East / Islamism (Militant Islam) – 1979
Religious Based Terrorism
Expansion of Islam and the protection of Islam against Jews, Christians and the West formed a justification for the use of terror independent of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Overview of political violence:

Table below encompasses, in a gross manner, all forms of political violence carried out by humans against other humans, while differentiating between their main types. Each one of the four cells includes a distinct category of truculent behavior.

Classification of political violence

Initiators Target state Target citizens
State Full-scale war; belligerent activityin peacetime, and punitive strikes Law enforcement, legal and illegal oppression e.g. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union; civil war;state sponsored terrorism;
Citizens Guerrilla; Insurgency; LeninistRevolution; terrorism terrorism


The figure below shows various actors in terrorism and their intersection:


Terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare, and is more common when direct conventional warfare either cannot be (due to differentials in available forces) or is not being used to resolve the underlying conflict. The context in which terrorist tactics are used is often a large-scale, unresolved political conflict. The type of conflict varies widely; historical examples include:

  • Secession of a territory to form a new sovereign state
  • Dominance of territory or resources by various ethnic groups
  • Imposition of a particular form of government
  • Economic deprivation of a population
  • Opposition to a domestic government or occupying army


Distinctions are easier to make than definitions.  Jonathan White’s (2002) approach is illustrative of this, placing terrorism along a continuum of conflict where related behaviors can be sorted out.  This approach sees terrorism as between rioting and guerilla warfare, and the model is adapted below:

Jonathan White’s Continuum of Conflict


Civil Law










Terrorism caused by non-state actor:

Many scholars believe that the actions of governments can be labeled “terrorism”; however others, including governments, international organizations, private institutions and scholars, believe that the term is only applicable to the actions of non-state actors. The definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack is “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation”. This definition excludes perceived acts of state terror, such as drone attacks resulting in civilian casualties.


Non-state actor terrorism and politics:

First, terrorism always has a political nature. It involves the commission of outrageous acts designed to precipitate political change. At its root, terrorism is about justice, or at least someone’s perception of it, whether man-made or divine. Second, although many other uses of violence are inherently political, including conventional war among states, terrorism is distinguished by its nonstate character—even when terrorists receive military, political, economic, and other means of support from state sources. States obviously employ force for political ends. When state force is used internationally, it is considered an act of war; when it is used domestically, it is called various things, including law enforcement, state terror, oppression, or civil war. Although states can terrorize, they cannot by definition be terrorists as per the definition above. Third, terrorism deliberately targets the innocent, which also distinguishes it from state uses of force that inadvertently kill innocent bystanders. In any given example, the latter may or may not be seen as justified; but again, this use of force is different from terrorism. Hence the fact that precision-guided missiles sometimes go astray and kill innocent civilians is a tragic use of force, but it is not terrorism. Finally, state use of force is subject to international norms and conventions that may be invoked or at least consulted; terrorists do not abide by international laws or norms and, to maximize the psychological effect of an attack, their activities have a deliberately unpredictable quality. Thus, at a minimum, terrorism has the following characteristics: a fundamentally political nature, the surprise use of violence against seemingly random targets, and the targeting of the innocent by nonstate actors. All of these attributes are illustrated by recent examples of terrorism—from the April 2000 kidnapping of tourists by the Abu Sayyaf group of the Philippines to the various incidents allegedly committed by al-Qaeda, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the September 11 attacks.


Other groups:

Other extremist groups, such as animal rights campaigners, anti-abortionists, and some extreme ecologists, have also used terrorism and justified it.


The figure below shows tactical typology of terrorism:


State terrorism:

State terrorism may refer to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against a foreign state or people. It can also refer to acts of violence by a state against its own people. Historically, the term terrorism was used to refer to actions taken by governments against their citizens whereas now it is more often perceived as targeting of civilians as part of a strategy directed against governments. Scholar Gus Martin describes state terrorism as terrorism “committed by governments and quasi-governmental agencies and personnel against perceived threats”, which can be directed against both domestic and foreign targets. Noam Chomsky defines state terrorism as “terrorism practiced by states (or governments) and their agents and allies”. Although usually thought of as a means of destabilizing or overthrowing existing political institutions, terror also has been employed by governments against their own people to suppress dissent; examples include the reigns of certain Roman emperors, the French Revolution ( Reign of Terror), Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin, and Argentina during the dirty war of the 1970s. United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee has stated that the twelve previous international conventions on terrorism had never referred to state terrorism, which was not an international legal concept, and that when states abuse their powers they should be judged against international conventions dealing with war crimes, international human rights and international humanitarian law, rather than against international anti-terrorism statutes.


As with “terrorism” the concept of “state terrorism” is controversial. Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims. Regardless of the differences between governments on the question of definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is any deliberate attack on innocent civilians, regardless of one’s cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism.” State terrorism has been used to refer to terrorist acts by governmental agents or forces. This involves the use of state resources employed by a state’s foreign policies, such as using its military to directly perform acts of terrorism. Professor of Political Science Michael Stohl cites the examples that include Germany’s bombing of London and the U.S. atomic destruction of Hiroshima during World War II. He argues that “the use of terror tactics is common in international relations and the state has been and remains a more likely employer of terrorism within the international system than insurgents.” They also cite the First strike option as an example of the “terror of coercive diplomacy” as a form of this, which holds the world hostage with the implied threat of using nuclear weapons in “crisis management.” State terrorism has also been used to describe peacetime actions by governmental agents such as the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The concept is also used to describe political repressions by governments against their own civilian population with the purpose to incite fear. For example, taking and executing civilian hostages or extrajudicial elimination campaigns are commonly considered “terror” or terrorism, for example during the Red Terror or Great Terror. Such actions are often also described as democide or genocide which has been argued to be equivalent to state terrorism. Empirical studies on this have found that democracies have little democide.


Democide (mass murder by government no matter the reason) as terrorism:

Genocide is among other things, the killing of people by a government because of their indelible group membership (race, ethnicity, religion, language).

Politicide is the murder of any person or people by a government because of their politics or for political purposes.

Democide is the murder of any person or people by a government which includes genocide and politicide.

Regimes that have committed the most democides are specifically the Soviet Union, Nationalist China under Chiang Kai-shek, communist China, and Nazi Germany. Communist China killed 5 million people; and Khmer Rule killed 2 million Cambodians.  


The figure below shows annual democide rates in various countries:


Saudi Arabia and state sponsored terrorism:

Saudi Arabia is said to be the world’s largest source of funds for Salafi jihadist terrorist militant groups, such as al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba in South Asia, and donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide, according to Hillary Clinton. According to a secret December 2009 paper signed by then US secretary of state, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups.” 15 of the 19 hijackers of the four airliners who were responsible for 9/11 originated from Saudi Arabia. According to studies, most of suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis.


Iran and state sponsored terrorism:

Since the declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the government of Iran has been accused by members of the international community of funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists. The United States State Department describes Iran as an “active state sponsor of terrorism.” Then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elaborated stating, “Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian Territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq”.


Pakistan and state sponsor terrorism:

In 2009, Pakistani President Asif Zardari admitted at a conference in Islamabad that Pakistan had, in the past created terrorist groups as a tool for its geostrategic agenda. Pakistan had long been accused by neighbors Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Iran and western nations like the United States, and the United Kingdom of its involvement in terrorist activities in India and Afghanistan. Islamic militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, have long been regarded as Pakistan proxy forces by diplomats and intelligence services. Pakistan’s tribal region along the border of Afghanistan is claimed to be a “haven for terrorists”, it is considered among the most dangerous nations in the world. The Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), is believed to be aiding these organizations in eradicating perceived enemies or those opposed to their cause. Satellite imagery from the FBI suggest the existence of several terrorist camps in Pakistan, with at least one militant admitting to being trained in the country as part of the going Kashmir Dispute, Pakistan is alleged to be supporting separatist militias The JKLF, a militant outfit considered a terrorist group by the Indian government, has admitted to having more than 3,000 of its militants trained in Pakistan. The LeT is believed to have been created to fight with the Afghan Mujahideen against the former Soviet-backed Najibullah regime in Kabul and to attack Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed to have been responsible for the commando attack on Delhi’s Red Fort in December in which two soldiers and a civilian were killed. It was involved with another Pakistan-backed terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament before it was banned by Islamabad in 2002. Pakistan terrorists were also behind the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet which forced the Indian government to release three jailed militants, including Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was later arrested for the murder of Daniel Pearl. Many nonpartisan sources believe that officials within Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sympathize with and aid Islamic terrorists, saying that the “ISI has provided covert but well-documented support to terrorist groups active in Kashmir, including the al-Qaeda affiliate Jaish-e-Mohammed”. Pakistan denied involvement in militant activities in Kashmir, though President Asif Ali Zardari admitted in July 2010 that militants had been “deliberately created and nurtured” by past governments “as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives” stating that they were “heroes” until 9/11.  In October 2010, former Pakistan President and former head of the Pakistan Army, Pervez Musharraf revealed that Pakistani armed forces trained militant groups to fight Indian forces in Kashmir. Critics have accused Pakistan’s military and security establishment of protecting bin Laden, until he was found and killed by US forces. In addition Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Zubaydah, Abu Laith al Libi and Sheikh Said Masri have all been captured or killed inside Pakistan.


The figure below shows that only full democracy has lowest terrorism deaths as compared to other political systems:


Democracy and terrorism:

Democracy as a political system has both strengths and weaknesses when it comes to handling terrorism. On the one hand, democracy provides a possibility to remove leaders peacefully, and for the political opposition to pursue their goals without the use of violence. If conflict still arises, it can be handled through peaceful means in the impartial courts of the democratic society. On the other hand, democracy makes it harder to prevent and properly respond to terrorism as it must respect civil liberties and human rights. Lack of democracy must therefore be considered a structural cause for terrorism. However, either democracy or the lack democracy could be seen as a facilitator cause, as it may decrease the cost of violent as well as peaceful political action. This thinking has given rise to three different schools of thought regarding the connection between terrorism and democracy: the political access school, which argues that there is a negative correlation between terrorism and democracy; the strategic choice school, which argues that there is a positive correlation between terrorism and democracy; and the school that argues that there is a curve-linear correlation between political violence and democracy, meaning that political violence is mostly present in the countries that are neither truly democratic, nor truly autocratic. Nonetheless, as shown in the figure above, there is overwhelming evidence to show that full and mature democracy has lowest incidences of terrorism.


The figure below shows civil state vis-à-vis peace and conflict:


Domestic terrorism and democracy:

The relationship between domestic terrorism and democracy is very complex. Terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom, and is least common in the most democratic nations. However, one study suggests that suicide terrorism may be an exception to this general rule. Evidence regarding this particular method of terrorism reveals that every modern suicide campaign has targeted a democracy–a state with a considerable degree of political freedom. The study suggests that concessions awarded to terrorists during the 1980s and 1990s for suicide attacks increased their frequency.  Some examples of “terrorism” in non-democracies include ETA in Spain under Francisco Franco (although the group’s terrorist activities increased sharply after Franco’s death), the Shining Path in Peru under Alberto Fujimori, the Kurdistan Workers Party when Turkey was ruled by military leaders and the ANC in South Africa. Democracies, such as the United Kingdom, United States, Israel, Indonesia, India, Spain and the Philippines, have also experienced domestic terrorism. While a democratic nation espousing civil liberties may claim a sense of higher moral ground than other regimes, an act of terrorism within such a state may cause a dilemma: whether to maintain its civil liberties and thus risk being perceived as ineffective in dealing with the problem; or alternatively to restrict its civil liberties and thus risk delegitimizing its claim of supporting civil liberties. For this reason, homegrown terrorism has started to be seen as a greater threat, as stated by former CIA Director Michael Hayden. This dilemma, some social theorists would conclude, may very well play into the initial plans of the acting terrorist(s); namely, to delegitimize the state.


Terrorism and Weak States:

Another factor that is believed to be linked to the amount of terrorism a society creates is the strength or weakness of the state. Although this school of thinking is relatively new, it has nonetheless become a commonly cited cause of terrorism among scholars of terrorism as well as politicians waging the Global War on Terrorism. Failed states are states that, for different reasons, such as unrest or civil war, are unable to control their national borders and uphold the central government’s power throughout the country. They are also unable to provide basic political goods, such as a minimum level of personal and economic security, and functioning civil institutions, which are required in order to maintain stability within a country. States that show signs of failure, but are still able to uphold governmental power to some extent are usually referred to as weak or failing states. Weak states enable and encourage terrorism in several ways. States that have limited or no control over their borders or territory cannot effectively prevent terrorist organizations from forming and growing. Weak states usually also provide opportunities for terrorist organizations to acquire funds through illegal market activities, such as arms or drug smuggling, which usually thrive in these states. Secondly, weak states provide a structural cause for terrorism, as the inability to provide the most basic governmental services and political goods creates grievances for the population. These grievances provide powerful motivational causes for potential recruits, making it easier for the terrorist organizations to expand their ranks. Thirdly, the power vacuum that arises due to a lack of governmental power creates an opportunity for the terrorist organizations themselves to provide the most basic political goods, such as guaranteeing a minimum of personal and economic security, and providing a judicial system and other services, further increasing the loyalty of the population. Even though this reasoning makes sense intuitively, it has been criticized for several reasons. Perhaps the most important criticism is that the terrorist organizations that are active in weak states are more vulnerable to the actions of third party countries. This is because the sovereignty of weak states is usually not respected to the same extent as stronger states. Another common criticism is that many of the weakest states in the world are countries in Africa which are usually not associated with terrorism.


Marxism and terrorism:

The right wings have always tried to associate revolution with terrorist acts of the kind. On the other hand, terrorism runs counter to the most basic principles of Marxism. Marx showed that the root cause of exploitation, oppression, tyranny and war was not bad individual rulers or bad governments but the division of society into classes, and the ownership and control of production by a minority class that live off the labor of the majority. The overthrow of a ruling class and the economic system on which it rests cannot be achieved by killing or frightening even large numbers of individuals, but only by the struggle of a new class which is the bearer of a new economic system. The methods of struggle used by socialists – from issuing leaflets, collecting petitions, organizing trade unions and parties through to mass demonstrations, election campaigns and mass strikes – are all steps towards raising the consciousness, confidence and organization of workers to act on their own behalf. Terrorist methods contradict this whole perspective.


On the other hand, communist terrorism describes terrorism carried out in the advancement of, or by groups who adhere to, Communism or related ideologies, such as Leninism, Maoism, or Stalinism. Communist terrorism in history has taken the form of state-sponsored terrorism in communist nations, such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cambodia. Non-state actors, such as the Red Brigades, Front Line, and the Red Army Faction have also engaged in communist terrorism. These groups hope to inspire the masses to rise up and begin a revolution overthrowing existing political and economic systems. The end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union have been credited with leading to a marked decrease in such terrorism.


Definition of terrorism:


Difficulty in defining terrorism:


What are the issues before defining terrorism?

1. The boundary between terrorism and other forms of political violence

2. Whether government terrorism and resistance terrorism are part of the same phenomenon

3. Separating “terrorism” from simple criminal acts, from open war between “consenting” groups, and from acts that clearly arise out of mental illness

4. Is terrorism a sub-category of coercion? Violence? Power? Influence?

5. Can terrorism be legitimate? What gains justify its use?

6. The relationship between guerilla warfare and terrorism

7. The relationship between crime and terrorism


The figure below shows overview of terrorism definition: 


Inconsistency in defining terrorism:

 If you are tuned into the mainstream U.S. media, or into the various agencies of the U.S. government, or, for that matter, into the statements of virtually any government and their associated media, it quickly becomes apparent that the term ‘terrorism’ is ascribed selectively. When our political opponents commit violent acts we readily label it ‘terrorism’ and the perpetrators ‘terrorists’, but if we or our allies engage in similar sorts of activity we use different terms, e.g., ‘retaliation’ or ‘counter-terrorism’ to describe the acts. If the agents are a sub-national group we approve of, then it is common to see ‘freedom-fighters’ used to describe them.

Some of these were committed by sub-national groups, for example, 

• The attacks upon civilians in Nicaragua by the U.S. financed “contra” rebels of the 1980s that claimed several thousand civilian lives;

• The massacre of over 2000 Palestinian civilians by the Israeli-supported members of Lebanese militias in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in 1982.

• The massacre of Bosnian civilians in the mid-1990s;

If we broaden our scope and examine some of the overt actions committed by states, then there are numerous examples that are not usually labeled as “terrorist” though they qualify as such under those definitions that allow for state terrorism. These include,

• Bombing of Fallujah (and other Iraqi cities) by American in 2004 featuring the use of cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs;

• The destruction of Grozny by Russian forces during the Chechnya war in 1999;

• The US invasion of Panama in 1990; (Over 2,000 Panamanians were killed in the invasion to capture one leader.)

• The US bombing of Tripoli, Libya in April 1986; (over 100 dead)

• The Israeli aerial and land bombardment of Beirut in the summer of 1982; (over 5500 dead)

• The Syrian army’s attack on the city of Hama in the spring of 1982; (over 10,000 dead)

• The Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor, 1975-1998. (Over 100,000 civilians killed)

These terrorist actions pale in comparison to more large-scale campaigns such as,

• The U.S. bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia during the Vietnam War

• The Allied bombing of German and Japanese cities near the end of WWII; for example, from March to August 1945, nearly 800,000 Japanese civilians were killed in US air raids against Japans’ 62 largest cities, and about 85,000 of these died on March 9 1945 on the first day of the bombing in Tokyo.  


The Importance of Defining Terrorism:

Defining terrorism is not merely a theoretical issue but an operative concern of the first order. Terrorism is no longer a local problem of specific countries but an issue involving a number of international aspects. Terrorist organizations may perpetrate attacks in a variety of countries; the victims of attacks can be of different nationalities; the offices, headquarters, and training camps of terrorist organizations function in various countries; terrorist organizations receive direct and indirect assistance from different states, enlist support from different ethnic communities, and secure financial help throughout the world. Since terrorism is an international phenomenon, responses to terrorism must also be on an international scale. Developing an effective international strategy requires agreement on what it is we are dealing with, in other words, we need a definition of terrorism. International mobilization against terrorism, such as that which began in the mid-nineties and culminated in the international conventions in the G-7 countries, the Sharem el-Sheik Conference, etc., cannot lead to operational results as long as the participants cannot agree on a definition. Without answering the question of “what is terrorism,” no responsibility can be imposed on countries supporting terrorism, nor can steps be taken to combat terrorist organizations and their allies.


Without a definition of terrorism, it is impossible to formulate or enforce international agreements against terrorism. A conspicuous example of the need to define terrorism concerns the extradition of terrorists. Although many countries have signed bilateral and multilateral agreements concerning a variety of crimes, extradition for political offenses is often explicitly excluded, and the background of terrorism is always political. This loophole allows many countries to shirk their obligation to extradite individuals wanted for terrorist activities. It isn’t only countries like Italy and France that have refrained from extraditing terrorists, adducing political motives. In the U.S. too, in June 1988, a Brooklyn judge rejected the plea of a federal prosecutor requesting the extradition of Abed El Atta (an American citizen suspected of participating in an attack against a bus in the West Bank in April 1986, in which four people were killed). The judge stated that this attack was a “political act,” part of the uprising in the occupied territories, and instrumental in the attainment of the PLO’s “political aims.” “In the West Bank, today’s rebels could be tomorrow’s rulers.” According to the judge, this is a “political charge,” excluded from the category of crimes included in the extradition treaty between Israel and the United States.


Official definitions determine counter-terrorism policy and are often developed to serve it. Most government definitions outline the following key criteria: target, objective, motive, perpetrator, and legitimacy or legality of the act. Terrorism is also often recognizable by a following statement from the perpetrators:


According to Walter Laqueur of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “the only general characteristic of terrorism generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence.” However, the criterion of violence alone does not produce a useful definition, as it includes many acts not usually considered terrorism: war, riot, organized crime, or even a simple assault. Property destruction that does not endanger life is not usually considered a violent crime, but some have described property destruction by the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front as violence and terrorism,

Psychological impact and fear:

The attack was carried out in such a way as to maximize the severity and length of the psychological impact. Each act of terrorism is a “performance,” devised to have an impact on many large audiences. Terrorists also attack national symbols to show power and to attempt to shake the foundation of the country or society they are opposed to. This may negatively affect a government, while increasing the prestige of the given terrorist organization and/or ideology behind a terrorist act.

Perpetrated for a political goal:

Something many terrorist attacks have in common is their perpetration for a political purpose. Terrorism is a political tactic, not unlike letter writing or protesting, that is used by activists when they believe no other means will affect the kind of change they desire.

Deliberate targeting of non-combatants:

It is commonly held that the distinctive nature of terrorism lies in its intentional and specific selection of civilians as direct targets. Specifically, the criminal intent is shown when babies, children, mothers, and the elderly are murdered, or injured, and put in harm’s way.


Terrorists almost invariably pretend to be non-combatants, hide among non-combatants, fight from in the midst of non-combatants, and when they can, strive to mislead and provoke the government soldiers into attacking the wrong people, that the government may be blamed for it. When an enemy is identifiable as a combatant, the word terrorism is rarely used.

Unlawfulness or illegitimacy:

Some official (notably government) definitions of terrorism add a criterion of illegitimacy or unlawfulness  to distinguish between actions authorized by a government (and thus “lawful”) and those of other actors, including individuals and small groups. Using this criterion, actions that would otherwise qualify as terrorism would not be considered terrorism if they were government sanctioned. For example, firebombing a city, which is designed to affect civilian support for a cause, would not be considered terrorism if it were authorized by a government. This criterion is inherently problematic and is not universally accepted, because: it denies the existence of state terrorism; the same act may or may not be classed as terrorism depending on whether its sponsorship is traced to a “legitimate” government; “legitimacy” and “lawfulness” are subjective, depending on the perspective of one government or another; and it diverges from the historically accepted meaning and origin of the term. For these reasons this criterion is not universally accepted. Most dictionary definitions of the term do not include this criterion.


Many definitions of terrorism:

The word “terrorism” is politically and emotionally charged, and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition. Studies have found over 100 definitions of “terrorism”. The concept of terrorism may be controversial as it is often used by state authorities (and individuals with access to state support) to delegitimize political or other opponents, and potentially legitimize the state’s own use of armed force against opponents (such use of force may be described as “terror” by opponents of the state). The international community has never succeeded in developing an accepted comprehensive definition of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, the United Nations attempts to define the term floundered mainly due to differences of opinion between various members about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. It is not only individual agencies within the same governmental apparatus that cannot agree on a single definition of terrorism. Experts and other long-established scholars in the field are equally incapable of reaching a consensus. In the first edition of his magisterial survey, ‘Political Terrorism: A Research Guide,’ Alex Schmid devoted more than a hundred pages to examining more than a hundred different definition of terrorism in an effort to discover a broadly acceptable, reasonably comprehensive explication of the word. Four years and a second edition later, Schimd was no closer to the goal of his quest, conceding in the first sentence of the revised volume that the “search for an adequate definition is still on”. Walter Laqueur despaired of defining terrorism in both editions of his monumental work on the subject, maintaining that it is neither possible to do so nor worthwhile to make the attempt. Walter Laqueur, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that “the only general characteristic of terrorism generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence”. This criterion alone does not produce, however, a useful definition, since it includes many violent acts not usually considered terrorism: war, riot, organized crime, or even a simple assault. Among the various definitions there are several that do not recognize the possibility of legitimate use of violence by civilians against an invader in an occupied country. Other definitions would label as terrorist groups only the resistance movements that oppose an invader with violent acts that indiscriminately kill or harm civilians and non-combatants, thus making a distinction between lawful and unlawful use of violence. According to Ali Khan, the distinction lies ultimately in a political judgment. An associated, and arguably more easily definable, but not equivalent term is violent non-state actor. The semantic scope of this term includes not only “terrorists”, but while excluding some individuals or groups who have previously been described as “terrorists”, and also explicitly excludes state terrorism.


Political scientists tend to restrict terrorism to acts of violence carried out by non-state actors against civilians. Historians, sociologists, and experts in international humanitarian law, however, tend to use a broader definition that includes all premeditated acts of violence against civilians, whether carried out by non-state political groups or by states. Governments – especially those confronting armed opposition groups – and the media generally use the political-science definition of terrorism, often expanding it to include violent acts against military as well as civilian victims. In contrast, the non-state perpetrators of violence consider their actions to be legitimate forms of resistance to state terrorism aimed at suppressing self-determination, even though they may be directed against civilians.


Preponderance of the political over the legal value of terrorism:

There is no general consensus on the definition of terrorism. The difficulty of defining terrorism lies in the risk it entails of taking positions. The political value of the term currently prevails over its legal one. Left to its political meaning, terrorism easily falls prey to change that suits the interests of particular states at particular times. The Taliban and Osama bin Laden were once called freedom fighters (mujahideen) and backed by the CIA when they were resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Now they are topmost terrorists. Today, the United Nations views Palestinians as freedom fighters, struggling against the unlawful occupation of their land by Israel, and engaged in a long-established legitimate resistance, yet Israel regards them as terrorists. Israel also brands the Hizbullah of Lebanon as a terrorist group, whereas most of the international community regards it as a legitimate resistance group, fighting Israel’s occupation of Southern Lebanon. In fact, the successful ousting of Israeli forces from most of the South by the Hizbollah in 2000 made Lebanon the only Arab country to actually defeat the Israeli army. The repercussion of the current preponderance of the political over the legal value of terrorism is costly, leaving the war against terrorism selective, incomplete and ineffective.


Barack Obama, commenting on the Boston Marathon bombings of April, 2013, declared “Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror”. Did he have lapse of memory to recollect how many innocent civilians were killed in indiscriminate American bombing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Japan?   

UN definition:


European Union definition:

The European Union defines terrorism for legal/official purposes in Art. 1 of the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism (2002).This provides that terrorist offences are certain criminal offences set out in a list consisting largely of serious offences against persons and property that; …given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organization where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a Government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization.


A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:

Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states.


The U. S. State Department definition:

The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. The term “terrorist group” means any group practicing, or which has significant subgroups which practice terrorism.

Note. The State Department interprets the term “noncombatant” to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed or not on duty.

The drawbacks of this definition are narrated in the figure below:


US Defense Department definition:

 The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.


FBI definition:

Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.


Ariel (2007: 16) defines it as ‘the substrate application of violence or threatened violence intended to show panic in the society, to weaken or even overthrow the incumbent and bring about political change. Karacasulu (2005: 8) avers that terrorism is the act of violence committed against innocent persons or non-combatant that is intended to achieve political end through fear and intimidations.


In a study of terrorism, Alex P. Schmid and Albert J. Jongman, analyzed the content to 109 definitions of terrorism and found various definitional elements depicted in the table below:


The definition Alex Schmid proposed in the book he edited with Albert Jongman, Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data bases, Theories and Literature:

Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group, or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal, or political reasons, whereby—in contrast to assassination—the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat—and violence—based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperiled) victims, and main target (audiences), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought.


After surveying various academic definitions of terrorism, Vallis concluded that:

“Most of the formal definitions of terrorism have some common characteristics: a fundamental motive to make political/societal changes; the use of violence or illegal force; attacks on civilian targets by “nonstate”/”Subnational actors”; and the goal of affecting society. This finding is reflected in Blee’s listing of three components of terrorism:

  1. Acts or threats of violence;
  2. The communication of fear to an audience beyond the immediate victim, and;
  3. Political, economic, or religious aims by the perpetrator(s).


Academic definition of terrorism:

Academics have their own set of rules for defining terrorism. Despite intra-field debate, most North American scholars adopt the three-prong definition of terrorism:  it is politically motivated, perpetrated by non-state actors like lone wolves or organizations, and targets civilians rather than the military. This means that when a government attacks civilians like in Assad’s Syria, when the perpetrators are motivated by pecuniary gain like on the streets of Detroit, or when they target military assets like the USS Cole, academic purists would distinguish such acts of violence from terrorism. When it comes to defining terrorism, motives therefore matter.  Mass shootings—like the one in Tucson by Jared Loughner, the one in the Aurora movie theater by James Holmes, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza, or the New Orleans Mother’s Day shooting—would be treated as something else.  Some scholars provide no distinction between rampage violence and terrorist acts.  But in reality, there is an important difference—rampage shooters are not politically motivated. Another important criterion is target selection. Guerilla attacks on military targets are often distinguished from terrorist attacks, which are directed against civilian targets.  Critics of the Obama administration have hammered him for his hesitancy to label Benghazi as a terrorist attack. In fact, Benghazi was not a terrorist attack. It was a guerilla attack against high-level U.S. diplomats, hardly a case of indiscriminate violence. When most academics think about a terrorist attacks, we recall 9/11 and the Boston marathon because ordinary citizens were targeted, rather than agents of the state. If Benghazi was not terrorism, was the Woolwich murder?  The video footage of the perpetrator reveals a clear political motive.  Bloody cleaver in hand, he speaks to the camera. “The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers,” he says.  “Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”  But did he target civilians?  The soldier was struck en route to work wearing a military shirt. And yet the man in the video shows little interest in harming civilians. He even expresses a weird concern for the witnesses: “I apologize that women had to witness this today but in our lands, our women have to see the same.” No, the perpetrator didn’t target aimlessly. This stringent definition may seem silly to non-academics, but its value lies in predictive power.


Terrorism as a pejorative term with negative connotation:

The terms “terrorism” and “terrorist” (someone who engages in terrorism) carry strong negative connotations. On one point, at least, everyone agrees: terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore.  These terms are often used as political labels, to condemn violence or the threat of violence by certain actors as immoral, indiscriminate, unjustified or to condemn an entire segment of a population. Those labeled “terrorists” by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, patriot, or any similar-meaning word in other languages and cultures. Jihadi, mujaheddin, and fedayeen are similar Arabic words which have entered the English lexicon. It is common for both parties in a conflict to describe each other as terrorists. The rhetoric of ‘terror’ has become a political tool that governments and their associated media use in labeling those who resort to force in opposing governmental policies. Because of its negative connotation, the ‘terrorist’ label automatically discredits any individuals or groups to which it is affixed, dehumanizes them, places them outside the norms of acceptable social and political behavior, and portrays them as “evil” people that cannot be reasoned with. As a consequence, the rhetoric discredits any individuals or groups that are described as ‘terrorist,’ and thereby,

• dehumanizes any individuals or groups described as “terrorist.”

• erases any incentive an audience might have to understand their point of view so that questions about the nature and origins of their grievances and the possible legitimacy of their demands will not even be raised;

• deflects attention away from one’s own policies that might have contributed to their grievances;

• repudiates any calls to negotiate with those labeled ‘terrorist’;

• paves the way for the use of force and violence in dealing with them, and in particular, gives a government “freedom of action” by exploiting the fears of its own citizens and stifling any objections to the manner in which it deals with them;

• erases the distinction between national liberation movements and fringe fanatics. 


Classification of terrorism:


Phenomenon of terrorism:


The figure below shows types of terrorism:


The figure below shows new typology of terrorism:


The Task Force on Disorders and Terrorism classified terrorism into six categories.

  • Civil disorder – A form of collective violence interfering with the peace, security, and normal functioning of the community.
  • Political terrorism – Violent criminal behavior designed primarily to generate fear in the community, or substantial segment of it, for political purposes.
  • Non-Political terrorism – Terrorism that is not aimed at political purposes but which exhibits “conscious design to create and maintain a high degree of fear for coercive purposes, but the end is individual or collective gain rather than the achievement of a political objective.”
  • Quasi-terrorism – The activities incidental to the commission of crimes of violence that are similar in form and method to genuine terrorism but which nevertheless lack its essential ingredient. It is not the main purpose of the quasi-terrorists to induce terror in the immediate victim as in the case of genuine terrorism, but the quasi-terrorist uses the modalities and techniques of the genuine terrorist and produces similar consequences and reaction. For example, the fleeing felon who takes hostages is a quasi-terrorist, whose methods are similar to those of the genuine terrorist but whose purposes are quite different.
  • Limited political terrorism – Genuine political terrorism is characterized by a revolutionary approach; limited political terrorism refers to acts of terrorism which are committed for ideological or political motives but which are not part of a concerted campaign to capture control of the state.
  • Official or state terrorism –referring to nations whose rule is based upon fear and oppression that reach similar to terrorism or such proportions. It may also be referred to as Structural Terrorism defined broadly as terrorist acts carried out by governments in pursuit of political objectives, often as part of their foreign policy.


It is interesting to read the results of the European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) 2010. The report contains raw facts and figures relating to terrorist attacks, arrests and activities in the EU and is based mainly on information supplied by EU Member States from criminal investigations into terrorist offences, thereby giving a clear insight into the reality of the terrorist threat in Europe.


Encyclopedia of Britannica describes the following types of terrorism:

(i) Revolutionary Terrorism

It is the most common form of terrorism to achieve certain political objectives radically. Practitioners of this type of terrorism seek the complete abolition of a political system and its replacement with new structures. Modern instances of such activity include campaigns by the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Faction (Baader-Meinhof Gang), the Basque separatist group ETA, and the Peruvian Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), each of which attempted to topple a national regime.

(ii) Sub Revolutionary Terrorism

Sub revolutionary terrorism is rather less common. It is used not to overthrow an existing regime but to modify the existing socio-political structure. Since this modification is often accomplished through the threats of deposing the existing regime, sub revolutionary groups are somewhat more difficult to identify. An example can be seen in the African National Congress (ANC) and its campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.

(iii) Establishment Terrorism

The Soviet Union and its allies allegedly engaged in widespread support of international terrorism during the cold war; in the 1980s the United States supported rebel groups in Africa that allegedly engaged in acts of terrorism, such as the National Union for the total Independence of Angola (UNITA).These types are theoretical and directly related with nation state. The typology of the terrorism is very broad subject it can be further classified on the basis of motives, methods and subjects. Let us have a glance of some other types of terrorism for further understanding.

(IV) Nationalist Terrorism

The aim of the nationalist terrorism is to establish a separate state or homeland for the certain ethnic, religious or tribal groups. This sort of terrorism has been popular among the most successful at winning international sympathy and concessions. It is very difficult to define terrorism because many practitioners of it claim to be the freedom fighters. They use violence to draw attention of the world to gain sympathy for their national cause. The most relevant examples of this type are the movement run by Irish republican Army in UK (IRA) and Palestine liberation organization (PLO) in Palestine. However, it is interesting fact that both of the groups renounced terrorism in 1990s and adopted the political means of conflict resolution.

(V) Religious Terrorism

Religious terrorism comes from many major faiths, as well as from small cults. This type of terrorism is growing rapidly and is discussed widely on the international media. Religious terrorists seek to use violence to further what they see as divinely commanded purposes, often targeting broad categories of foes in an attempt to bring about sweeping changes.

(VI) State-Sponsored Terrorism

State-sponsored terrorism is one of the most controversial types of terrorism. In this category the state uses hidden groups to suppress anti state or anti government elements in the country. State-sponsored terrorist groups are deliberately used by radical states as foreign policy tools—as Hoffman puts it, as a cost-effective way of waging war covertly, through the use of surrogate warriors or guns for hire. State sponsored terrorism is normally executed by autocratic to suppress the political opponents. The state sponsor terrorist groups are more effective, efficient and active rather than any group because of having moral, political and logistic support of the government or state.

(VII) Inter-State or International Terrorism

This type of terrorism became evident in 20th century. Last century witnessed the events of insurgency and terrorism between two big powers in the guise of cold war. Although both the USSR and USA never confronted directly but no one can deny the proxy wars of these two powers in different parts of the world. Palestine is very clear example of the international terrorism where America supported Israel and USSR was giving backup to Al-Fateh a militant arm of Palestinian liberation organization (PLO).

(VIII) Group Terrorism

It occurs on the formation of various groups for common objectives in the society. Such groups are based on sectarian, linguistic, ethnic and tribal bases. When these groups work for the establishment of the supremacy and superiority for their own agenda it ultimately causes tension and clash with opponent groups.


Right Wing Terrorism:

This type of terrorism aims to combat liberal governments and preserve traditional social orders. Right Wing terrorism is commonly characterized by militias and gangs; many times these groups are racially motivated and aim to marginalize minorities within a state. Examples: Modern right wing terrorist groups include the Klu Klux Klan and Neo-Fascists. Many such groups are present not only in the U.S. but also in Germany, Russia, and others.


Left Wing Terrorism:

These groups seek to overthrow capitalist democracies and establish socialist or communist governments in their place. They want to attack the established system in order to do away with class distinction. While these groups still exist they are not as prominent as they were during the Cold War. Examples: The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front in Turkey, Revolutionary Organization in Greece, and The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) are all current examples of left wing terrorist groups.


Separatist Terrorism:

Separatists seek to cause fragmentation within a country and establishment a new state. This type of terrorism is typical of minorities within a nation-state that desire their own, commonly due to discrimination from the majority group. Examples: The most prominent examples are the ETA Basque separatists in Spain, the Chechen terrorists in Chechnya, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Kurdish PKK in Turkey, and the Quebec Liberation Front in Canada.



It is the malicious use of plant or animal pathogens to cause devastating disease in the agricultural sector. It may also take the form of hoaxes and threats intended to create public fear of such events. Agro-terrorism is a malicious attempt to disrupt or destroy the agricultural industry and/or food supply system of a population through “the malicious use of plant or animal pathogens to cause devastating disease in the agricultural sectors”. It is closely related to the concepts of biological warfare and entomological warfare, except carried out by non-state parties.


The promotion of terrorism against political enemies as a way of inspiring the masses and catalyzing revolution.

Eco- Terrorism:

It is used to describe threats and/or acts of violence (both against people and against property), sabotage, vandalism, property damage and intimidation committed in the name of environmentalism. Eco-terrorism usually refers to acts of violence or sabotage committed in support of ecological or environmental causes, against persons or their property. Eco-terrorism is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature. The term has also been applied to crimes committed against companies or government agencies in order to prevent or interfere with activities allegedly harmful to the environment. Eco-terrorism includes threats to contaminate water supplies or to destroy or disable energy utilities, for example, and practices such as the deployment of anthrax. Another form of eco-terrorism, often referred to as environmental warfare, consists of the deliberate and illegal destruction, exploitation, or modification of the environment as a strategy of war or in times of armed conflict. Examples include the U.S. military’s use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and the destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells by retreating Iraqi military forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The activities of some environmental activists also have been described as eco-terrorism. These activities include criminal trespass on the property of logging companies and other firms and obstruction of their operations through sabotage as well as the environmentally harmless modification of natural resources in order to make them unsuitable for commercial use (a practice known as “monkeywrenching”). The most well-known group linked to eco-terror in the U.S., the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, was formed when some members of the group became frustrated with what they saw as an insufficient pace of change and began a group that would engage in more violent, direct action. Like the members of ELF, eco-terrorists are radical environmentalists who believe traditional ways of bringing about change are not adequate. They view politicians as ineffective and believe that if something is to be done, they must do it themselves. Members of the eco-terror movement liken their predicament to fighting in a war. They suggest that animals and the environment are being attacked by humans and need to be defended.


Economic terrorism: 

The term economic terrorism is strictly defined to indicate an attempt at economic destabilization by a group.  More precisely, in 2005 the Geneva Centre for Security Policy defined economic terrorism in the following terms: Contrary to “economic warfare” which is undertaken by states against other states, “economic terrorism” would be undertaken by transnational or non-state actors. This could entail varied, coordinated and sophisticated or massive destabilizing actions in order to disrupt the economic and financial stability of a state, a group of states or a society (such as market oriented western societies) for ideological or religious motives. These actions, if undertaken, may be violent or not. They could have either immediate effects or carry psychological effects which in turn have economic consequences. Economic terrorism is different from economic impact of terrorism which is discussed later on.

Methods of terrorism:

The figure below shows weapons used in terrorist attack:


Tactics of terrorism: 

Individuals and organizations use terrorist violence as a tactic to achieve political goals. Contrary to popular opinion, empirical studies of the use of terrorism have found that over 95% of these attacks are part of a coordinated campaign and as such it is crucial to differentiate the Tactics of Terrorism from the Strategies of Terrorism. While the Strategies of Terrorism may be broadly categorized into campaigns of attrition, intimidation, provocation, spoiling, and outbidding, the Tactics of Terrorism are extremely diverse ranging from hijacking planes, blowing up buildings and vehicles, to individual assassinations.


The most common types of terrorist incidents include:
Bombings are the most common type of terrorist act. Typically, improvised explosive devices are inexpensive and easy to make. Modern devices are smaller and are harder to detect. They contain very destructive capabilities; for example, on August 7, 1998, two American embassies in Africa were bombed. The bombings claimed the lives of over 200 people and injured over 5,000 civilians. Terrorists can also use materials that are readily available to the average consumer to construct a bomb.

Kidnappings and Hostage-Takings:
Terrorists use kidnapping and hostage-taking to establish a bargaining position and to elicit publicity. Kidnapping is one of the most difficult acts for a terrorist group to accomplish, but, if a kidnapping is successful, it can gain terrorists money, release of jailed comrades, and publicity for an extended period. Hostage-taking involves the seizure of a facility or location and the taking of hostages. Unlike a kidnapping, hostage-taking provokes a confrontation with authorities. It forces authorities to either make dramatic decisions or to comply with the terrorist’s demands. It is overt and designed to attract and hold media attention. The terrorists’ intended target is the audience affected by the hostage’s confinement, not the hostage.
Armed Attacks and Assassinations:
Armed attacks include raids and ambushes. Assassinations are the killing of a selected victim, usually by bombings or small arms. Drive-by shootings is a common technique employed by unsophisticated or loosely organized terrorist groups. Historically, terrorists have assassinated specific individuals for psychological effect.
Arsons and Firebombings:
Incendiary devices are cheap and easy to hide. Arson and firebombings are easily conducted by terrorist groups that may not be as well-organized, equipped, or trained as a major terrorist organization. Arson or firebombing against a utility, hotel, government building, or industrial center portrays an image that the ruling government is incapable of maintaining order.

Hijackings and Skyjackings:
Hijacking is the seizure by force of a surface vehicle, its passengers, and/or its cargo. Skyjacking is the taking of an aircraft, which creates a mobile, hostage barricade situation. It provides terrorists with hostages from many nations and draws heavy media attention. Skyjacking also provides mobility for the terrorists to relocate the aircraft to a country that supports their cause and provides them with a human shield, making retaliation difficult.
Other Types of Terrorist Incidents:
In addition to the acts of violence discussed above, there are also numerous other types of violence that can exist under the framework of terrorism. Terrorist groups conduct maiming against their own people as a form of punishment for security violations, defections, or informing. Terrorist organizations also conduct robberies and extortion when they need to finance their acts and they don’t have sponsorship from sympathetic nations. Cyber-terrorism is a new form of terrorism that is only going to increase in profile as we rely on computer networks to relay information and provide connectivity to today’s modern and fast-paced world. Cyber-terrorism allows terrorists to conduct their operations with little or no risk to themselves. It also provides terrorists an opportunity to disrupt or destroy networks and computers. The result is interruption of key government or business-related activities. This type of terrorism isn’t as high profile as other types of terrorist attacks, but its impact can be very destructive. [Cyber-terrorism vide infra]   



Analysis of violent activities:


Weapons of mass destruction:

The congruence of religion and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—including biological, chemical, radiological and even nuclear weapons—portends a frightful and very real ‘apocalypse now’. Modern religious fanatics do not have the political cause, and therefore restraint of their terrorist predecessors and may be interested just in killing as many non-believers as possible. Experts point to the ease with which chemical and biological agents, or ‘poor man’s atom bombs’, can be manufactured or acquired; the decreasing frequency but increasing lethality of terrorist acts; and the breaking of a so-called WMD taboo by Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo in 1995 and the mailing of anthrax spores to the US Congress in October 2001. Those who track terrorist attempts to acquire WMD suggest that the question is not ‘if’ such attacks will occur but rather ‘when’—and whether Western democracies will be able to manage the consequences. Underlying concern about bioterrorism is the long history of use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) in war. Since World War II, worldwide military forces have built up major stockpiles of such weapons and tested them at a number of sites around the world. During World War I, Germans infected livestock headed for the Allies with anthrax. Even though the attack proved to be unsuccessful, it led to the creation of the Geneva Protocol in 1925. This prohibited the use of biological and chemical agents during wartime, while allowing research and development of these agents to continue. The British and German armies may have dabbled in biological warfare, but the Japanese went full steam ahead in the years that preceded World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians were killed by biological means at the hands of the Japanese army. One of these attacks included dropping paper bags containing plague-infested fleas from low-flying airplanes. Although the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) outlawed the development, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons, large stockpiles of chemical weapons still await destruction in several nations, and it is alleged that stockpiles of biological weapons are still maintained in a few nations. Although the technical knowledge and materials needed to produce CBW are relatively available, the ability to “weaponize” and target these materials remains extremely limited. The risk of their use appears to be small, but any use constitutes a threat to public health.


Chemical Threat:
A chemical attack is the deliberate release of a toxic gas, liquid or solid that can poison people and the environment.

Possible signs of chemical threat include many people suffering from watery eyes, twitching, choking, and having trouble breathing or losing coordination. Many sick or dead birds, fish or small animals are also cause for suspicion.


A radiation threat commonly referred to as a “dirty bomb” or “radiological dispersion device (RDD)” is the use of common explosives to spread radioactive materials over a targeted area. It is not a nuclear blast. The force of the explosion and radioactive contamination will be more localized. While the blast will be immediately obvious, the presence of radiation will not be clearly defined until trained personnel with specialized equipment are on the scene. As with any radiation, you want to try to limit exposure. It is important to avoid breathing radiological dust that may be released in the air.



A biological attack is the deliberate release of germs or other biological substances that can make you sick. Many agents must be inhaled, or enter through a cut in the skin, or be eaten to make you sick. Some biological agents such as anthrax do not cause contagious diseases. Others, like the smallpox virus, can result in diseases you can catch from other people. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) lists 39 agents that potentially could be used as biological weapons, including viruses, bacteria and toxins. Before you go out and spend a fortune on gas masks, you should know that many of these aren’t as likely to be used because of the nature of the agent. In most cases, it would take far too much of any single agent to cause mass amounts of illness or infection. Take ricin, for example — nearly eight metric tons of this deadly toxin is required to achieve 50 percent lethality over a 62 square mile (100 km) area. These kinds of statistics make it easier to narrow the list of potential lethal agents that a terrorist might use. It takes a lot of money and technology to pull off a mass-scale bioterrorist attack, so it remains more of a threat than a reality. In order to launch an effective attack, the organization needs to be extremely well-funded and have access to a great deal of scientific expertise. This means that only large terror groups that may even have state funding could execute an effective mass attack. The Aum Shinrikyo terror group of Japan is well-financed and has attempted to disseminate anthrax and botulism on multiple occasions. So far, it’s been unsuccessful. Iraq was believed to be developing biological weapons to be delivered by scud missiles, but this is classified as biological warfare, not a terrorist attack. The Soviet Union and the United States also experimented with biological weapons before suspending their programs. Smaller, less sophisticated groups have pulled off minor terrorist attacks using biological agents, but the goal is usually to disrupt society and send people into a panic. The 1980s salmonella poisonings in Oregon are a good example of this kind of biological disruption. Another type of bioterrorist is the lone individual looking to make a social or political statement. Although the case remains unsolved, it’s believed that the anthrax attacks of 2001 were the work of a single person or small group of individuals. The release of an airborne toxin is one of two ways that a terrorist cell might effectively attack a large amount of people at one time. The other is by poisoning their water or food supply. Chances are, if the water or food supply were tainted, it could be contained quickly and the attack wouldn’t result in massive casualties. But the civil disruption, panic and financial ramifications would be great — and most times, that’s exactly what terrorists are after.


Types of Biological Agents:

There are at least seventy types of bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, and fungi that can be weaponized, including tularemia, anthrax, Q fever, epidemic typhus, smallpox, brucellosis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, botulinum toxin, dengue fever, Russian spring-summer encephalitis, Lassa fever, Marburg, Ebola, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever (Machupo), and Argentinean hemorrhagic fever (Junin). Antibiotic resistant strains of anthrax, plague, tularemia, and glanders have allegedly been developed. Viruses and toxins can be genetically altered to heighten their infectiousness, permitting the development of pathogens capable of overcoming existing vaccines. It is estimated that no more than 20 to 30 percent of the diseases the aforementioned agents cause can be effectively treated.


Nuclear terrorism:

Nuclear terrorism denotes the detonation of a yield-producing nuclear bomb containing fissile material by terrorists. Some definitions of nuclear terrorism include the sabotage of a nuclear facility and/or the detonation of a radiological device, colloquially termed a dirty bomb, but consensus is lacking on exactly what should be classified nuclear terrorism. The notion of terrorist organizations using nuclear weapons (especially very small ones, such as suitcase nukes) has been a threat in American rhetoric and culture. It is considered hypothetically plausible that terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon. There have been 18 incidences of theft or loss of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However despite these 18 reported thefts and trafficking incidences of small quantities of fissile material, there is no credible evidence that any terrorist group has ever succeeded in obtaining the necessary multi-kilogram critical mass quantities of HEU, or weapons grade plutonium, required to make a nuclear weapon. Security specialist Shaun Gregory argued in an article that terrorists have attacked Pakistani nuclear facilities three times in the recent past; twice in 2007 and once in 2008. John Mueller, distinguished scholar of international relations at the Ohio State University, is a prominent nuclear skeptic. He makes three claims:

(1) The nuclear intent and capability of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda has been “fundamentally exaggerated;”

(2) “The likelihood a terrorist group will come up with an atomic bomb seems to be vanishingly small;” and

(3) Policymakers are guilty of an “atomic obsession” that has led to “substantively counterproductive” policies premised on “worst case fantasies.”  


The figure below shows dimensions of terrorism:


What is terrorism and what is not terrorism:


The figure below shows classification of violent conflict: 


The figure below shows taxonomy of non-conventional conflicts:


The pejorative connotations of the word can be summed up in the aphorism, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. This is exemplified when a group using irregular military methods is an ally of a state against a mutual enemy, but later falls out with the state and starts to use those methods against its former ally. During World War II, the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army was allied with the British, but during the Malayan Emergency, members of its successor (the Malayan Races Liberation Army), were branded “terrorists” by the British. More recently, Ronald Reagan and others in the American administration frequently called the Afghan Mujahideen “freedom fighters” during their war against the Soviet Union, yet twenty years later, when a new generation of Afghan men is fighting against what they perceive to be a regime installed by foreign powers, their attacks were labeled “terrorism” by George W. Bush. Groups accused of terrorism understandably prefer terms reflecting legitimate military or ideological action. Leading terrorism researcher Professor Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Ottawa’s Carleton University, defines “terrorist acts” as attacks against civilians for political or other ideological goals, and said that the statement ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ is grossly misleading. It assesses the validity of the cause when terrorism is an act. One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless. Some groups, when involved in a “liberation” struggle, have been called “terrorists” by the Western governments or media. Later, these same persons, as leaders of the liberated nations, are called “statesmen” by similar organizations. Two examples of this phenomenon are the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Menachem Begin and Nelson Mandela. WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange has been called a “terrorist” by Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Sometimes states which are close allies, for reasons of history, culture and politics, can disagree over whether or not members of a certain organization are terrorists. For instance, for many years, some branches of the United States government refused to label members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as terrorists while the IRA was using methods against one of the United States’ closest allies (the United Kingdom) which the UK branded as terrorism.  


Guerrilla warfare:

Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians (or “irregulars”) using military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to dominate a larger and less-mobile traditional army, or strike a vulnerable target, and withdraw almost immediately. The term “guerrilla” was used within the English language as early as 1809. The word was used to describe the fighters, and their appearance. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines a guerrilla fighter as “a person taking part in an irregular war waged by small bands operating independently, often against a stronger, more organized force, with surprise attacks.” Mao Zedong, in his 1937 treatise “On Guerilla Warfare”, defined guerrilla attacks as ones in which small bands struck their enemy by surprise, inflicted a maximum amount of damage in the shortest possible time and retreated in a fast and well-planned fashion so as to repeat such strikes. Tactically, the guerrilla army would avoid any confrontation with large units of enemy troops, but seek and eliminate small groups of soldiers to minimize losses and exhaust the opposing force. Not limiting their targets to personnel, enemy resources are also preferred targets. All of that is to weaken the enemy’s strength, to cause the enemy eventually to be unable to prosecute the war any longer, and to force the enemy to withdraw.


Urban guerrilla warfare:

An urban guerrilla is someone who fights a government using unconventional warfare or domestic terrorism in an urban environment. During the Cold War, many were on the left-wing of the political spectrum. Historically guerrilla warfare was a rural phenomenon; it was not until the 1960s that the limitations of this form were clearly demonstrated. The technique was almost entirely ineffective when used outside of the later colonial environment, as was shown by the Cuban sponsored efforts in Latin America during the 1960s culminating in the hopeless foco campaign headed by Che Guevara in Bolivia that culminated in his death. The need for the target government to be simultaneously incompetent, iniquitous, and politically isolated was rarely met. The failure of rural insurgency forced the discontented to find new avenues for action, essentially random terrorism aimed at creating maximum publicity, provoking the targeted regimes into excessive repression and so inciting the general population to join a wider revolutionary struggle. Urban guerrillas, like the Brazilian Carlos Marighela, argued that gangster actions like bank raids and kidnappings would provoke the government into action which would turn the population against the government, rather than against the perpetrators of the original violence, but the process rarely worked that way. In Uruguay the Tupamaros—as judicious and responsible in their actions as any urban guerrillas can hope to be—simply polarized opinion against them and were duly crushed.


The world is hardly at peace. Algeria fights hostage-takers at a gas plant. France fights Islamist extremists in Mali. Israel fights Hamas. The U.S. and its allies fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad fights rebels seeking to overthrow him. Colombia fights and negotiates with the FARC. Mexico fights drug gangs. And various African countries fight the Lord’s Resistance Army. These are wars without front lines, without neatly defined starting and end points. They are messy, bloody affairs, in which attackers, typically without uniforms, engage in hit-and-run raids and often target civilians. They are, in short, guerrilla wars, and they are deadly. In Syria alone, more than 60,000 people have died since 2011, according to the United Nations. In Mexico, nearly 50,000 have died in drug violence since 2006. Hundreds of thousands more have perished in Africa’s civil wars. To understand today’s world, you have to understand guerrillas and the terrorist movements that are their close cousins. In contemporary Chechnya, attacks that generally fit Mao’s description of guerrilla warfare have been waged often by Chechen rebels against the Russian military. However, observing the modern Chechen conflict as a whole, both within and beyond the territory itself, one may find difficulty in distinguishing clearly between guerrilla warfare and acts of terrorism. The line which distinguishes the two concepts may become blurred.


The guerrilla fighter’s war is political and social, his means are at least as political as they are military, his purpose almost entirely so. Therefore guerrilla war is the extension of politics by means of armed conflict. The relationship between the terrorist and the guerrilla is complex. Not all guerrillas are terrorists: many have striven to represent themselves as irregular forces fighting a regular war, while their opponents have consistently sought to portray them as terrorists in order to deprive them of legitimacy. Yet the guerrilla’s military weakness and his dependence on popular support both tend to drive him towards terrorism. The former encourages him to get the maximum publicity—especially in and beyond the media-rich 1960s—from the meager means at his disposal, and the latter drives him to use both stick and carrot in his dealings with the population. The communists in China and the Vietcong in Vietnam both dealt harshly with civilian supporters of the hostile regime. Vietcong attacks on the civil service and local administration during the Tet offensive, often exemplified by the brutal murder of whole family groups, did much to destabilize South Vietnam. Independence campaigns against colonial rulers, like those in Cyprus and Algeria, usually embodied elements of terrorism. It is profoundly ironic, in view of Israel’s subsequent experience of terrorism, that some of the groups who pursued Israeli independence used some of the very methods their successors now condemn.


The difference between guerrilla war and terrorism is fairly straightforward in theory, but more difficult to discern in practice.  Guerrilla war is like other war—it involves military personnel fighting against other military personnel.  The only difference is that one side (the guerrillas) does not have uniforms and the members of a fighting unit gather together briefly to fight a quick battle—usually an ambush of some sort. They then disband, before their militarily superior adversary can overwhelm them, and hide among the resident population until the next battle. Guerrilla war is clearly a tactic of weakness—to be practiced by groups that cannot fight sustained battles against their adversary. Terrorism, on the other hand, does not restrict itself to targeting the opposition military.  In addition to military targets, it also attacks civilians, using the logic that demoralizing the civilian support of its opponent will deprive the enemy of needed resources and therefore defeat it.





An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority (for example, an authority recognized as such by the United Nations) when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. Not all rebellions are insurgencies. There have been many cases of non-violent rebellions, using civil resistance, as in the People Power Revolution in the Philippines in the 1980s that ousted President Marcos and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Where a revolt takes the form of armed rebellion, it may not be viewed as an insurgency if a state of belligerency exists between one or more sovereign states and rebel forces. For example, during the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America was not recognized as a sovereign state, but it was recognized as a belligerent power, and thus Confederate warships were given the same rights as United States warships in foreign ports. The United States Department of Defense (DOD) defines it as “An organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.”



Not all insurgencies include terrorism, with the caveat that there is no universally accepted definition of terrorism. The winning essay of the 24th Annual United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Strategic Essay Contest, by Michael F. Morris, said a pure terrorist group “may pursue political, even revolutionary, goals, but their violence replaces rather than complements a political program.” Morris made the point that the use, or non-use, of terrorism does not define insurgency, “but that organizational traits have traditionally provided another means to tell the two apart. Insurgencies normally field fighting forces orders of magnitude larger than those of terrorist organizations.” Insurgencies have a political purpose, and may provide social services and have an overt, even legal, political wing. Their covert wing carries out attacks on military forces with tactics such as raids and ambushes, as well as acts of terror such as attacks that cause deliberate civilian casualties.


Terrorism vs. insurgency:

The most fundamental difference between insurgency and terrorism can be found in the definitions of the words. The definition of terrorism is politically motivated violence or the threat of violence against non-combatants by sub-state actors; the definition of insurgency, on the other hand, is a “struggle between a nonruling group and the ruling authorities in which the nonruling group uses political resources and violence” and is a “protracted political-military activity” that uses irregular military forces. Insurgents differ from terrorists by their own immediate objectives, which are military by nature rather than media or revenge prone. An insurgent’s tactics will look to wear the enemy down through constant attacks against the regular forces while acquiring weapons and support from the disenfranchised population. Eventually, the insurgency tries to establish its own regular forces and fight the opposing government on equal footing. Furthermore, the insurgency wishes to give public services to the public while diminishing the government’s ability to do so. Strategic choices and targets by insurgents and terrorists also demonstrate how they differ from each other. The terrorist by definition attacks non-combatants; the insurgent attacks combatants. Terrorists operate in cells and as individuals; insurgents have to operate as a paramilitary organization with specific people in command so that they can achieve success. The ultimate goal of an insurgency is to challenge the existing government for control of all or a portion of its territory, or force political concessions in sharing political power. Insurgencies require the active or tacit support of some portion of the population involved. External support, recognition or approval from other countries or political entities can be useful to insurgents, but is not required. A terror group does not require and rarely has the active support or even the sympathy of a large fraction of the population. While insurgents will frequently describe themselves as “insurgents” or “guerillas”, terrorists will not refer to themselves as “terrorists” but describe themselves using military or political terminology (“freedom fighters”, “soldiers”, “activists”). Terrorism relies on public impact, and is therefore conscious of the advantage of avoiding the negative connotations of the term “terrorists” in identifying themselves. Another difference is the intent of the component activities and operations of insurgencies versus terrorism. There is nothing inherent in either insurgency or guerilla warfare that requires the use of terror. While some of the more successful insurgencies and guerilla campaigns employed terrorism and terror tactics, and some developed into conflicts where terror tactics and terrorism became predominant; there have been others that effectively renounced the use of terrorism. The deliberate choice to use terrorism considers its effectiveness in inspiring further resistance, destroying government efficiency, and mobilizing support. Although there are places where terrorism, guerilla warfare, and criminal behavior all overlap, groups that are exclusively terrorist, or subordinate “wings” of insurgencies formed to specifically employ terror tactics, demonstrate clear differences in their objectives and operations. Disagreement on the costs of using terror tactics, or whether terror operations are to be given primacy within the insurgency campaign, have frequently led to the “urban guerilla” or terrorist wings of an insurgency splintering off to pursue the revolutionary goal by their own methods. Terrorism does not attempt to challenge government forces directly, but acts to change perceptions as to the effectiveness or legitimacy of the government itself. This is done by ensuring the widest possible knowledge of the acts of terrorist violence among the target audience. Rarely will terrorists attempt to “control” terrain, as it ties them to identifiable locations and reduces their mobility and security. Terrorists as a rule avoid direct confrontations with government forces. A guerilla force may have something to gain from a clash with a government combat force, such as proving that they can effectively challenge the military effectiveness of the government. A terrorist group has nothing to gain from such a clash. This is not to say that they do not target military or security forces, but that they will not engage in anything resembling a “fair fight”, or even a “fight” at all. Terrorists use methods that neutralize the strengths of conventional forces. Bombings and mortar attacks on civilian targets where military or security personnel spend off-duty time, ambushes of undefended convoys, and assassinations of poorly protected individuals are common tactics. Insurgency need not require the targeting of non-combatants, although many insurgencies expand the accepted legal definition of combatants to include police and security personnel in addition to the military. Terrorists do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, or if they do, they broaden the category of “combatants” so much as to render it meaningless. Defining all members of a nation or ethnic group, plus any citizen of any nation that supports that nation as “combatants” is simply a justification for frightfulness. Deliberate de-humanization and criminalization of the enemy in the terrorists’ mind justifies extreme measures against anyone identified as hostile. Terrorists often expand their groups of acceptable targets, and conduct operations against new targets without any warning or notice of hostilities. Ultimately, the difference between insurgency and terrorism comes down to the intent of the actor. Insurgency movements and guerilla forces can adhere to international norms regarding the law of war in achieving their goals, but terrorists are by definition conducting crimes under both civil and military legal codes. Terrorists routinely claim that were they to adhere to any “law of war” or accept any constraints on the scope of their violence, it would place them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the establishment. Since the nature of the terrorist mindset is absolutist, their goals are of paramount importance, and any limitations on a terrorist’s means to prosecute the struggle are unacceptable.


On 25th May 2013, about 200 Maoist rebels set off a roadside bomb and opened fire on a convoy carrying Indian ruling Congress party leaders and members in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, killing 28 people and wounding 24 others. This cannot be classified as insurgency or guerrilla war as most victims were non-combatants. This is terrorism.   


Terrorist vs. revolutionary:

First let’s see the dictionary definitions of both words.

Revolutionary: of, relating to, or constituting a revolution (revolutionary war): tending to or promoting revolution: constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change:

Terrorist: A person who uses the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

Take for example George Washington. He was obviously a revolutionary, but was he a terrorist?  99% or people will give you a definite no. He attacked solely the military of his enemy; we have never heard an instance of him ordering the harm of noncombatants. So we consider him a revolutionary but not a terrorist. Now let’s take a look at another figure, Osama Bin Laden. Now we all know that he wanted to bring about serious change, whether it be ridding Afghanistan of the Infidel, destroying America for harming Muslims, or setting up an Islamic government all over the world; all of which can define him as a revolutionary. However his tactics have people label him a terrorist. We all know that he was the leader of Al-Qaeda, a group who uses tactics such as suicide bombings and random killings of innocent civilians to instill fear in the populace. This means he is a terrorist.


Terrorists vs. Freedom Fighters:

Between 1971 and 1973, he was commander of the Derry Brigade of the Provisional IRA, which fought gun battles with British soldiers in a war that would cost 320 lives. Arrested in Donegal near a car loaded with 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 250 pounds of explosives, he was sentenced to six months by a court whose jurisdiction he denied, “I am a member of the Derry Brigade of the (IRA) and am very, very proud of it.” A Londonderry official called him “a cold-blooded ruthless terrorist (who) will weigh up the consequences of his actions only in terms of benefit to the IRA, regardless of the cost in human lives.” Another said he was a “fanatic … responsible for mass murder.”  He himself has spoken of the “legal and moral right of the IRA to kill a British soldier at any time,” and was once quoted: “Freedom can be gained only at the point of an IRA rifle, and I apologize to no one for saying that we support the freedom fighters of the IRA.” He is Martin McGuinness. Is it then true that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”? After all, many Irish consider McGuinness and his Sinn Fein comrade Gerry Adams, whom Bill Clinton invited to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day, as freedom fighters in the tradition of the “martyrs” of the “Easter Rising” of 1916, celebrated by the poet W. B. Yeats. But looking back over the 20th century, no fewer than three Israeli prime ministers have been accused of terrorism: Menachem Begin, whose Irgun blew up the King David Hotel and carried out the massacre of Palestinian villagers in Deir Yassin in April of 1948. Yitzhak Shamir, head of the Stern Gang that murdered Edward Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1944 – enraging Churchill, who gave Moyne’s eulogy – and assassinated U.N. mediator Count Bernadotte in Jerusalem in 1948. Ariel Sharon, as head of Force 101, is accused of massacring scores of Palestinian villagers at Qibya in 1953 in a reprisal raid for the murder of an Israel woman and her children. Nobel Prize winner Yasser Arafat has been charged in the cold-blooded assassination of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel in the Sudan in 1973. His PLO is an umbrella group embracing organizations for whom the weapon of choice in the war against Israel is terror. Nelson Mandela, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, got life imprisonment on Robben Island for plotting terror to overthrow the regime.


Freedom fighters have as their goal acquiring or re-acquiring something valuable, something highly desired. This may be land, sovereignty, or political goals such as liberty or economic equality. Freedom fighters usually come from oppressed or marginalized groups that have been deprived of something important, such as a homeland, and their struggle is to obtain it or gain it back. In other words, if there is a sinful motive in the dreams and actions of a freedom fighter, it is likely the sin of greed. This is not so with terrorism. Terrorists are less concerned with acquisition than they are with destruction. They are usually clever enough to cloak their motives by hijacking the popular will of an oppressed people, but their wrath is not appeased when they acquire what they say they want. For example, would the war against Israel be over once the Palestinians got their own homeland? Would Pakistan based terrorist groups stop targeting India once Kashmir issue is resolved?  Most likely it would not. The real goal of terrorist groups is not acquiring but destroying. Terrorism is thus qualitatively different from armed movement for freedom and liberty. Terrorism is not like greed; it is an extreme form of destructive envy. The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were acts of terrorism. Though the acts were ostensibly cries for help for the ‘dispossessed muslims’, there was no strategic military purpose involved. The attack was pure destruction, an act designed for one end–terror. On the other hand, freedom fighters do occasionally target innocent civilians. The French Resistance fighting Nazi occupation in WWII, regularly killed the innocent family members of French Nazi collaborators. They also blew up trains and cafes with innocent civilians among the dead and injured. Yet they were not condemned for those actions, because they were fighting the Nazis. At the end of the day, whoever wins is considered the freedom fighters, whoever loses is considered the terrorists. 


I quote from my article on ‘Terrorism versus freedom fight’:

When the world uses the word Freedom-Fight in political context, it means legitimate resistance and uprising against the colonial European invaders who occupied the lands of Asia and Africa forcibly; outside their own country; with the intention to enlarge their empire politically. Freedom-fight means resistance to occupation by foreign invaders who is trying to establish their colony outside their own country. During the resistance; if the innocent people of the invading country are killed in the occupied land; then; it is not terrorism.  Britain was a European colonial invader as far as India is concerned. During Indian freedom struggle; if innocent British lives were lost in India due to legitimate resistance against the occupation; then; it is not terrorism. However; if Indian freedom-fighters invade the mainland Britain and kill innocent British civilians; then; it is terrorism.     


Are hate crimes act of terrorism?

Terrorism is commonly defined as the use of violence to instill fear among a population in hopes of achieving a political goal. This is why people assassinate presidents and monarchs and blow up office towers and train stations: the hope that the population will become so fearful and demoralized that it will submit to the terrorists’ will. Hate crimes operate on precisely the same principle. The point of beating up or killing a member of a certain group because they are a member of that group is to instill fear in all the members of that group. If a white racist lynches a black person, it is in the hope that black people will leave town, or at least live in enough fear of white people so as not to attempt to gain equality with them. If someone murders a gay person for being gay, it is in the hope that gay people will be too fearful to live openly and fight for equality. The goal of a hate crime is not merely to harm the immediate victim of the crime; it is to send a message to everyone else sharing the same attribute that caused that person to be the victim in the first place, a message that they are not safe and they’d better not try to live on equal terms, “or else” — or else they might wind up in the hospital or in the grave.


Terrorism: A Crime or an Act of War?


I quote from my article on ‘Science of crime’:

Was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon a crime or an act of war? Commentators have disagreed. Presumably, if it is a crime then the appropriate response is to apprehend the guilty and to try them in a court of law, constrained by the standards of evidence and the rules of procedural justice of the criminal law. By contrast, if it is an act of war, then we may retaliate against the enemy with military means and need not be burdened with the criminal law’s demanding standards of proof. Some have argued that the attack cannot be an act of war as only states can fight war. But this argument is fallacious: wars took place long before states existed, and civil wars are genuine wars.


I quote from my article on ‘The War’:

War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities (states or nations, or between factions within a state), with purpose of compelling the defeated side to do the will of the victor. Certain political pressure groups, like terrorist organizations, might also be considered “political communities,” in that they are associations of people with a political purpose and, indeed, many of them aspire to statehood or to influence the development of statehood in certain lands. So fight against terrorist organizations can also be classified as war.


Both wars and terrorism bring untold misery to people as they cause a lot of destruction and loss of lives. Wars are conflicts between nations whereas terrorism finds soft targets like innocent civilians. Wars are planned and fought on the battlefront whereas terrorism has a surprise element and terrorists can strike anywhere. Wars require massive preparations and intelligence along with troop mobilization while terrorist acts can be committed by a single or 2-3 individuals.  


The table below shows characteristics of terrorism, guerrilla war and conventional war: 


Was the attack on the World Trade Center a crime or an act of war? It can reasonably be considered both. But this question is not the important one to settle. Rather, we should ask what it is that we aim to achieve by our response to this act? We should seek retributive justice and, if possible, to deter future attacks. But our most important, and urgent, aim should be to incapacitate all who threaten to attack our cities and people in the ways that the WTC killers have. This means we should strive to find both the perpetrators and others who are contemplating similar acts and that we should make sure they are not able to act. Even if we are not able to deter terrorists or to bring them to justice, we should aim to prevent them and others from striking again. Easier said than done, of course – nevertheless, a goal at least as important as any other. The distinction between prevention and deterrence, important in the theory of punishment, is crucial in the debate about retaliation. One of our aims should be to prevent future attacks, that is, to incapacitate our adversary. We should also try to deter future attacks, but it is unclear that individuals like the hijackers will be deterred by anything that we can do. The fact that we may not be able to deter these individuals from striking again does not, however, mean that we should not aim to prevent them from doing so. Attempting to incapacitate terrorists by capturing or to kill them before they strike should be one of our aims. It is distinct from retributive justice and deterrence. It is a task appropriate to the military and intelligence services of the state, and it is not necessarily a task best carried out by courts of law. No court of law would allow extra-judicial killing of terrorists and therefore it is in the interest of a nation to consider terrorism as an act of war against state rather than a mere crime. However, one must be cautious not to allow fake encounters and kill innocents as then it would become state terrorism.  


Old vs. new terrorism:

Public interest in these matters grew massively as a result of the assault by hijacked airliners on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Washington DC on 11 September 2001. For it was now widely acknowledged that the world was a facing a so-called ‘new terrorism’ whose first clear manifestations lay only in the early 1990s. By contrast, ‘old terrorism’ had had its heyday during the 1960s and 1970s. Then the emphasis had frequently been on territorial grievances involving demands for independence from imperialists or for revision of allegedly unjust frontiers. Sometimes such terrorism was successful—for example when the French were driven from Algeria and the British from Cyprus. On other occasions terrorists obtained compromise concessions that usually failed to resolve the dispute but nevertheless kept the level of violence contained. The Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Basque terrorists Euzkadi ta Askatasuma (ETA) comes into this category. But some terrorist groups, like Baader-Meinhof in West Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy, simply failed unambiguously and so faded away: typically these were motivated by ideology rather than by ethnic or cultural identity and had a tendency to misread the amount of popular support they commanded. What all these various ‘old terrorists’ had in common, however, was that their operations tended to focus on limited geographical areas and their methods, though certainly ruthless, were not intended to maximize bloodshed without any regard to the impression given to the constituencies they claimed to represent. In short, they wanted many people watching rather than many people dead; they usually had aims that were rationally defensible; and they pursued such aims with some sense of proportionality. So-called ‘new terrorists’, on the other hand, are nihilistic, are inspired by fanatical religious beliefs, and are willing to seek martyrdom through suicide. They rarely set out aims that appear remotely attainable; they give no warnings; they do not engage in bargaining; they find compromise solutions to problems unappealing; they are willing and even eager to carry out the mass slaughter of non-combatants; and they frequently do not even claim responsibility for their deeds—presumably because they feel ultimately accountable only to a deity.


Gun violence vs. terrorism in the USA: Guns and terrorism, a double-barreled standard:

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s deadly rampage through the Boston area provoked not fear but defiance. Even before one brother was killed and the other captured, the city was impatient to get back to normal, eager to show the world that unspeakable violence might shock, sadden and enrage but never intimidate. Can the Tsarnaevs’ motive be described as “Islamist,” and would that be in a religious or cultural sense? When Russian security officials flagged Tamerlan Tsarnaev for scrutiny, did the FBI drop the ball? Are there telltale patterns of behavior that hint at dangerous self-radicalization? It may be, in the end, that there simply was no way that authorities could have anticipated and prevented the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Since the 9/11 attacks, Americans have demonstrated that when alienated young men who are foreign-born and Muslim kill innocents, they will do anything in our power to keep such atrocities from happening again. Shamefully, however, they have also shown that when alienated young men who are not foreign-born or Muslim do the same, they are powerless. It is inescapably ironic that while Boston was under siege, the Senate was busy rejecting a measure that would have mandated near-universal background checks for gun purchases nationwide — legislation prompted by the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Gun violence costs 30,000 lives in America each year. Other steps proposed after Newtown — such as reimposition of a ban on military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines — were deemed too much to hope for. But expanded background checks once had the support of the powerful National Rifle Association, and experts considered them potentially the most effective way of keeping deadly weapons out of the wrong hands. They might not have prevented the last senseless mass shooting, but might prevent the next. However, the NRA changed its position on background checks to “never” and dug in its heels, threatening to punish senators who voted in favor. And so, despite polls showing that up to 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could not muster the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward. Imagine what American laws would be like if the nation were losing 30,000 lives each year to Islamist terrorism. Do you think for one minute that a young man named, say, Abdullah or Hussein — or Tsarnaev — would be able to go to a gun show and buy a semiautomatic AR-15 knockoff with a 30-round clip, no questions asked? Would the NRA still argue, as it essentially does now, that those thousands of lives are the price Americans must pay for the Second Amendment? When we say “never again” about terrorism, we really mean it. When we say those words about gun violence, obviously we really don’t. Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe these indiscriminate slaughters of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that “terrorism” either. In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects (foreign born muslim) was revealed, the word “terrorism” is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened.


What makes US gun violence so particularly horrifying is how routine and mundane it has become. After the massacre of 20 kindergartners in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, millions of Americans began to take greater notice of the threat from gun violence. Yet since then, the daily carnage that guns produce has continued unabated and often unnoticed. The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns. The pregnant Breshauna Jackson was killed in Dallas, allegedly by her boyfriend. In Richmond, California, James Tucker III was shot and killed while riding his bicycle – assailants unknown. Nigel Hardy, a 13-year-old boy in Palmdale, California, who was being bullied in school, took his own life. He used the gun that his father kept at home. And in Brooklyn, New York, an off-duty police officer used her department-issued Glock 9mm handgun to kill herself, her boyfriend and her one-year old child. At the same time that investigators were in the midst of a high-profile manhunt for the marathon bombers, 38 more Americans – with little fanfare – died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. They are a tiny percentage of the 3,531 Americans killed by guns in the past four months – a total that surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11 and is one fewer than the number of US soldiers who lost their lives in combat operations in Iraq. Yet, none of this daily violence was considered urgent enough to motivate Congress to impose a mild, commonsense restriction on gun purchasers. Besides countless deaths abroad and a staggering debt at home, the primary legacy of America’s “War on Terror” is their profoundly warped sense of the dangers of the world they live in, and of whom their “enemies” are. As a rule, the rare violence committed by Muslims, with some political or religious motivation, is “terrorism,” and deserving of the attention of the public and of our stern-faced leaders. The far more common and destructive acts of violence committed every single day on the streets of America due to poverty and the drug war and lack of education and simple human viciousness are “street violence,” which is treated as some timeless aspect of the human condition. This violence, which kills many more Americans each year than any Muslim terrorist could dream of, is unworthy of American brain space. They shake their heads, perhaps, but they do not allow it to occupy them, if they are fortunate enough not to be touched by it personally. Their leaders may bemoan it, but they do not make it a national priority. The media reports on it, but it does not dwell on it. Shame on America and shame on people who harp on second amendment to shield their violent desires. They conveniently forget that second amendment was enacted for self defense and not for self-offence; and firearms were very primitive at the time of second amendment. 


Nelson Mandela’s admission of using violence against regime:

Of some historical interest is Nelson Mandela’s taxonomy of violence, given in his statement from the dock at the opening of the defense case in the Rivonia Trial: Four forms of violence were possible. There is sabotage, there is guerrilla warfare, there is terrorism, and there is open revolution. We chose to adopt the first method and to exhaust it before taking any other decision. Note, however, that although Mandela said that Umkhonto (the violent arm of the African National Congress, co-founded by Mandela) had engaged only in sabotage, he included in that term not only violence against government targets but also “attacks on the economic life lines of the country,” including “destruction of power plants and interference with rail and telephone communications.” 


Terrorism and politics:

Terrorism is seen as a political phenomenon because of its objectives, methodology and organization:

Political Objectives of Terrorism:

  • Liberation
  • Seceding from an existing political entity
  • Changing prevalent order
  • Maligning credibility of Government or destabilizing the Government
  • Redistribution of political power
  • Political control and manipulation


Terrorism as a political tool:

There are six basic components to all terrorism. Terrorism is (1) an intentional and (2) rational (3) act of violence to (4) cause fear (5) in the target audience or society (6) for the purpose of changing behavior in that audience or society. Terrorism is a political act, the goal of which is to make a change. The terrorist is not driven by personal desires or ambitions. Terrorism should be understood as a political act to achieve a desired goal through the use of violence. Terrorism is not an irrational act committed by the insane. The terrorist does not act for personal gain or gratification, thus the terrorist is not a criminal in the traditional sense. A terrorist believes in what he, and now with female suicide bombers, she is doing. The objective is worth the life of the terrorist and the lives of the people he/she will take. The intent is not to kill those who die in an attack, but to affect the larger society as a whole. An attack can be committed to destroy the buildings and operations of a society, to kill or injure people or to disrupt the peaceful existence of the society. The attack can seek to achieve all three or a combination of the three. The objective can be to force a government to negotiate or to seek revenge for a government action. Terrorism does not seek specific victims but it does seek out specific targets for a specific outcome.


The five main objectives of political terrorists are quite clear:

  1. Creating mass anxiety, fear, and panic
  2. Fostering a sense of helplessness and hopelessness
  3. Demonstrating the incompetence of the authorities
  4. Destroying a sense of security and safety
  5. Provoking inappropriate reactions from individuals, authorities, and/or governments

Additionally, large-scale terrorist incidents can have adverse effects on world financial markets, travel and tourism. 


The Long-Term Goals of Terrorist Attacks

  1. Fundamentally, terrorists want to create fear and uncertainty far beyond the immediate victims and those close to them.
  2. Terrorist want “the enemy” to spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and money on security. Essentially this forces their target to transfer resources from productive purposes to anti-productive security measures.
  3. Terrorists particularly hope to elicit a violent response that will assist them in mobilizing their own people.  A violent counter attack to a terrorist act that is not well aimed is a success for the terrorists. this will assist them in mobilizing their own people
  4. Terrorists also hope for a reaction of stereotyping and prejudice in which the terrorists are seen as typical members of the cause they say they are fighting for.  Often terrorists’ opposition comes from moderates on their own side who seek alternatives other than violence. Profiling or any other perceived infringement of civil rights can encourage a sense of unfair victimization by everyone involved. 


Table below elaborates how factors associated with organizational effectiveness vary between different terrorist groups:


Public support to insurgency and terrorism:

In interpreting the model above, it is crucial to understand that “the public” consists of many subpopulations. Which factors in above figure are important varies not only with country, but also across those subpopulations. For example, the portion of the public that is already sympathetic to a violent organization may have an enduring resonance with the organization’s allegedly high-minded ideology. Another portion may be uninterested in or hostile to the ideology but nevertheless animated by the organization’s efforts to protest long-held grievances or recent actions by a despised government. In a similar manner, the factors may have different effects on different classes of insurgency supporter (e.g., those offering indirect financial support rather than safe havens).


Does Terrorism influence domestic politics? Coalition formation and Terrorist incidents:

Terrorism has been shown to influence domestic politics, for example, by altering the priorities of voters and politicians. Terrorism has broader political consequences than simply putting national security on the political agenda. In particular, terrorist activity may influences government formation. A number of scholars have noted that the presence of an external threat provides an incentive to overcome internal disagreements, suggesting that larger and more inclusive coalitions should form. Terrorist activity may also influence government survival, as voters hold politicians accountable for failing to provide security. Politicians, in anticipation of terrorist activity, may, therefore, seek to form a more stable coalition. The literature on government survival suggests that the size of the coalition positively affects its durability but that its ideological breadth is expected to have an adverse effect on survival, which is the opposite of the prediction of the theory based on external threat. To test whether terrorism influences coalition formation, researchers analyzed coalition formation in 17 (primarily Western European) parliamentary democracies over a 50-year period using data on domestic and transnational terrorism from, respectively, the TWEED dataset and the Terrorism Knowledge Base. The results show that government coalitions are more likely to be surplus coalitions and, consistent with the theory emphasizing government survival, more likely to have a low degree of ideological polarization in periods following terrorist activity. 


Interconnected Terrorist Organizations:

The concept of a pansurgency applies not to a single terrorist organization but collectively to many terrorist organizations throughout the world. These organizations have established a global, interconnected network of operations that often provides mutual aid and support in which it is difficult to isolate a particular group or faction without drawing linkages to other organizations that provide direct support, indirect assistance, or pursue similar goals. Terrorist organizations, ranging from those with global reach to local influence, support one another in an interconnected fashion.


Tools of the Terrorism Trade:

Weapon and communications technology have changed the face of warfare, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that terrorism has benefited as well. In fact, it has evolved — growing from retail terrorist attacks against individuals and small groups to wholesale terrorist attacks that endanger thousands of lives. In the past, terrorists often depended on the assassination of key individuals or the use of hostage situations. There is, after all, only so much one person can achieve with daggers and bows. Large-scale death was generally the specialty of armies and, as such, most of history’s atrocities were carried out by governments and militaries. Gunpowder would change all this, empowering the individual to inflict unprecedented destruction. After all, how much can you fear one man in an age of daggers and clubs as opposed to the age of suicide bombers and lone gunmen? Explosives made such activities as the Guy Fawkes’ 1605 Gunpowder Plot against the British Parliament a reality. The 2002 Beltway sniper attacks in the United States demonstrated how two men with a rifle could terrify millions. In 2004, a group of Chechen rebels stormed a school in the Russian town of Beslan, taking more than a thousand hostages. They ultimately killed 334 of them, including 186 children. Sometimes the weapons of wholesale terrorism aren’t even weapons, but repurposed technology. The destruction of the World Trade Center showed us that a commercial airliner can become a missile. The only real weapons used in the attack were a handful of box cutters, no different in function than Stone Age artifacts. With the right explosives, biological or chemical agent, terrorists can target densely populated areas and potentially kill thousands. Technology has also added organizational strength to terrorist efforts. E-mail and cellular communication make it possible for terrorists to organize efforts from the other side of the globe, as well as recruit new personnel. Modern banking also makes it possible for terrorist organizations to receive funding from international benefactors and distribute it surreptitiously wherever money helps further their ends.    


Psychology of terrorism:

Why do some individuals decide to break with society and embark on a career in terrorism? Do terrorists share common traits or characteristics? Is there a terrorist personality or profile? Can a terrorist profile be developed that could reliably help security personnel to identify potential terrorists, whether they be would-be airplane hijackers, assassins, or suicide bombers? Do some terrorists have a psychotic personality? Psychological factors relating to terrorism are of particular interest to psychologists, political scientists, and government officials, who would like to be able to predict and prevent the emergence of terrorist groups or to thwart the realization of terrorist actions. 



 To better understand the causes, motivations and determinants of terrorist behavior, based on a comprehensive review of the scientific and professional literature, following key findings on the psychology of terrorism are narrated below:

• Although early writings on the “psychology of terrorism” were based mostly in psychoanalytic theory (e.g., narcissism, hostility toward parents), most researchers have since moved on to other approaches.

• People become terrorists in different ways, in different roles, and for different reasons. It may be helpful to distinguish between reasons for joining, remaining in, and leaving terrorist organizations.

• Perceived injustice, need for identity and need for belonging are common vulnerabilities among potential terrorists.

• Mental illness is not a critical factor in explaining terrorist behavior. Also, most terrorists are not “psychopaths.”

• There is no “terrorist personality”, nor is there any accurate profile – psychologically or otherwise – of the terrorist.

• Histories of childhood abuse, trauma and themes of perceived injustice & humiliation often are prominent in terrorist biographies, but do not really help to explain terrorism.

• Terrorist ideologies tend to provide a set of beliefs that justify and mandate certain behaviors. Those beliefs are regarded as absolute, and the behaviors are seen as serving a meaningful cause.

• Not all extremist ideologies promote violence, nor are all extremists violent. One might ask whether the ideology is driven more by promotion of the “cause” or destruction of those who oppose it.

• The powerful, naturally-occurring barriers that inhibit human killing can be eroded either through outside social/environmental influences or by changing how one perceives the situation.

• Terrorist groups, like all social collectives, have certain internal (e.g., mistrust, competition) and external (e.g. support, inter-group conflict) vulnerabilities to their existence.

• Surprisingly little research or analysis has been conducted on terrorist recruitment. Recruitment efforts do appear concentrated in areas where people feel most deprived and dissatisfied. Relationships are critical. Effective recruiters create and exploit a sense of urgency and imminence.

• Effective leaders of terrorist organizations must be able to: maintain a collective belief system; establish and maintain organizational routines; control the flow of communication; manipulate incentives (and purposive goals) for followers; deflect conflict to external targets; and keep action going.

• Research on the psychology of terrorism largely lacks substance and rigor. Cultural factors are important, but have not been studied. Future research should be operationally-informed; maintain a behavior based focus; and derive interpretations from analyses of incident-related behaviors.


There isn’t a whole lot of empirical, scientific research on this topic (although there is an abundance of theory and anecdotal reports). But luckily, psychologists are slowly changing that, according to an article in the American Psychological Association’s monthly magazine, Monitor on Psychology. One researcher, John Horgan PhD at Pennsylvania State University, found that people who are more open to terrorist recruitment and radicalization tend to:

  • Feel angry, alienated or disenfranchised.
  • Believe that their current political involvement does not give them the power to effect real change.
  • Identify with perceived victims of the social injustice they are fighting.
  • Feel the need to take action rather than just talking about the problem.
  • Believe that engaging in violence against the state is not immoral.
  • Have friends or family sympathetic to the cause.
  • Believe that joining a movement offers social and psychological rewards such as adventure, camaraderie and a heightened sense of identity.


Research on terrorist mindset:

Jerrold M. Post, a professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University, calls “generational transmission” of extremist beliefs, which begins early in life; a strong sense of victimization and alienation; the belief that moral violations by the enemy justify violence in pursuit of a “higher moral condition;” the belief that the terrorists’ ethnic, religious or nationalist group is special and in danger of extinction, and that they lack the political power to effect change without violence. Research has also shown that some terrorists have a criminal mentality and had previous lives as criminals. Paradoxically, anxiety about death plays a significant role in the indoctrination of terrorists and suicide bombers — unconscious fear of mortality, of leaving no legacy, according to new research. Many researchers agree that while there is rarely a moment of epiphany, there is typically a trigger of some kind to accelerate radicalization — for example, the politically related killing of a friend or relative.  Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts who is finishing a book on what drives terrorism and conflict, has identified three types of terrorists. “Idealists” identify with the suffering of some group. “Respondents” react to the experience of their own group. (Perhaps they were raised in a refugee camp or saw relatives killed; they may also be responding to unrelated individual trauma, like child abuse.) Finally, “lost souls” are adrift, isolated and perhaps ostracized, and find purpose with a radical group. The lost souls are “ripe for the plucking” by recruiters. Most researchers agree that justification for extremist action, whether through religious or secular doctrine, is either developed or greatly intensified by group dynamics. The Internet has come to play a huge role in increasing the number of jihadi groups, many of them offshoots of larger networks or inspired by Al Qaeda. The Internet has given rise to a “virtual community of hatred.” One theory holds that when people are in groups they are more likely to make risky decisions because the risk is perceived as shared and therefore is less frightening. As the group becomes more radical, so does the individual, who is also likely to feel enormous social pressure to agree with the group consensus.


Anger without guilt:

Rona Fields, a Washington, D.C. psychologist, has been psychologically testing terrorists and paramilitaries from Northern Ireland, Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon, Southeast Asia, and Africa. She thinks today’s suicide terrorists share the still-born moral and emotional development she saw in the Khmer Rouge, who created a bloodbath in Cambodia during the late 1970s. “Their definition of right and wrong is very black-and-white, and is directed by an authoritative director,” says Fields. “There’s a total limitation of the capacity to think for themselves.”


Sane or insane:

In contrast to the popular sense that suicidal terrorists are sociopathic whackos, many experts argue that they are effectively pursuing their goals. “They are rational, they are not insane,” says Richard Pearlstein, associate professor of political science at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. “They have goals and they are moving towards those goals.” Not only are terrorists not crazy, but they don’t share a personality type, wrote David Long, former assistant director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism. “No comparative work on terrorist psychology has ever succeeded in revealing a particular psychological type or uniform terrorist mindset.”


Proof of terrorist rationality:

According to Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, terrorists may be far outside the realm of normal diplomacy, but they are rational actors. In fact, according to the many terrorist groups Pape has studied since the early-80s, from Hezbollah and Hamas, to Al Qaeda, “What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common,” Pape says, “is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” That’s important, since it means that, contrary to our assumption that people who willing blow themselves up in the name of God, while certainly deluded theologically, are acting quite rationally, politically at least. The problem is that we let the religious yakking dictate our policy. We cannot change their theology, but we can change the underlying political conditions that, perhaps, make their theology such a powerful, dangerous force.


Ideology of terrorism:


The figure below shows classification of terrorist groups and their ideology:


The graph below shows ideological motivations of terrorism:


The development of extremist ideas and their justification of violence in four simplistically labeled stages:

1. It’s not right:

The starting point is a grievance or sense of dissatisfaction, usually pertaining to some perceived restriction or deprivation in a person’s environment. The nature of the undesirable condition may vary (e.g., economic, social, etc.), but those who experience it perceive it in some way as aversive.

2. It’s not fair:

An undesirable condition is not necessarily an unjust one. Perceptions of injustice usually arise when one comes to view the aversive condition in a comparative context – relative to one’s own expectations or relative to how that condition does or does not affect others. This is similar to Ted Gurr’s (1968) concept of “relative deprivation,” which he defines as the “actors’ perception of discrepancy between the value expectations [the goods and conditions of life to which people believe they are justifiably entitled] and their environment’s apparent value capabilities.” This discrepancy, perceived as unfair or unjust, prompts feelings of resentment.

3. It’s your fault:

We are socialized to believe that although “bad” things may happen in life, injustices typically don’t occur without some cause. Lerner talks about a phenomenon he refers to as the “just world hypothesis,” a human condition in which “individuals have a need to believe that they live in a world where people generally get what they deserve and deserve what they get” (Lerner & Miller, 1978). If they themselves are the victims of injustice, then it is assumed someone else is at fault for that condition. By attributing blame, those who have accumulated resentments now have a target or outlet for them.

4. You’re evil:

The stages reviewed so far describe a possible mechanism for developing hateful attitudes toward a group or institution. But most people who hate don’t kill. What facilitates violence is the erosion (sometimes intentional) of the psychological and social barriers that inhibit aggressive behavior even in the presence of aggressive impulse or intent. This may involve creating justifications for one’s actions (such as perceived threat and need for “self defense”) and/or dehumanizing the victims to some degree, such as by casting them as “evil.”


The model above appears to account better for violent (militant) extremism, than for extremist ideology more generally.


Fear and terrorism:


I quote from my article on ‘Fear’:

Greatest weapon of terrorists is fear playing on irrational emotions of public. We need to understand power of asymmetric threats using easily available bomb-making products. Total 1595 people died in car accidents following 9/11 attack as out of fear, people switched from planes to cars for their travel in the year following 9/11 attack in the United States. All these deaths could have been avoided had people were not fearful of plane hijack by terrorists. Terrorism is so effective because fear is so powerful. Remember, this is only the tip of the iceberg. You can extrapolate and imagine casualties due to fear worldwide.


Fear is a powerful tool and leaders do take advantage of this powerful tool to rule and manage their own people at the expense of the negative impacts it has on the population in general. In our societies, the mothers use this technique to feed their unwilling children to eat or the fathers use it to discipline their children so that they become attentive in schools and attend classes but the harm it inflicts on their mind is inconceivable. At times the lines are crossed. The lingering impact it has on the psyche is irreparable. The senses of negativity make them unreceptive to reasons and make them impulsive and as a result develop an extreme psyche that dwells between the two extremes and become conflict prone. Their mind becomes emotional. These adults become prey to the farsighted. These impulsive minds are then framed to commit the acts of violence that spread fear among the population for a purpose. They become committed and loyal to the cause.


Hate and terrorism:

Hatred is inculcated in terrorist mind since recruitment. When 26/11 terrorist attack was going on in Mumbai hotels, terrorists were segregating Muslims and non-Muslims, and selectively killing non-Muslims for the hatred they have for non-Muslims. Osama bin laden hated America and 9/11 attack was a result of this hatred. 


Criminal behavior vs. Terrorist behavior:

The terrorist is often well trained and state-supported. He or she has a specific goal in mind, often more symbolic than opportunistic. On the other hand, it is a fair statement that the “ordinary” criminal is one who seeks opportunistic targets, has little backing, is selfish, lacks discipline and may be deterred relatively easily. In general, terrorists are assumed to be well trained as opposed to a regular criminal. Therefore, the propensity for violence and level of destruction can be much greater. Terrorists are more likely to believe in their cause, so much, that they are even willing to die for it (Goldstein, 2007).  This is very unlike mainstream violence, where for example, the criminal perpetrator runs for cover when being chased by the police, while the terrorist may confront the police with a bomb strapped to his/her chest. Criminals tend to hide after they commit a crime, but terrorists often like to take credit and bask in the media’s propaganda.  Another factor to consider is the span of attacks of regular criminals and terrorists. Most criminals operate within the proximity of their hide out, while most terrorists operate within entire countries, and many of them, operate internationally; with hideouts and safe houses in many geographic regions (White, 2006). It is easy to distinguish between a crime and an act of terrorism on grounds of guilt/innocence proceedings and sentencing procedures. An ordinary criminal, when he pleads guilty, is awarded a sentence in keeping with his crime and serves the sentence in prison. But terrorism works on the basis of an ideology, it is a belief that motivates a person or a group of individuals to engage in acts of terrorism as they believe that this is the only way to make their grievances heard or felt. Terrorists seldom express guilt or admit guilt. The word ‘terrorism’ describes, instead, an overriding motivation, a way of acting, rather than the objective circumstances of acting. Terrorism is committed with an overriding motivation of imposing extreme fear on the nation as such. One can deal with criminals through a process of trials in courts and sentencing criminals into prison, it is hard to deal with terrorists as they have a strong motivation to indulge in heinous crimes and never plead guilty even when caught. Terrorists are also criminals but they commit crimes against humanity more than against individuals whereas ordinary criminals do it more for their own benefit.


Terrorism as social construction:

‘Terrorism is a social construction’ as what sociological thinkers believe it to be. Terrorism is not a ‘given’ in the real world; it is instead an interpretation of events and their presumed causes. (Yehuda, 1993) The oft-quoted statement that ‘One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’ reminds us that the definition of terrorism is based on how it is being constructed by an individual or state. The meaning of ‘terrorism’ varies depending on the context, available cultural resources, and combinations of people involved. (Stump, 2009) Terrorism does not exist outside our subjective understandings.


Perpetrators of terrorism:

The perpetrators of acts of terrorism can be individuals, groups, or states. According to some definitions, clandestine or semi-clandestine state actors may also carry out terrorist acts outside the framework of a state of war. However, the most common image of terrorism is that it is carried out by small and secretive cells, highly motivated to serve a particular cause and many of the most deadly operations in recent times, such as the September 11 attacks, the London underground bombing, and the 2002 Bali bombing were planned and carried out by a close clique, composed of close friends, family members and other strong social networks. A 2007 study by economist Alan B. Krueger found that terrorists were less likely to come from an impoverished background (28% vs. 33%) and more likely to have at least a high-school education (47% vs. 38%). Another analysis found only 16% of terrorists came from impoverished families, vs. 30% of male Palestinians, and over 60% had gone beyond high school, vs. 15% of the populace. To avoid detection, a terrorist will look, dress, and behave normally until executing the assigned mission. Some claim that attempts to profile terrorists based on personality, physical, or sociological traits are not useful. The physical and behavioral description of the terrorist could describe almost any normal person.  However, the majority of terrorist attacks are carried out by military age men, aged 16–40.


The perpetrator classification:











The figure below shows terrorist hierarchies: 


Clandestine cell system:

A clandestine cell structure is a method for organizing a group of people in such a way that it can more effectively resist penetration by an opposing organization. Depending on the group’s philosophy, its operational area, the communications technologies available, and the nature of the mission, it can range from a strict hierarchy to an extremely distributed organization. It is also a method used by criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, undercover operatives, and unconventional warfare led by Special Forces. Historically, clandestine organizations have avoided electronic communications, because signals intelligence is strength of conventional militaries and counterintelligence organizations. Among the first revolutionaries to organize conspiracies into secret cells was Louis Auguste Blanqui, a socialist of the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic era. The basic principle behind cell organization is simple: By dividing the greater organization into many multiperson groups and compartmentalizing information inside each cell as needed, the greater organization is more likely to survive if one of its components is compromised. Anarchists and revolutionaries in Russia, Ireland, France, Germany, and Switzerland adopted cell organization in the 1880s, as did the communist movement in the late 19th century, because they are remarkably difficult for foes to penetrate. We know from previous criminal investigations that Osama Bin Laden organizes his terrorists into cells. If intelligence agency infiltrated one of the terrorist cells, they might learn only of the proposed date of an attack but not the target, the time, or the means of the attack. Like communist cells, Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist cells intend to overthrow existing governments. But unlike the communist cells, which were highly organized and specialized, Bin Laden’s cells may be extremely ad hoc in function. A planning cell for one operation may be tapped as an execution cell for the next.


A terrorist cell is a small group of terrorists who have a specific task and operate together normally all knowing each other but having very little contact if any with anyone else in the terrorist organization. This allows an efficient specialization of role but also reduces the damage to the organization if a cell is infiltrated or members captured. Think of the cell system as a damage control mechanism, once a cell is captured it is easy to prevent the damage spreading into the rest of the organization and some cells may actually be physically close to each other and not know of each other’s existence. Cells are tightly knit and all members know each other well making infiltration very difficult and time consuming as strangers are rarely trusted. The leader of the cell may have infrequent contact with the next person in the chain, a regional commander who will have contacts with several cells as and when they are needed.


Different cell types:

Execution cells are brought in at the final stages of an attack. They will utilize resources supplied by other cells.


Operational cells: For each mission are created one or more operational cells. If the al-Qaeda signature of multiple concurrent attacks is used, there may be an operational cell for each target location. It will depend on the operation if they will need any support cells in the operational area. For example, it may be more secure to have a local cell build bombs, which will be delivered by cells coming from outside the area.


“Planning” or “support” cells may have fewer than 10 members, often local residents from Islamic nations, responsible primarily for fund raising. They may also be responsible for providing execution cells with drivers’ licenses, cash, credit cards, or lodging, as well as procuring materials for bomb building.


Sleeper cell:

A sleeper cell refers to a cell, or isolated grouping of sleeper agents that lies dormant until it receives orders or decides to act. One of the most insidious tactics at a terrorist organization’s disposal is the implementation of a sleeper cell. This consists of secret agents who receive specialized training in their home countries and are then assigned to assimilate into another country’s culture and society. These agents may spend years performing their regular duties while living deep undercover, and then suddenly receive orders from their overseas handlers to either commit an act of terrorism or provide aid to those who will. Individual members of a sleeper cell may not even be aware of each other, since plausible deniability during police interrogations can be vital. One sleeper agent may work for an airline ticket office, for example, while another may work at a car rental company or a chemical plant. When the commanders of the terrorist organization want to activate a cell, each agent may only receive the name of one contact person or receive only his or her specific orders. The airline ticket agent, for example, may only be told to provide tickets for four men traveling from Germany to New York. The car rental agent may only be told to pick up these men from the airport and deliver them to the chemical plant. This process insures that no individual is aware of the entire plan. It can be extremely difficult for government agencies to track and dismantle sleeper cells because of their nebulous construction. If the individual members are well-trained and dedicated to their cause, they can easily blend into society without raising any suspicions. A cell doesn’t necessarily need to hold regular meetings or undergo additional training to carry out their missions. Members simply go about their daily routines until a handler contacts them for an assignment. Some agents may not even be fully aware of their obligations, believing that a benevolent government agency simply paid for their education and immigration expenses.


“Operation commanders” may come in only at the last moment before the attack. They may be the only link between local cells and the larger umbrella organization–in this case, the central Bin Laden organization. The commander may not even perform the operation himself, often leaving the country before the terrorist attack occurs. The commanders of both the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya are college graduates, multilingual, computer literate, and still at large. Osama Bin Ladin’s role in these operations was probably limited to serving as front man, financier, and publicist.


Terrorism and rape:

Former director general of police (DGP) KPS Gill, who played a key role in ending terrorism in Punjab (India), said that the era of terrorism spelled “black days” for Punjab, and Operation Bluestar was a part of the same. He, however, added that he regretted nothing about the operation. “We were doing our duty and our aim was to eliminate terrorism and terrorists. Why should I regret anything? People who were involved in bloodshed and even raped girls should regret their acts.” He noted that historians miss out on the point “regarding the sexual desires of terrorists that had led them to abduct women and rape them”.


Female terrorists:

Researchers examined the backgrounds and social experiences of female terrorists to test conflicting accounts of the etiology of this offending group. Data on 222 female terrorists and 269 male terrorists were examined across 8 variables: age at first involvement, educational achievement, employment status, immigration status, marital status, religious conversion, criminal activity, and activist connections. The majority of female terrorists were found to be single, young (<35 years old), native, employed, educated to at least secondary level, and rarely involved in criminality. Compared with their male counterparts, female terrorists were equivalent in age, immigration profile, and role played in terrorism, but they were more likely to have a higher education attainment, less likely to be employed, and less likely to have prior activist connections. The results clarify the myths and realities of female-perpetrated terrorism and suggest that the risk factors associated with female involvement are distinct from those associated with male involvement. According to a report issued by intelligence analysts in the U.S. army in 2011, “Although women make up roughly 15% of the suicide bombers within groups which utilize females, 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 [and] seeking revenge against those they feel are responsible for the loss, unable to produce children, [and/or] dishonored through sexual indiscretion.” Female suicide bombers are predominantly presented as being motivated by non-political factors, as opposed to their male counterparts. 


Radicalization and terrorism:


The table below shows mechanisms of political radicalization:

This table above conceptualizes political radicalization as a dimension of increasing extremity of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors in support of intergroup conflict and violence. Across individuals, groups, and mass publics, twelve mechanisms of radicalization are distinguished. For ten of these mechanisms, radicalization occurs in a context of group identification and reaction to perceived threat to the ingroup. The variety and strength of reactive mechanisms point to the need to understand radicalization—including the extremes of terrorism—as emerging more from the dynamics of intergroup conflict than from the vicissitudes of individual psychology. 


And contrary to the populist view that economic hardship leads to radicalization, researchers in the area seem unequivocal in their conclusion that there is no link between economic factors and radicalization, and that many radicals are, in fact, economically advantaged compared to others in their communities. The evolution of a terrorist is more complex than a simple uni-dimensional cause-and-effect relationship. The 9/11 hijackers were adults with education and skill … spent years studying and training in the United States, collecting valuable commercial skills and facing many opportunities to change their minds … they were not reckless young men facing dire economic conditions and dim prospects but men as old as 41 enjoying middle-class lives. The alternative explanation — that terrorists hate Americans so much because they have grown up in poverty and lacked the good education and opportunities that the Americans have enjoyed — finds a willing audience in the first-world, the industrialized West and its allies, but this is merely a convenient explanation that appeals to west’s sense of superiority due to their relative affluence and sophistication, as well as invalidating the grievances of the terrorists and rendering them little more than criminals. The religious radicalization will be discussed later on in the article.



Al-Qaeda (in Arabic: “base”) is not a terrorist organization in the traditional sense, with a well-defined hierarchy, but rather a decentralized global network of Islamic extremists. They are united by a common purpose: the Arab world and ultimately, the whole world “paganize” and to impose a theocracy under Islamic law. The main enemies are considered to be the world’s great powers – the U.S. and its allies, the guise that they destroy the Muslim world. They see their role in fighting against regimes in the Middle East, traditionally Islamic, but under Western influence. In addition to demonstrate the vulnerability of the West and its life style, through terrorist attacks carried out in “enemy territory”, thus obliging States to stop exporting Western values and patterns of behavior. Islamists from the suicidal attacks of 11 September 2001, building on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon has become clear that the threat posed by Al-Qaeda is for Western nations. What distinguishes the Islamic terrorist network it is global and decentralized. Unlike past international terrorism, Al-Qaeda depends little on state sponsorship, it supported financially by the business and various shade foundations. Recruiting new followers knows no national boundaries, but is worldwide, although concentrated in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Groups and Al-Qaeda followers are spreading in all regions of the world, making the network very flexible and mobile in its actions. Once, in 2001, the control center in Afghanistan was destroyed by U.S. Military, ideological approaches and preparation take place mainly on the Internet. Chair and technical knowledge needed to attack are available online. In principle, anyone can act on behalf of Al-Qaeda.


Osama bin Laden’s three objections to America, and the stated basis for his 1998 fatwa, are as follow: 1) U.S. troops are garrisoned in Saudi Arabia; 2) the U.S. enforces sanctions on Iraq; and 3) America supports Israel over and against the PLO. The al-Qaeda training manual underscores its commitment to both politics and violence as a mechanism for change: Islamic governments have never been and will never be, established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they always have been by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth.


The table below shows prominent terrorist organizations and their grievances/aims:

Terrorist Organization Grievances / Aims
  • Blame Western influences for the decline of Islamic states.
  • Believe it is right to fight a Holy War to remove foreign states from Holy Islamic Lands.
  • Opposed to US and Western support for Israel.
Continuity Irish Republican Army
  • Want an end to British rule in Northern Ireland.
  • A united Irish Republic.
  • Want the end of “any imperial presence in Lebanon.”
  • The destruction of Israel.
Palestine Liberation Front
  • “Liberation of the Palestine State through armed struggle”

Note: the PLO no longer advocate the use of terror, this statement is from their original stated aims which have changed considerably since.

Ulster Volunteer Force
  • Destruction of Irish Nationalist paramilitary groups.


Suicide bombing:






“Suicide terrorism” is a phenomenon that is far more controversial than the concept of terrorism itself. In addition to the controversy over the word “terrorism”, Islam frowns on suicide. Insurgent groups that use suicide attacks therefore do not like their attacks to be described as suicide terrorism. They prefer to use terms like “martyrdom operations”.  Suicide bombings have emerged as an important weapon in the arsenal of militant groups. Their attractiveness as a tactical weapon can be attributed to the fact that they are cost-effective, being low on investment and high on returns. The cost-effectiveness of suicide operations explains their increasing frequency and the expanding geographical area over which they are being mounted. Iraq has been the scene of hundreds of suicide attacks since the US-led invasion of the country in March, 2003. Prior to the invasion, Iraq had never witnessed suicide attacks. In fact, the number of people killed in suicide explosions in Iraq in less than two years is said to be far greater than the number of victims killed in suicide bombings in four years of the Israel-Palestinian conflict (2000-2004). It is interesting to note that successful suicide operations carried out by Palestinians have been followed by celebrations of the bombers’ “martyrdom”. Posters of each “martyr” appear on the walls of the Occupied Territories, announcements in newspapers read like wedding invitations; the bomber’s family members take pride in public in the “martyrdom operation” of their kin and distribute sweets to celebrate.  


A suicide attack is an attack upon a target, in which an attacker intends to kill others and/or cause great damage, knowing that he or she will either certainly or most likely die in the process. Between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks occurred around the world, constituting 4% of all terrorist attacks but 32% (14,599 people) of all terrorism related deaths. 90% of these attacks occurred in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Following the success of a 1983 truck bombing of two barracks buildings in Beirut that killed 300 and helped drive American and French Multinational Force troops from Lebanon, the tactic spread to insurgent groups like the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, and Islamist groups such as Hamas. The means of suicide attack usually include vehicles filled with explosives, passenger planes carrying large amounts of fuel, and individuals wearing vests filled with explosives due to the amount of devastation these methods can cause within the short period of time the attacker is alive and in control. Criminal Justice professor Adam Lankford recently identified more than 130 individual suicide terrorists, including 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta, with classic suicidal risk factors, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, other mental health problems, drug addictions, serious physical injuries or disabilities, or having suffered the unexpected death of a loved one or from other personal crises. These findings have been further supported by psychologist Ariel Merari, whose interviews and assessments of suicide bombers, regular terrorists, and terrorist recruiters found that only members of the first group showed major risk factors for conventional suicide. Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, found the majority of suicide bombers came from the educated middle classes. 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 economic business.


Long-running conflicts had spawned generations of radicalized populations in Palestine, Kashmir and Sri Lanka. Collecting from the data compiled by Robert Pape, 95 per cent of suicide terrorist acts between 1980 and 2004 were aimed at compelling military forces to withdraw from territory that the terrorists viewed as their homeland under foreign occupation. Thus, territorial liberation, not religion, is their common ground.


The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism:

Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but the most common explanations do not help us understand why. Religious fanaticism does not explain why the world leader in suicide terrorism is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a group that adheres to a Marxist/Leninist ideology, while existing psychological explanations have been contradicted by the widening range of socio-economic backgrounds of suicide terrorists. To advance our understanding of this growing phenomenon, one study collects the universe of suicide terrorist attacks worldwide from 1980 to 2001, 187 in all. In contrast to the existing explanations, this study shows that suicide terrorism follows a strategic logic, one specifically designed to coerce modern liberal democracies to make significant territorial concessions. Moreover, over the past two decades, suicide terrorism has been rising largely because terrorists have learned that it pays. Suicide terrorists sought to compel American and French military forces to abandon Lebanon in 1983, Israeli forces to leave Lebanon in 1985, Israeli forces to quit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 and 1995, the Sri Lankan government to create an independent Tamil state from 1990 on, and the Turkish government to grant autonomy to the Kurds in the late 1990s. In all but the case of Turkey, the terrorist political cause made more gains after the resort to suicide operations than it had before. Thus, Western democracies should pursue policies that teach terrorists that the lesson of the 1980s and 1990s no longer holds, policies which in practice may have more to do with improving homeland security than with offensive military action.


French filmmaker Pierre Rehove interviewed many Palestinians in Israeli jails, arrested following failed suicide-bombing missions or for aiding and abetting such missions, for his film “Suicide Killers.” Every one of them tried to convince him that that the action was the right thing to do for moralistic reasons. According to Rehove, “these aren’t kids who want to do evil. These are kids who want to do good….” The result – young people who had previously conducted their lives as good people believe that a suicide bombing represented doing something great.


The Causes of Terrorism:



In fact, the question, “what causes terrorism?” is not quite the right question to be asking, because we will never be able to answer it. We cannot say that the presence of one factor provokes terrorism in the same way that we can say with scientific certainty that certain toxins cause diseases. If you listen closely to the explanations that are usually given as answers to the question, “What is terrorism?” you will find that they actually answer the question: “What are the conditions in which terrorism is most likely to take place?” Sometimes these conditions have to do with the people who become terrorists (they are described as having certain psychological traits, like ‘narcissistic rage’) and some conditions have to do with the circumstances they live in (a poor society; a formerly colonized society, for example). Although many people today believe that that religious fanaticism “causes” terrorism, it isn’t true. It may be true that religious fanaticism creates conditions that are favorable for terrorism. But we know that religious zealotry does not ’cause’ terrorism because there are many religious fanatics who do not choose terrorism or any form of violence. So there must also be other conditions that in combination provoke some people to see terrorism as an effective way of creating change in their world. There are two more reasons why asking, “What conditions create a favorable climate for terrorism?” is better than asking about causes. The first is, it makes it easy to remember that there are always at least several conditions. Terrorism is a complex phenomenon; it is a specific kind of political violence committed by people who do not have legitimate army at their disposal. A second reason is that thinking in terms of ‘conditions’ helps us remember that people have a choice about whether to use violence.  There is nothing inside any person nor in their circumstances that sends them directly to terrorism. Instead, there are certain conditions, some of which make violence against civilians seem like a reasonable and even necessary option. Despite this, and some of the deeply unforgivable circumstances that foster terrorism, people always have the free will to seek another course of action.


The study of the causes of terrorism can be traced back to Martha Crenshaw’s groundbreaking paper in 1981, in which she explored the possible theoretical causes of terrorism. Perhaps one of the most important contributions of this paper was the distinction between the different levels of causation of terrorism, which she called the precipitants of terrorism and the preconditions of terrorism. The precipitants were defined as the events that immediately precede terrorism, while the preconditions were the factors that enable terrorism in the long run. These factors can be further differentiated into structural causes, facilitator (or accelerator) causes, motivational causes and trigger causes.

1. Structural Causes are macro-level causes, such as demographic imbalances, globalization, poverty or the level of democracy in a society, which create grievances for the population.

2. Facilitator Causes are factors that make terrorism and political violence a possible or an attractive strategy in order to reach specific political, social or economic goals. These factors include the strength or weakness of the state, freedom of the press and the ease of movement.

3. Motivational Causes are the individual motivations for joining terrorist organizations and the justification for of political violence. These motivational causes are often derived as the individual implications of structural causes such as poverty or the lack of political opportunity, but can also be personal causes like a desire for revenge.

4. Trigger Causes are the events that immediately precede the use of terrorist or political violence. These include using terrorist acts to mark the anniversary of a previous attack or other symbolic date, to sabotage the progress of a peace process seen as dangerous to the terrorist organization, or as retaliation to provocative or violent acts by an enemy.


 In order to understand the occurrence of terrorism in any specific case, we must understand how these different circumstances correlate in order to make terrorism happen. The structural and facilitator causes are the causes that enable and encourage terrorism in general.


Terrorism and human development:

We may assume that terrorism must be more common in countries with lowest human development but as the table below shows, terrorism is more prevalent in medium human development countries:


Ramesh Thakur, senior vice rector of the United Nations University, recently provided a comprehensive set of underlying causes of global terrorism in a paper entitled “Peace and Social Stability: The Role of the United Nations in Defeating Terrorism by Promoting Tolerance”. According to Thakur’s paper, submitted at the annual World University Presidents Summit held in Bangkok, the root causes of terrorism can be grouped into five categories. These are the lack of democratic institutions and practices; lack of political freedoms and civil liberties; group grievances based on collective injustice; intractable conflicts, and inter-civilization suspicions.


Terrorism as impact of Illegal Immigration:

When it comes to the impact of illegal immigration, terrorism must be at the top of the list due to its potential to directly harm the greatest number of Americans. It is worth noting that three of the four terrorist involved in the 9/11 attack were in the country illegally. 9/11 was a precursor. The next big incident could be far greater and kill many more Americans.


Causes of terrorism as described by scholars:

(i) Helplessness and Hopelessness:

Helplessness which leads to hopelessness is the psychological state that enhances terrorism in the society. The society in which the people are ignored and have to suffer from socioeconomic and political injustice provide conducive environment to promote terrorism. When the people and their problem are neglected or kept aloof they ultimately express their resentment in the form of violent behavior to attract the attention of the state and the people. We can witness that in the long standing political disputes such as Palestine and Kashmir etc where the aspirations of the people were not heeded some of them started militant movements. Similarly, in communist regimes where the people were not given their socio-political rights they brought about even deadly revolution.

(ii) Political and Economic Deprivation:

Political and Economic deprivations are the main root causes of terrorism. When the political and economic rights of the certain groups are not granted it chooses the suitable method of terrorism to show their anger. This deprivation encourages the effected groups to adopt the violent ways to get their aspirations fulfilled. For example we can see that in some states of India such as Assam, Nagaland, and West Bengal etc. the communists started guerilla war against the Indian Government. Charles Kegley while discussing the contemporary terrorism presents a root cause school of thought which asserts that political and economic deprivation are the main causes of terrorism. He views the advocates of “Root Causes Theory” propel that “politically oppressed and economically deprived people are more prone to violent and terrorist behavior. They are deprived of their basic needs and this condition forces them to change their fate by hook or crook.

(iii) Influence of Communist Regimes:

At the end of cold war the influence of communist regimes inspired by Marxist and Leninist theories made a cause of escalation of terrorism in the world. Being influenced by such regimes many freedom movements adopted violence. We see in Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka communists and Tamales started violent movements in the last two decades of twentieth century for their freedom.

(iv) Poverty and Economic Exploitation:

In the society where there is illiteracy, hunger and economic disparity the terrorism flourishes rapidly. All these factors lead to increase in poverty which itself is the mother of terrorism. Famous philosopher Aristotle had agreed on the assertion stating that “Poverty is mother of Terrorism and Revolution”. We see for example in Muslim countries there is a huge amount of poverty and that is why, it becomes easier for the terrorist groups to find the interested persons due to their poor economic conditions. Daniel Pipes (2002) says that “As long as there is poverty, inequality, injustice and repressive political systems, militant Islamic tendencies will grow in the world”.

(V) Easy Access to Weapons and Modern Technology:

Due to incredible advancement in weapons technology and human knowledge it has become easy for the terrorists to get them easily. Hugh quantity of information about the arms manufacturing has been spread by internet which has made the access of the terrorists easy and they use weapons to get quick results the act of terrorism.

(VI) Sheer Success of Terrorism:

Terrorism is a short cut tactic for the terrorists to achieve their goals quickly. It is more result orientated rather than peaceful movement. That is why the terrorist groups adopt this for getting more results in shorter time. Easy access to weapons and widespread information of the arms technology is the cause of escalation of terrorism in modern times.

(VI) Lack of Democracy and Dictatorship:

Lack of Democracy is the main cause of terrorism in present times. The dictators and autocrat governments frighten opponents. They do it to create fear among the masses to suppress any opposition against their governments. In undemocratic circumstances the people do not find ways to express their disagreement and as a result some of them turn to the violent means to submit their expression. We can see in many autocrat and communist states in Latin America and Africa the massive force was used against the political opponents such as in Cuba, Zambia and Congo etc.

(VIII) Religious Extremism:

There is a school of thought which considers that the religious extremism is the major cause of terrorism. Mar Juergensmeyer says that “The religion is crucial for these acts since it gives moral justifications for the killing and provides images of cosmic war that allows activists to believe that they are waging spiritual scenarios”. It does not mean that the religion causes terrorism but it does mean that the religion often provides symbols that make possible bloodshed even catastrophic acts of terrorism. As evidence we can observe that the majority of the terrorist movements are inspired by the religion or at-least it is claimed.

(IX) Biological and Social Elements:

Other than above mentioned causes sociologists have another point of view. A man is violent by nature. The sociologists present three hypotheses biological instinctual, social learning, and frustration aggression. Sigmund Freud’s says that “Man is embodied with an instinctive urge and appetite of attacking and subjugating others”. 


Disaffected intelligentsia:
Rubenstein elaborates another interesting aspect occurring in Western liberal democratic states in his book Alchemists of Revolution (1987), though not necessarily because of a hiatus in democratic governance. Rubenstein’s thesis is that the main cause of terrorism is disgruntled, disaffected, intelligentsia who are in a social and moral crisis unable to mobilize the masses. This is “a primary internal cause of terrorism, dictating to a degree its philosophy, tactics and consequences” (Rubenstein, 1987). Intellectuals, of the type of ambitious idealist, do not have a rebellious lower class to lead due to shifts from primary and manual work to the services sector, nor do they receive guidance from a creative upper class that they can follow. When rigid social stratification shatter hopes for social transformation, then the ingredients are present for a start or rise in terrorist activities in an attempt to reconnect with the masses who they claim to represent and aspire to lead. But now, 15 years after the book’s publication, access to third level education (the ‘democratization of education’) has increased to such an extent that it devalues degrees to a minimum standard for procuring a job. Is the degree graduate now the new (white collar) working class stuck in his/her cubicle? If true, then the ‘gap’ between the masses and intelligentsia is smaller at present, hence more likely to be bridge-able, and therefore less prone to induce ideas to resort to terrorism, thus at least weakening Rubenstein’s view.  
Opposite the concept of disaffected intelligentsia is the assertion that it is not intelligentsia, but simple minded people who are easy to indoctrinate that are perceived to be ‘the cause’ (Rathbone and Rowley, 2002) prevalent in more recent popular literature. They, and others, are essentially trying to dehumanize terrorists, thereby confirming terrorist’s core reasons they are fighting for: being heard, recognized and treated as equal human beings. In this context, Midgley (2002) has put forward an interesting explanation for the increased levels of dehumanization: “a continuation of the frozen, abstract hatreds made possible by the cold war… this suspending of normal human relations is supposed to be just a temporary expedient … The corrupt thing about the Cold War idea was that it legitimized acceptance of this evil as a normal, permanent condition of life. It domesticated tribal hatred.” Thus obfuscating the distinction between literal and metaphorical wars, where the negative mindset of people caused by the Cold War continues to live on, and feed terrorism and the violent responses on terrorism, made possible by disregarding the idea that an opponent is a human being too. However, a closer examination of this argument reveals that the implied cause of the violence is within us, having internalized dehumanization, not the ‘illiterate stupid other’.


The view that Western foreign policy is a motivation for terrorism:

Robert Pape, has argued that at least terrorists utilizing suicide attacks – a particularly effective form of terrorist attack – are driven not by Islamism but by “a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.” However, Martin Kramer, who debated Pape on origins of suicide bombing, countered Pape’s position that the motivation for suicide attacks is not just strategic logic but also an interpretation of Islam to provide a moral logic. For example, Hezbollah initiated suicide bombings after a complex reworking of the concept of martyrdom. Kramer explains that the Israeli occupation of Lebanon raised the temperature necessary for this reinterpretation of Islam, but occupation alone would not have been sufficient for suicide terrorism. “The only way to apply a brake to suicide terrorism,” Kramer argues, “is to undermine its moral logic, by encouraging Muslims to see its incompatibility with their own values.” Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer argues that terrorist attacks (specifically al-Qaeda attacks on America) are not motivated by a religiously inspired hatred of American culture or religion, but by the belief that U.S. foreign policy has oppressed, killed, or otherwise harmed Muslims in the Middle East, condensed in the phrase “They hate us for what we do, not who we are.” U.S. foreign policy actions Scheuer believes that are fueling Islamic terror include: the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq; Israel–United States relations, namely, financial, military, and political support for Israel.; U.S. support for “apostate” police states in Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait; U.S. support for the creation of an independent East Timor from territory previously held by Muslim Indonesia; perceived U.S. approval or support of actions against Muslim insurgents in India, the Philippines, Chechnya, and Palestine; U.S. troops on Muslim ‘holy ground’ in Saudi Arabia; the Western world’s religious discrimination against Muslim immigrants; and historical justification, such as the Crusades. Some academics argue that this form of terrorism should be seen as a strategic reaction to American power: that America is an empire, and empires provoked resistance in the form of terrorism. The Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires, for example, all suffered from terrorist attacks and had terrorist organizations – the Black Hand, Young Bosnia, Narodnaya Volya – spawned from their multiple ethnic groups, religions and national identities. On the other hand, American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq led to free elections in those nations.



The desire of a population to break away from a government or ruling power and create a state of their own can cause the formation of terrorist groups. In the 20th century this was seen often times with regions or states attempting to gain independence from their colonial era masters. However, as Bruce Hoffman points out in Inside Terrorism, ethno-nationalist terrorism had been around decades before even the First World War. Perhaps the most notable of these groups, formed before and after WWII and inspired by the weakening of imperial powers, was the Jewish Irgun Avai Le’umi who fought British rule in Palestine so as to attain the creation of a Jewish state. Hamas is one of the most active ethno-nationalist driven groups carrying out suicide bombings and attacks against the state of Israel with the goal of creating a Palestinian state. [Hamas now says that it has given up terrorism.] Chechen terrorist organizations are also ethno-nationalists for their attacks against the government and people of Russia in the attempt to form their own state.


Alienation /Discrimination:

Several authors on terrorism have pointed to a sense of alienation felt by diasporas, particularly those living in Europe as a driver of terrorism. Many times these groups face discrimination in the countries they reside, leading to further feelings of isolation. They commonly move from poorer countries, particularly Muslim states in the case of Europe, to wealthier ones to go to school or find work. As Marc Sageman discusses in his book Understanding Terror Networks, once in these countries they begin to feel alienated. The new host nation is substantially different than their own culture, and is usually much less community oriented. This causes alienated individuals to seek out communities with cultures like their home countries or others like themselves. These groups may become jaded towards society around them as they don’t fit in and feel excluded. Growing sentiments of discrimination can lead groups to look to more conservative, and eventually, extremist ideologies. The Hamburg Cell, consisting of two of the terrorists in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is a perfect example of this. The cell included a number of expatriate Muslims studying in Germany who sought out other conservative Muslims to band together when they felt homesick in a Western society that was alien to them. This started them down the trail of radicalization as they became more jaded with the world around them. Robert Leiken also discusses this phenomenon in his paper Europe’s Angry Muslims. Leiken points to both “outsiders,” Muslims who immigrated in order to study or seek asylum, and “insiders,” second or third generation Muslims in Europe. These groups are subjected to discriminatory social policies, such as the headscarf law in France, that then cause them to become radicalized. The problem here, particularly in the case of Europe, is that many of these expatriates who become radicalized due to alienation from being in a foreign society also hold European passports and thus can travel within Europe with increased ease, as well as enter the U.S. much easier than non-Europeans. Therefore they pose not only a threat to Europe, but also to the United States.


Why young people become Terrorists:

1. They sympathize with a group and self-radicalize via the internet.

 Many youth often make the jump from a passive supporter and sympathizer of terrorists to active supporter actually engaging in terrorist acts through the internet. The internet can instruct future terrorists how to build bombs, join an organization, fund terrorism, and share information. In many ways the internet serves as a virtual training camp. Much like the way non-terrorists use social media, the internet has “become a virtual ‘echo chamber’ — acting as a radicalization accelerant,” according to a United States Senate Committee. The Department of Homeland Security has cited three ways that young people find sites to become radicalized: browsing for entertainment; searching for a community to belong to; and looking for information related to heritage, traditions, or ideologies associated with a particular radical group. A relevant case study of this is the example of American Colleen LaRose, although not a youth, better known as “Jihad Jane.” LaRose found herself going through a tough time. After attempting to kill herself, she converted to Islam. Using the internet, she went from a passive supporter of terrorism to and active supporter, and she was enlisted by an al-Qaeda operative to fly to Sweden and kill the author of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s head on a dog. She was arrested when caught by the FBI in 2009.


2. They are looking for a thrill.

According to the United States Institute for Peace, so-called “thrill seekers” accounted for 5% of the “2,032 foreign fighters'” they interviewed in 2011. This small group of individuals often was attracted to violent video games and stories glorying jihad and war. The study mentions that this type of future terrorist “often came from a middle- or upper-class family and joined out of boredom.” Borum also cited boredom as part of the process by which youth become radicalized, saying, “They follow a general progression from social alienation to boredom, then occasional dissidence and protest before eventually turning to terrorism.” According to research conducted by the Library of Congress, instances of joining out of boredom are often found in the Gaza Strip, especially among those with little education. “Those with little education, such as youths in Algerian ghettos or the Gaza Strip, may try to join a terrorist group out of boredom and a desire to have an action-packed adventure in pursuit of a cause they regard as just,” reads a 1999 report conducted by the Library’s research division.


3. They want to correct what they believe is injustice.

Righting what a terrorist perceives as a wrong is a major factor in youths deciding to engage in terrorist activities. This is particularly true of the “lone wolf” scenario. Georgetown professor Bruce Hoffman has said that recruiting based on perceived injustices, especially by saying that the West is hostile toward Islam, is a point terrorist recruiters drive home. Hoffman added that these recruiters will argue jihad against the West is only option to correct this, while the Hoover Institute says that righting perceived wrongs is a major terrorist motivation. Stanford professor Martha Crenshaw has written, “One of the strongest motivations behind terrorism is vengeance, particularly the desire to avenge not oneself but others. Vengeance can be specific or diffuse, but it is an obsessive drive that is a powerful motive for violence toward others, especially people thought to be responsible for injustices.”


4. They have a need for belonging.

Terrorist organizations often grow their ranks by recruiting youths who have a need for belonging. Randy Borum, a professor at the University of South Florida, argued in a 2004 paper that future terrorists find “not only a sense of meaning, but also a sense of belonging, connectedness and affiliation” in terrorist organizations. Since terrorists often attempt to recruit those most vulnerable in society, becoming involved in terrorist activities, whether as a passive supporter or an active supporter, may represent the first true meaning a terrorist has had in his or her life. Borum added in his 2004 paper that for some, this strong sense of belonging for the first time in one’s life is the main reason for staying in the terrorist organization and becoming an active supporter engaging in terrorism rather than a passive supporter simply sympathizing with the cause.


5. They are looking for an identity.

Many young people often join terrorist organizations because they are looking for an identity for themselves. A 2010 study from the United States Institute of Peace found that among “2,032 foreign fighters” who joined al-Qaeda, being a so-called “identity seeker” was the largest reason to join a terrorist organization. Like many young college students, high school students and adolescents, potential terrorists are looking to answer the question “Who am I?” Having a traumatic experience as a youth in particular is a motivating factor in deciding to become a terrorist — and terrorist recruiters recognize this. “The personal pathway model suggests that terrorists came from a selected, at risk population, who have suffered from early damage to their self-esteem,” said psychologist Eric D. Shaw in a 1986 paper. American-born al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, shoe bomber Richard Reid, American Taliban John Walker Lindh, Puerto Rican dirty bomber plotter Joe Padila, and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab have been cited as prime examples of this.


Globalization and terrorism:

As Christopher Coker observes, globalization is reducing tendencies toward instrumental violence (i.e., violence between states and even between communities), but it is enhancing incentives for expressive violence (or violence that is ritualistic, symbolic, and communicative). The new international terrorism is increasingly engendered by a need to assert identity or meaning against forces of homogeneity, especially on the part of cultures that are threatened by, or left behind by, the secular future that Western-led globalization brings.  According to a report recently published by the United Nations Development Program, the region of greatest deficit in measures of human development— the Arab world—is also the heart of the most threatening religiously inspired terrorism. Much more work needs to be done on the significance of this correlation, but increasingly sources of political discontent are arising from disenfranchised areas in the Arab world that feel left behind by the promise of globalization and its assurances of broader freedom, prosperity, and access to knowledge. The results are dashed expectations, heightened resentment of the perceived U.S.-led hegemonic system, and a shift of focus away from more proximate targets within the region. Of course, the motivations behind this threat should not be oversimplified: Anti-American terrorism is spurred in part by a desire to change U.S. policy in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions as well as by growing antipathy in the developing world vis-à-vis the forces of globalization. It is also crucial to distinguish between the motivations of leaders such as Osama bin Laden and their followers. The former seem to be more driven by calculated strategic decisions to shift the locus of attack away from repressive indigenous governments to the more attractive and media-rich target of the United States. The latter appear to be more driven by religious concepts cleverly distorted to arouse anger and passion in societies full of pent-up frustration. To some degree, terrorism is directed against the United States because of its engagement and policies in various regions. Anti-Americanism is closely related to anti-globalization, because (intentionally or not) the primary driver of the powerful forces resulting in globalization is the United States. Analyzing terrorism as something separate from globalization is misleading and potentially dangerous. Indeed globalization and terrorism are intricately intertwined forces characterizing international security in the twenty-first century. The main question is whether terrorism will succeed in disrupting the promise of improved livelihoods for millions of people on Earth. Globalization is not an inevitable, linear development, and it can be disrupted by such unconventional means as international terrorism. Conversely, modern international terrorism is especially dangerous because of the power that it potentially derives from globalization—whether through access to CBNR weapons, global media outreach, or a diverse network of financial and information resources.


Globalization is known to be characterized by processes of ‘individualization, enculturation and deterritorialization’ (Roy in Seib, 2008: 92) which combined promote a ‘reconstructed identity based on the homogenization of patterns of conduct’. It is on these lines that the jihadist media product (Devji, 2005) of the ‘unmah’ functions. Observing these conceptual similarities, it should be of no surprise that religious terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda are finding it increasingly easy and effective to operate in a highly interconnected operational environment. Al-Qaeda is gaining the publicly perceived government military overreactions that the anarchists or ETA were seeking in order to gain support for their cause, and this is also because of the aid it has received from the processes of globalization. Governments in the West therefore, need to tackle not only the ‘operational environment’ (Jenkins, 2002: 1), such as the US and NATO military intervention in Afghanistan, but also win the media war. This can be done by increasing the reliability levels of the intelligence available (Jenkins, 2002) by regulating the media so that its ‘weaponization’ (Saib, 2008: 183) is prevented and by managing military operations in accordance to international law, and therefore delegitimize any group or action falling short of this global legal environment. The latter argument is of most importance to Richard Clarke who feels that the invasion of Iraq by the Unites States of America has been a recruitment tool for al-Qaeda (2004) and therefore a shift in policy is needed from a reactive one to an aggressive preventive one (Schmidt, 2004). Furthermore, it is only by collective action that the international community can regulate and implicitly prevent the spread of dangerous weaponry as well as the securitization of their domestic environments. These measures should provide the basics for not only countering at a global, but also domestic level, a terrorist organization such as al-Qaeda which is increasing its complexity by splitting into ‘acorns’ (Jenkins, 2002:4), implanted cells ready to attack,  but also improve the West’s chances to win the ‘long war against Islamofascism’ (Rogers in Williams, 2009:172).


Global warming could increase terrorism:

Global warming could destabilize “struggling and poor” countries around the world, prompting mass migrations and creating breeding grounds for terrorists. Climate change will aggravate existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions. All of this threatens the domestic stability of a number of African, Asian, Central American and Central Asian countries. People are likely to flee destabilized countries, and some may turn to terrorism. The conditions exacerbated by the effects of climate change could increase the pool of potential recruits into terrorist activity. Economic refugees will perceive additional reasons to flee their homes because of harsher climates. That will put pressure on countries receiving refugees, many of which will have neither the resources nor interest to host these climate migrants.


Terrorism and religion:


Historical Perspectives on Religious Violence:

Terrorism carried out in the name of the faith has long been a feature of human affairs. The histories of people, civilizations, nations, and empires are replete with examples of extremist true believers who engage in violence to promote their belief system. Some religious terrorists are inspired by defensive motives, others seek to ensure the predominance of their faith, and others are motivated by an aggressive amalgam of these tendencies. Religious terrorism can be communal, genocidal, nihilistic, or revolutionary. It can be committed by lone wolves, clandestine cells, large dissident movements, or governments. And, depending on one’s perspective, there is often debate about whether the perpetrators should be classified as terrorists or religious freedom fighters. 


Judeo-Christian Antiquity:

Within the Judeo-Christian belief system, references in the Bible are not only to assassinations and conquest but also to the complete annihilation of enemy nations in the name of the faith. One such campaign is described in the Book of Joshua. The story of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan is the story of the culmination of the ancient Hebrews’ return to Canaan. To Joshua and his followers, this was the Promised Land of the covenant between God and the chosen people. According to the Bible, the Canaanite cities were destroyed and the Canaanites attacked until “there was no one left who breathed.”  Assuming that Joshua and his army put to the sword all the inhabitants of the 31 cities mentioned in the Bible, and assuming that each city averaged 10,000 people, his conquest cost 310,000 lives. To the ancient Hebrews, the Promised Land had been occupied by enemy trespassers. To fulfill God’s covenant, it was rational and necessary from their perspective to drive them from the land, exterminating them when necessary. 


Christian Crusades:

During the Middle Ages, the Western Christian (i.e., Roman Catholic) church launched at least nine invasions of the Islamic east, the first one in 1095. These invasions were called the Crusades because they were conducted in the name of the Cross. The purpose of the Crusades was to capture the holy lands from the disunited Muslims, to whom they referred collectively as Saracens. Christian knights and soldiers answered the call for many reasons. The promise of land, booty, and glory was certainly central. Another important reason was the spiritual promise, made by Pope Urban II, that fighting and dying in the name of the Cross would ensure martyrdom and thereby guarantee a place in heaven. Liberation of the holy lands would bring eternal salvation.


Modern Arab Islamist Extremism:

The Arab world passed through several important political phases during the 20th century. Over-lordship by the Ottoman Empire ended in 1918 after World War I. It was followed by European domination, which ended in the aftermath of World War II. New Arab and North African states were initially ruled primarily by monarchs or civilians who were always authoritarian and frequently despotic. A series of military coups and other political upheavals led to the modern era of governance. These phases had a significant influence on activism among Arab nationalists and intellectuals, culminating in the late 1940s, when the chief symbol of Western encroachment became the state of Israel. Postwar activism in the Arab Muslim world likewise progressed through several intellectual phases, most of them secular expressions of nationalism and socialism. Many activists and intellectuals became disenchanted with these movements when they failed to deliver political reforms, economic prosperity, and the desired degree of respect from the international community. In particular, several humiliating military defeats at the hands of the Israelis—and the seemingly intractable plight of the Palestinians—diminished the esteem and deference the secular movements had once enjoyed. Arab nationalists—both secular and sectarian—had struggled since the end of World War II to resist what they perceived as Western domination and exploitation, and some tradition-oriented nationalists began to interpret Western culture and values as alien to Muslim morality and values. As a result, new movements promoting Islamist extremism began to overshadow the ideologies of the previous generation. This has placed many Islamists at odds with existing Arab governments, many of which are administered under the principles of the older ideologies in the post–Cold War political environment. 


Mujahideen (Holy Warriors for the Faith):

The mujahideen are Islamic fighters who have sworn a vow to take up arms to defend the faith. They tend to be believers in fundamentalist interpretations of Islam that have defined their jihad, or personal struggle, to be one of fighting and dying on behalf of the faith. The modern conceptualization of the mujahideen began during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which dated from the Soviet invasion of the country in December 1979 to its withdrawal in February 1989. Although several Afghan rebel groups (mostly ethnically based) fought the Soviets, they collectively referred to themselves as mujahideen. To them, their war of resistance was a holy jihad. Significantly, Muslim volunteers from around the world served alongside them. These Afghan Arabs played an important role in spreading the modern jihadi ideology throughout the Muslim world. Reasons for taking up arms as a jihadi vary. Some recruits answer calls for holy war from religious scholars who might declare, for example, that Islam is being repressed by the West. Others respond to clear and identifiable threats to their people or country, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, or the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Others may join on behalf of the cause of other Muslims, such as the wars fought by Bosnian Muslims or Algerian rebels. Regardless of the precipitating event, mujahideen are characterized by their faith in several basic values.


Religion and politics are two sides of same coin, they both work on many similar principles and ideas. They both are manmade organizations, they can be compared with big corporate organizations which try to maintain their hold on their customers by heavy advertising and brain washing, and their main intention is to grow their customer base by using all available resources and techniques. All organized religions present today have long history of violent conflicts with each other, with nonbelievers or even with factions within them. Depending on their strength and attitude weaker religions (or minorities) suffer at the hand of more powerful ones (majority), there are many reported incidents in history where these conflicts become violent and many people lost their lives. Use of divide and rule strategy is also not new in politics, most politicians are in search of something which they can use to divide people, polarize their opinions, this helps them to create their own loyal vote bank, they know very well that most people don’t think rationally when they become emotional and they love to exploit this weakness. Religion, caste or race are very powerful tools to challenge people’s emotions, they polarize their opinions which create divisions among them and this technique is used very cunningly in politics all over the world. It is often used to appease vote bank which considers these things as the most important thing in their lives.


 In Islamic states, where there is no formally recognized separation between religion and law, mosque and state, Shariah Law is a cornerstone and is often implemented as the final and ultimate formulation of the law of God, not to be revised or reformulated by mere mortal and fallible human beings. Freedom does not exist in Islam. Only Islam exists in Islam. Ideally, Islam and its teachings would run the State and all laws would be based on criteria from the Koran.


“Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about the land or who own the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power in this world that tries to get in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy.”

— Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, founder of Pakistan’s Fundamentalist Movement

Their goal is to make Islam a Worldwide State sanctioned religion led by religious leaders having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all aspects of life based on Islamic teachings, and emphasizing Islam to the detriment of any and all other religions and secular beliefs.


Jihadi, or jihadist, refers to a person who believes that an Islamic state governing the entire community of Muslims must be created, and that this necessity justifies violent conflict with those who stand in its way. Although jihad is a concept that can be found in the holy Quran, the terms jihadi, jihadi ideology and jihadi movement are modern concepts related to the rise of political Islam in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Political Islam is also called Islamism, and its adherents Islamists.) There are many contemporary Muslims and others who believe that Islam and politics are compatible, and a wide spectrum of views about how Islam and politics relate. Violence plays no part in most of these views. Jihadis are a narrow subset of this group who interpret Islam, and the concept of jihad, to mean that war must be waged against states and groups who in their eyes have corrupted the ideals of Islamic governance. Saudi Arabia is high on this list because it claims to be ruling according to the precepts of Islam, and it is the home of Mecca and Medina, two of Islam’s holiest sites.


Islam, jihad and terrorism:

I quote from my article on “Islam and mathematics”.

What does JIHAD means in Islam?

 It is a religious duty of every Muslim to strive and struggle in the way of ALLAH aimed at protection of Muslims, prevention of their victimization and a holy war against non-believers who are bent on destroying Muslims. Jihad does not mean killing innocent non-Muslims. All terrorists use the word jihad for killing innocent people by quoting holy Quran, which must be condemned by all Muslims all over the world.


There is a clever manipulation of the words like Jihad. As we know the historical meaning of these with the origin of Islam were much different. Also there are many an interpretation of these words. During last decade and a half Islam has been projected to be violent. The media and many a state apparatus have on purpose ‘sold’ this image of Islam as being associated with terrorism. Muslims are no uniform community. And there are different interpretations of Islam. The media highlights any sensational violent act and ignores the pacifist ones. Comments of fanatics are projected prominently as the Islamic voice. The sober and moderate statements are either ignored or find their place in some small corner of the media. The misuse of the word Jihad by fanatics adds to the problem. Any act of Muslim terrorists is supposed to be a Jihad, as some of them project it in the same manner. As such Holy war, Crusade, Dharma Yuddha is not an uncommon usage in different religions as kings have launched their campaign for expansion of their territories in the name of their religions, times and over again, and Islam is no exception. It is believed that Allah wants to spread Islam by the sword. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer one of the liberal interpreters of Islam states, “Jihad does not necessarily mean war. Jihad…means utmost effort, not violence and it is obligatory on Muslims to make utmost efforts (in wisely manner) to spread the message of Allah so as to create a just and compassionate society. This is what is obligatory, not waging a war at all. Prophet himself has exemplified it on many occasions especially at the time of Slh-I-Hudabiya (i.e. peace of Hudaibiyah and Fath-I-Mecca)”. As for these radical Islamist groups, jihad is being used as a cynical ruse to whip up religious fervor for their cause. Historically, jihad was used rhetorically by the imperialist powers to justify their worldly expansionist designs. In its original sense, jihad was more of an inner moral cleansing for the community. This was called jehad-e-Akbar (The Great Jihad). Sometimes a military effort may be a regrettable necessity in order to defend decent values, but an oft-quoted tradition has the Prophet Muhammad saying after a military victory: “We are coming back from the Lesser Jihad [i.e. the battle] and returning to the Greater Jihad” – the far more important, difficult and momentous struggle to reform our own society and our own hearts. Jihad is thus a cherished spiritual value that, for most Muslims, has no connection with violence.  But now, the whole notion of jihad is being used as an instrument for legitimizing militaristic, monarchic and dictatorial regimes. As for these radical Islamist groups, jihad is being used as a cynical ruse to whip up religious fervor for their cause.


The belief in the holy Quran with the concept of Jihad serves as just one example for the justification of terrorist attacks. Their religious beliefs point to the root cause of terrorism. Unfortunately, our political leaders either don’t understand this or refuse to acknowledge this very simple fact because to acknowledge belief as a root cause hits at their own faith and religious justification. In spite of the many Islamic leaders who today claim that suicide and Holy War goes against the “essence” of Islam of “true” Islam (disregarding its historical roots), there occurs many ideas expressed in the holy Quran that provide all the justification necessary for a believer to carry out such atrocities.

Below serve as just a few sample verses from one of the more benign translated versions of the holy Quran:

[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

[4.74] Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.

[6.162] Say. Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

[9.14] Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people.

[16.31] The gardens of perpetuity, they shall enter them, rivers flowing beneath them; they shall have in them what they please. Thus does Allah reward those who guard (against evil)…

 [22.39] Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them;

 [52.42] Or do they desire a war? But those who disbelieve shall be the vanquished ones in war.


On the other hand, holy Quran prohibits innocent killing as shown in the figure below.


So different sura of holy Quran preach violence or non-violence in different context and the jehadi follows the context that suits him.


Religious ritual before terror act:

That “martyrdom operations” are understood by their participants as religious acts is made clear by the rituals that surround them. Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 terrorists, left for posterity a letter, the major themes of which are obedience, prayer, union with God, and sacrifice. Atta calls on his comrades to engage in devotions as preparation for their mission: “Remember the words of Almighty God. . . . Remind yourself of the supplications. . . . Bless your body with some verses from the Quran. . . . . Pray the morning prayer in a group and ponder the great rewards of that prayer. Make supplications afterward, and do not leave your apartment unless you have performed ablution before leaving. . . . Read the words of God”.  Such religious ritualizing was not unique to the 9/11 cell; it is a normal and crucial part of the human bomber’s mission: Just before the bomber sets out on his final journey, he performs a ritual ablution, puts on clean clothes, and tries to attend at least one communal prayer at a mosque. He says the traditional Islamic prayer that is customary before battle, and asks Allah to forgive his sins and bless his mission. He puts a Quran in his left breast pocket, above the heart, and he straps the explosives around his waist or picks up briefcase or a bag containing the bomb. The planner bids him farewell with the words, “May Allah be with you, may Allah give you success so that you achieve Paradise.” The would-be martyr responds, “Inshallah, we will meet in Paradise.” Hours later, as he presses the detonator, he says, “Allahu akbar”— “Allah is great. All praise to Him.” (Hassan, 2001, p. 41)


Religious terrorism:

Religious Terrorism is terrorism by those whose motivations and goals have a predominant religious character or influence.

Religious terrorists may be especially dangerous to international security for at least five reasons.

1.First, religious terrorists often feel engaged in a Manichaean struggle of good against evil, implying an open-ended set of human targets: Anyone who is not a member of their religion or religious sect may be “evil” and thus fair game. Although indiscriminate attacks are not unique to religious terrorists, the exclusivity of their faith may lead them to dehumanize their victims even more than most terrorist groups do, because they consider nonmembers to be infidels or apostates—as perhaps, for instance, al-Qaeda operatives may have viewed Muslims killed in the World Trade Center as infidels.

2. Second, religious terrorists engage in violent behavior directly or indirectly to please the perceived commands of a deity. This has a number of worrisome implications: The whims of the deity may be less than obvious to those who are not members of the religion, so the actions of violent religious organizations can be especially unpredictable. Moreover, religious terrorists may not be as constrained in their behavior by concerns about the reactions of their human constituents. (Their audience lies elsewhere.)

3. Third, religious terrorists consider themselves to be unconstrained by secular values or laws. Indeed the very target of the attacks may be the law-based secular society that is embodied in most modern states. The driving motivation, therefore, is to overturn the current post-Westphalian state system—a much more fundamental threat than is, say, ethnonationalist terrorism purporting to carve out a new secular state or autonomous territory.

4. Fourth, and related, religious terrorists often display a complete sense of alienation from the existing social system. They are not trying to correct the system, making it more just, more perfect, and more egalitarian. Rather they are trying to replace it. In some groups, apocalyptic images of destruction are seen as a necessity—even a purifying regimen—and this makes them uniquely dangerous, as was painfully learned on September 11.

5. Fifth, religious terrorism is especially worrisome because of its dispersed popular support in civil society. On the one hand, for example, groups such as al-Qaeda are able to find support from some Muslim nongovernmental foundations throughout the world, making it truly a global network. On the other hand, in the process of trying to distinguish between the relatively few providers of serious support from the majority of genuinely philanthropic groups, there is the real risk of igniting the very holy war that the terrorists may be seeking in the first instance.


Was 9/11 attack motivated by Islam?

When Mohammed Atta boarded the airline on September 11, 2001 that soon thereafter slammed into the World Trade Center towers, he left behind a manual of instruction. Apparently prepared by his colleagues in the al Qaeda network, it instructed him and his fellow activists how to behave and what to do in preparation for their fateful act. What is interesting about this document is not only the text, but the subtext. Lying beneath the pious rhetoric of the manual and its eerie ties to the World Trade Center tragedy are hints about the perplexing issue of the role of religion in the contemporary world, and answers to the persistent question, how could religion be related to such vicious acts of political violence? The common sense way of putting this question about the September 11 attack and all of the other recent acts of religious terrorism is “what’s religion got to do with it?”  The common sense answers to this question are varied, and they are contradictory. On the one hand some political leaders—along with many scholars of comparative religion—have assured us that religion has had nothing to do with these vicious acts, and that religion’s innocent images have been used in perverse ways by evil and essentially irreligious political actors. On the other hand there are the radio talk show hosts and even a few social scientists who affirm that religion, especially Islam, has had everything to do with it—and not just ordinary religion, but a perverse strain of fundamentalism that has infected normal religion and caused it to go bad. A reading of the Atta manuscript shows both answers to be incorrect. In an analysis of this manual undertaken by a scholar of comparative religion, Bruce Lincoln, he leaves us with no doubt that Mohammed Atta and his eighteen accomplices on that dark morning of September 11 were filled with a religious zeal and undertook their hideous assignment in a ritualistic act of self-sacrifice following traditional tenets. Moreover, although the ideology of their mentors was influenced by a certain strain of Islamic political thought characterized by the writings of Mawdudi, al Banna and Faraj, to which only a minority of Muslims subscribe, the religious practices and rituals were themselves not deviant. The actions prescribed for the nineteen on the morning of September 11 were well within the norm not only for Islamic belief and practice, but also for many other religious traditions. What the Lincoln reading of the Atta manuscript shows is that Atta’s act was done in a classically religious manner. Yet we cannot say much more than that. We cannot say, for instance, that Atta’s act was motivated by religion or meant to achieve a religious purpose. In other words, it is clear that the form that the activity took was a religious one, but the content of that activity—the point of the terrorist act—was not. It seemed, at least at first blush, to be elsewhere. The content was about politics, and society, and many other things other than the ideas and images that we narrowly ascribe to the realm of religion. Atta and his crowd were not trying to promote Islam, at least not in a narrow sense. Although they have little use for modern secular Western culture, the al Qaeda program has not targeted Christianity or any other religion as its opponent. Bin Ladin’s battle with the West is not a war between religions. Hence it seems that his acts of terrorism, and the many other contemporary acts of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh terrorism, are done in a religious way without necessarily being about religion. In other words, religion is hijacked and misused to promote politics.


Was Mohammed Atta a devout Muslim or psychopath?

Most of Atta’s closest associates in Venice were not Arabs, but Europeans with connections to the drug trade. Amanda Keller, Atta’s girlfriend in Venice, claimed that all of his friends, with the exception of al Shehhi, were German and Dutch, including Dekkers and Kruithof. Atta called certain Arabic people “my brother”, but he also called his German friends, Wolfgang and Juergen, “my brother” as well. As discovered by Daniel Hopsicker, Atta lived two months with Amanda Keller, an American stripper and lingerie model. He apparently loved the nightlife, to drink, and snorted cocaine. He certainly depicted the psychopathic behavior typical of such a condition. After Amanda Keller threw him out of their apartment, Atta revenged himself by disemboweling her pet cat and dismembering its half-dozen baby kittens, then strewing the pieces around her apartment to be discovered when she returned home from work. An eyewitness from a bar, where Atta had embarked on a drinking binge, explained that, “he was just kind of strange, because he was just staring. Every time I’d walk in and out, he had the same look on his face, so God knows what was going through his mind.”  As you can see that the behavior of Atta was not of a devout Muslim but evil killer.  


“I acted alone and on orders from God,” said Yigal Amir, the young Jewish extremist who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. “I have no regrets.” Amir’s words could have been uttered just as easily by Islamic Hamas suicide bombers of buses and public gathering places in Israel; by Muslim Algerian terrorists who have targeted France with a campaign of indiscriminate bombings; by Japanese followers of Shoko Asahara, whose Aum Shinrikyo sect perpetrated the March 1995 nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway in hopes of hastening a new millennium; by members of the American Christian Patriot movement, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City a month later; or by Arab Afghans linked to Osama bin Laden, the alleged Saudi mastermind behind the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Indeed, the religious imperative for terrorism is the most important defining characteristic of terrorist activity today. The revolution that transformed Iran into an Islamic republic in 1979 played a crucial role in the modern advent of religious terrorism, but it has not been confined to Iran, to the Middle East, or to Islam. Since the 1980s, this resurgence has involved elements of the entire world’s major religions as well as some smaller sects or cults. The characteristics, justifications, and mind-sets of religious and quasi-religious terrorists suggest that they will be much more likely than their secular counterparts to use weapons of mass destruction–that is, nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Four incidents in particular–the Tokyo nerve gas attack, the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1993 bombing of New York City’s World Trade Center, and the 1998 attack on U.S. embassies in Africa–indicate that terrorism may be entering a period of increased violence and bloodshed. The connecting thread linking these four otherwise unrelated incidents is religion. The emergence of religion as a driving force behind the increasing lethality of international terrorism shatters some of our most basic assumptions about terrorists. In the past, most analysts tended to discount the possibility of mass killing involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear terrorism. Few terrorists, it was argued, knew anything about the technical intricacies of either developing or dispersing such weapons. Political, moral, and practical considerations also were perceived as important restraints. Terrorists, we assured ourselves, wanted more people watching than dead. We believed that terrorists had little interest in, and still less to gain from, killing wantonly and indiscriminately. The compelling new motives of the religious terrorist, however, coupled with increased access to critical information and to key components of weapons of mass destruction, render conventional wisdom dangerously anachronistic. And while it is true that the increasingly virulent threats posed by religious terrorists require increasingly superior military responses and deterrent measures, the ultimate solutions lie far beyond military strategy alone. Driven by value systems and worldviews that are radically different from those of secular terrorists and that are largely impervious to military counterattacks, religious terrorism demands vastly revised national and international diplomatic and cultural strategies that aim to strike at its root causes.


Terrorism is an unpredictable use of violence against individuals, groups, community or nation to attain the goal of the perpetrators. This may include but not limited to the overthrowing, destabilizing or replacing the existing system and institution or a retaliation for the hurt and harm committed (Wilson, 2010). Notably, there are several motivations that strut terrorist attacks on the unsuspecting victims. These motivations include but not limited to, political, social, moral, personal and religious. Ali (1997) notes that terrorism has been used all through history throughout the world by states, organizations, groups and individuals. However, amidst all diverse motivations of contemporary upsurge of terrorist attacks, religious motivations have been spotlighted as the major source of terrorism in the 21st century. According to D’ Souza (2010) ‘ … so there is little wonder the claim that religion is awful and leads to violence …It is certainly true that many horrible things have been done under the cover of religion-the inquisition springs to mind along with Islamic terrorism and the Catholic – Protestant wars that have raged and influenced vein, Wilson (2002), supports the forgoing argument as he writes, ‘…though human conflicts and the September 11 tragedy can be explained in political and social terms, explicitly or implicitly, religious components shaped and motivated them. Against this background, Juergensmeyer (2008) demonstrate his misgiving about the role of religion as he writes, “most people feel that religion should provide tranquility and peace not terror, yet many of these cases, religion has supplied not only the ideology but also the motivation and organizational structure for the perpetration of terror in the world.”


It is certainly true that many horrible things have been done under the cover of religion…it is also true that many men have used religion as a tool to gain power, no different than nationalism and racism. Having acknowledged that freely let me also throw some numbers at you. When 6 million people murdered in the Holocaust, Nazis were essentially a secular religion with nationalism and racism as its creed and Adolph Hitler as its focal point. Over 1,600,000 Cambodians were murdered by the Khmier Rouge, which officially outlawed religion. More recently, we see atheistic North Korea, by all accounts as the most repressive nation in the world with barbaric living conditions…so killing innocents on large scale do happen without any religious fervor.  


Making a notable observation on the Sikh militant, Juergensmeyer (2004: 48) remarks …the Sikh militant in Punjab are motivated by the heady sense of spiritual fulfillment and the passion of holy war. In this vein, Osama bin Laden, using the same category has been able to successfully transform his local grievances into cosmic clash between civilizations. Therefore, religion is a major if not the sole tool of translating local power struggle into conflicts. Accordingly, framing political /local struggle into religious category helps to broaden both the ideological and geographical base of terrorism. Furthermore, whenever political conflict adopts a religious frame, it extends the horizon of victory. Against this background, terrorists perceive that they are fighting a cosmic war in divine time, thereby removing the incentive to win within one’s life time (Richard and Alcorta, 2010). Religion facilitates terrorists’ goals by providing moral legitimacy to their cause. Notably, all religions impose moral framework upon their adherents, thereby enabling terrorists to present their conflicts in moral absolute dichotomies, such as good versus bad or righteous versus evil. While legitimatizing one’s own cause, religion is particularly effective at demonizing those with opposing views (Richard and Alcorta, 2010: 1-8; Lincoln, 2003: 29). Notably, history of all shades of time and context is dotted with examples of in-group passion aroused and out-group hatred ignited. According to Pane (2005) indeed one consistent predictor of suicide terrorism is a religious difference between perpetrators and victims. This situation occurs when the terrorist group appears to have a secular motivation such as the LTTE, who the Hindu fighting Buddhist majority. Thus 90% of attacks were aimed at the victims of different religions (Berman and Laiton, 2005). Religion does not only provide the moral legitimacy for violent acts of terror but also defines the reward for the combatants. The reward for the terrorists with religious convictions, according to Juergnesmeyer (2004) is a particular religious experience. This is in the sense that they are participating in something greater than themselves. In addition to such spiritual reward of transcendence, religion may also offer benefits in the life after that can hardly be matched in this world. Sois (2003) substantiates this fact when he says. The promise that 72 virgins await a shahid (martyr) is often joked about, but afterlife rewards are critical feature of successful ideologies that enable terrorist organizations to motivate recruits to carry out their mission. As Hamas member describes, ‘we focus on paradise, on being in the presence of Allah, on meeting the prophet Mohammad, on the interceding for his loved ones so that they too can be saved from the agonies of hell. On the houris (virgins) and on fighting the Israel occupation and removing it from the Islamic trust that is Palestine. In the same direction, Hassan (2001) also avers that the female counterpart of shahid is promised to be the chief of the virgins and exceed their beauty. Thus the September 11 hijackers all believed that they would meet in the highest heaven and they were assured that they would be transcending life and death (Richardson, 2006), which helped them to rationalize their actions.


Madrassa and terrorism:

Madrassas have become a potent symbol as terrorist factories since the September 11 attacks, evoking condemnation and fear among Western countries. The word first entered the political lexicon when the largely madrassa-educated Taliban in Afghanistan became the target of a U.S.-led strike in late 2001. Although none of the September 11 terrorists were members of the Taliban, madrassas became linked with terrorism in the months that followed, and the association stuck. For Western politicians, a certain type of education, such as the exclusive and rote learning of the Quran that some madrassas offer, seemed to be the only explanation for the inculcation of hate and irrationality in Islamist terrorists. “Madrassa” is a widely used and misused term. In Arabic, the word means simply “school.”  Madrassas vary from country to country or even from town to town. They can be a day or boarding school, a school with a general curriculum, or a purely religious school attached to a mosque. In English, the term madrassa usually refers to the specifically Islamic institutions.  It is argued that since madrassas are not open to wider scrutiny, there must be something fishy going on within its walls. It is argued that since madrassas are theological institutions, they teach hatred and violence against other religions, which gets imprinted on the impressionable students, making them more susceptible to committing violence against people of other faiths. This argument is deeply sectarian and Islamo-phobic and rests on a constructed ‘historic unconscious’ of Islam as a violent religion. When news articles mentioned ‘madrassas,’ readers were led to infer that all schools so-named are anti-American, anti-Western, pro-terrorist centers having less to do with teaching basic literacy and more to do with political indoctrination.


Bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s leader, is the college-educated son of a billionaire; his deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a surgeon from a distinguished Egyptian family. Ali Mohamed, Al Qaeda’s longtime military trainer, is a former Egyptian army major with a degree in psychology who started work on a doctorate in Islamic history when he moved to the United States in the mid-1980s. Other Al Qaeda leaders worked in white collar professions such as accounting, the vocation of Rifa’i Taha, a leader of the Egyptian terrorist organization known as the Islamic Group, who signed on to Al Qaeda’s declaration of war against the United States in 1998. The men who planned and carried out the September 11 attacks have often been depicted in the press as being “medieval fanatics.” In fact it would be more accurate to describe them as confused but highly educated middle-class professionals. Mohamed Atta was an architect; Ziad Jarrah, one of the founders of the Hamburg cell, was a dental student who later turned to aircraft engineering; Omar Sheikh, the kidnapper of Daniel Pearl, was a product of the London School of Economics. As the French scholar Gilles Kepel puts it, the new breed of global jihadis is not the urban poor of the third world so much as “the privileged children of an unlikely marriage between Wahhabism and Silicon Valley, which al-Zawahiri visited in the 1990s. They were heirs not only to jihad and the umma but also to the electronic revolution and American-style globalization.”


In the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, on Islamabad highway stands the Haqqania, which is one of the most radical madrassa. Many of the Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar, were trained at this institution. If its teachings have been blamed for inspiring the brutal, ultra-conservative incarnation of Islamic law that that regime presided over, there is no sign that the Haqqania is ashamed of its former pupils: instead, the madrassa’s director, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, still proudly boasts that whenever the Taliban put out a call for fighters, he would simply close down the madrassa and send his students off to fight. Altogether there are possibly as many as 800,000 students in Pakistan’s madrassas: an entire free Islamic education system running parallel to the moribund state sector. Madrassas as are probably now more dominant in Pakistan’s educational system than they are anywhere else; but the general trend is one that is common throughout the Islamic world. In Egypt the number of teaching institutes dependent on the Islamic university of al-Azhar increased from 1,855 in 1986 to 4,314 ten years later. The Saudis have stepped up their funding so that in Tanzania alone they have been spending $1 million a year building new madrassas. In Mali madrassas now account for a quarter of the children in primary schools. However most of the madrassas are not radical madrassa like Haqqania.


It is true that there are several examples of radical madrassa graduates who have become involved with al-Qaeda: Maulana Masood Azhar, for example, leader of the jihadi group called Jaish-e-Muhammad and an associate of bin Laden, originally studied in the ultra-militant Binori Town madrassa in Karachi. A madrassa dropout took part in bombing of Musharraf’s convoy. In Indonesia, the Bali bombings were the work of the Lashkar-i-Jihad group, which partially emerged from a group of Salafi madrassas in Indonesia. By and large, however, madrassa students simply do not have the technical expertise necessary to carry out the kind of sophisticated attacks we have recently seen led by al-Qaeda. Instead the concerns of most madrassa graduates remain more traditional: the correct fulfillment of rituals, how to wash correctly before prayers, and the proper length to grow a beard. This would seem to confirm that it is not madrassas per se that are the problem so much as the militant atmosphere and indoctrination taking place in a handful of notorious centers of ultra-radicalism, such as the Binori Town madrassa in Karachi.


Besides not having the sophisticated technological knowledge required for terrorist activities; more importantly, madrassas do not share the Islamic worldview of terrorist organizations. The truth is that jehadis blame the madrassas for inculcating passivity among its students. Crucially, madrassas sustain themselves on the basis of traditional authority patterns while one of the objectives of terrorism is precisely to break such a system of authority.  Despite such conflicting interests, madrassas get mixed up with any form of discourse on terrorism. While some madrassas do teach a radical version of Islam, most historically have not.  


Moderate vs. radical/hard-line Islamist:

The phrase “moderate Islamists” as opposed to “hard-line Islamists” was first introduced by American journalist of Middle East origin, Geneive Abdo. Until then “Islamist” used as both a noun and an adjective designated Muslims who adhered to the more fundamentalist and extremist views than those of mainstream. Therefore, from that perspective, an Islamist, by definition, is an extremist and cannot be labeled a moderate (Hoveyda, 2001, p. 53) Especially after 9/11, the phrase “moderate Islamist” is often used in the literature and media to refer to movements of political Islam which reject global jihad while embracing elections and other features of democracy (Leiken, 2007, p. 2), and an extension to the 19th century’s reform ideologies of prominent scholars such as Muhammad Abdoh and Jamal-ed-Din Afghani, who had traveled to Europe, became convinced of the necessity of reforming certain parts of the theological interpretations in light of modern scientific knowledge (Hoveyda, 2001, p. 55)  In contrast, radical Islamists, or Jihadists, movements, which developed in an unchanged environment steeped in fundamentalism since the twelfth century, and influenced by scholars such as ibn Taymiyya (fourteenth century, Syria); and Abdal Wahhab (eighteenth century, Arabia) (Hoveyda, 2005, p. 506). These ‘‘extremists’’ are often called Salafis, whose central ideas were crystallized in the teachings of Ibn Taymiyya. Its adherents seek to transform the Muslim community and ensure that Islam as a system of belief and governance will eventually dominate the globe. Shamuel Bar in 2004, argued that radical interpretation of Islamic teachings has become a source of terrorism committed by militant Islamists, which constitute the lion share of terrorists acts and the most devastating of them. According to Bar, “radical leaders of Islamist Jihadist-type movements used deeply ingrained religious beliefs to motivate Islamist terrorists and provide them with religious and moral justification to sanction their actions”. To jihadists, terror is a tool against societies that they dehumanize in order to disrupt their harmony and economy. Through terrorism, they can also make the West less comfortable or attractive for liberal Muslims, making it much easier for them to win this battle within the House of Islam.  


How do you distinguish between moderate Muslim and militant Muslim?

Below are three simple criteria.

1) Do you condone or condemn Muslims who murder civilians to advance Islam’s cause?

It is believed that a “moderate” Muslim condemns the murder of civilians.

2) Should all non-Muslims, including Christians, Jews, Pagans, and atheists, enjoy completely equal civil rights with Muslims?

It is believed that a “moderate” Muslim approves of equal civil rights and justice for all.

3) Do you believe in or promote violent jihad for anything considered offensive to Muslims?

It is believed that a “moderate” Muslim would not call for violence for a mere verbal insult, such as the Muslims who called for the Pope’s death when they mistakenly felt that he insulted Islam.


Moderate Muslims always say that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. The 9/11 attacks marked the start of an unprecedented period of Islamist terror attacks. The graphic chart below shows global terror attacks from September 11 to the May 2013 Woolwich machete attack in London. 


Why don’t the so called moderate Muslims condemn terrorism?

Instead they always make excuses for terrorists or advocate for them. The neighbors of the Chechnyan Muslim family whose sons were responsible for the Boston Marathon terror attack were stunned by the news and said that this nice Muslim family was known for its generosity and kindness. The existence of nice and educated Muslims should never blind us from seeing the deep problems with the ideology of Islam and its jihadist goals that are enshrined deep in the psyche of Muslims. Yes, the problem is with the Muslim jihadists, but so-called “moderate” Muslims have often been silent enablers and defenders. Terrorists could never be as powerful as they are without the subconscious tacit support of so called ‘moderate’ Islamic nations, governments and people.  


 Are there moderate Muslims anyway?

There are many non-fighting members, e.g., accountants, cooks, fund-raisers, logistics specialists, medical doctors, nurses or recruiters – who may play only a passive support role. But all of them have the same ultimate goal, i.e., to defeat the enemy. Similarly, there are many ways to support jihad, besides personal violence. The peaceful Muslims we know are playing this passive support role and the ultimate goal is to conquer the world for Islam by wiping out the infidels and their civilizations. Though the concerned governments, such as those in the West, spend billions to protect their citizens from Islamic jihadis, the policy-makers often fail to see this point. They realize the impact of radical Islam, but fail to pay attention to moderate Islam. When terrorists are slaughtering people for Islam; how can the moderate Muslims boldly assert (despite hard evidence to the contrary) that Islam is a peaceful religion?  The silence of moderate Muslims against terrorists make them hypocrites. A moderate Muslim can change into an extremist Muslim or terrorist in a single night. Moderate Muslims need to do more than mere lip-service condemnation of terrorism.


Moderate Muslims need to speak loudly against terrorism:

American Muslim leaders said they stand against terrorism committed in the name of Islam, trying to distance themselves from the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings who were identified as Muslims with ties to Chechnya. “Just because they say they’re Muslim doesn’t make them Muslim,” Abdul-Haqq said at the press conference convened by CAIR and other leading Muslim groups. “These are criminal acts, not religious acts.” American Muslim leaders have gone to great lengths to stress that their religion does not condone violence and that terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam contradict the faith. Muslim groups appealed to Americans not to rush to judgment and not to lash out at innocent people. “Every faith has within it heretical elements, and unfortunately some young people will listen to those elements,” said CAIR spokesman Corey Saylor. “What you’re looking at now is a force that is pushing back against that loudly and clearly.” 


So called ‘moderate’ Muslims’ ire against movie depicting Islamic terrorism:

Recently 23 Muslim parties and outfits threatened to launch protests against Indian actor & director Kamal Hassan’s movie ‘Viswaroopam’ for anti-Muslim bias as he showed some terrorists reading holy Quran and then committing carnage. The movie was approved & certified by Indian censor board for public viewing but yet banned by Tamilnadu government to prevent violence. Ultimately Kamal Hassan compromised, deleted some dialogues and the movie was released. I want to ask those 23 Muslim parties and outfits two questions:

1. What have you done to prevent terrorism?

2. Did you ever help police in catching any extremist?  


“Have U.S. Muslim leaders done as much as they should to speak out against extremists?” A remarkable 48 percent said “Have not done enough,” compared to 34 percent who said they have “Done as much as they should.” This was found out in the 2011 Pew Research Center poll about American Muslims.  In other words, half of American Muslims don’t think their own leaders have worked hard enough to counter extremism! If American Muslims say—despite their self-interest and peer pressure—that half their own leaders haven’t done enough, why shouldn’t the rest of the world come to the same conclusion? And why shouldn’t changing that situation be a major priority rather than acting as if no problem exists? If the enemy is not going to be defined as radical Islam or Islamism or some other phrase that identifies the issue, then how can anyone campaign against such doctrines? There are virtually no programs at mosques to explain why terrorist, Islamist, and extremist Islamic positions are wrong and bad. Wrong because they don’t accord with what those who say so deem to be a “proper” Islam; bad because they are immoral, ruin the lives of those who embrace such ideology, and hold back the societies where enough people have such a view. There is remarkably little literature and few preachers—especially ones who are as well-financed as the radicals—that a young Muslim is going to read on Internet or hear on videos or elsewhere to learn about moderate path.  


Bottom line:       

The important reason why Sikh terrorism was eliminated in Punjab, India is because moderate Sikhs stopped supporting militant Sikhs and in fact moderate Sikhs came forward and gave vital information to police to catch the extremist. If you want to eradicate Islamic terrorism, moderate Muslims must come forward and expose extremist Muslims and help police catch extremists. There is no other way out.


Religious terrorism: an evolutionary explanation:

James R. Liddle, Lance S. Bush (both Florida Atlantic University), and Todd K. Shackelford (Oakland University, Michigan) argue in a new paper that, while many small-scale explanations for terrorism have been offered, researchers now should be looking for deeper explanations that tap into evolutionary motives. Their paper, published in Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, focuses specifically on suicide terrorism – a particularly thorny problem for evolutionary explanations (since it’s very difficult to successfully locate a mate and produce healthy offspring if you’ve just blown yourself up outside a café or embassy). That is, since the driving mechanism of all biological evolution is the successful passing of genes into the next generation, how can an action like suicide terrorism – which makes it impossible to contribute anything to the next generation’s gene pool – make any evolutionary sense at all? After explaining the basics of evolutionary psychology, Liddle and colleagues try to answer this question by appealing to explanations of religion. While a number of different hypotheses have been offered over the past decades to explain how religious phenomena could arise out of human evolution, Liddle et al. hint that the best of these is what the late evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould called “exaptation.” An exaptation is a characteristic or behavior in an organism that was originally simply the byproduct of other adaptations, but which has come to fulfill an adaptive purpose of its own over time. Religion, then, may originally have come about because of other human cognitive adaptations, such as the tendency to “see” intelligent beings even where there isn’t anything but, say, the rustling of the wind in the trees. Since then, however, religious practices and beliefs have actually become genetically useful in their own right. For example, a growing body of evidence suggests that religion boosts cooperation within groups and helps bond community members more strongly to one another. This means that human groups with strong religious practices are more likely to weather difficult times successfully and, thus, to survive over time than others. And since most members of any small tribal group are genetically related, a boost in survival rates for the group is good for the shared genes, even if it’s not always good for individual humans. So religion, while originally merely a random offshoot of other, unrelated cognitive adaptations, is now an adaptive function. But what does this have to do with terrorism? Well, plenty – since religion increases ingroup prosociality, or the tendency to help other members of one’s own community, then religious language and imagery may very well help convince people to give their lives for what they take to be their religious “families.” It’s not such a great leap; the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all use familial language to describe their spiritual values, calling God “father” and other believers “sisters” and “brothers.” This type of language may encourage suicide bombers to behave in ways that will help the greater community, even at the cost of the individual terrorists’ lives. Essentially, the authors assert, this model represents a “misfiring” of an evolved tendency to help members of one’s own family. Giving your life for your brother’s children actually helps your own genes, since those children share a substantial part of your genome. However, even though sacrificing yourself for a wider religious community doesn’t actually give you any such genuine genetic benefit, you still feel as if you’re doing the right thing because the evolved behavioral triggers have been activated by religious language evoking family and kin. In other words, suicide bombers are following an ancient, hardwired program that helps genes survive by encouraging individuals to sacrifice themselves for people who share their DNA. Extremist religion, it seems, just hijacks that program and uses it for a different purpose. The authors note, in addition, that many families of Pakistani suicide bombers have been the recipients of significant death payments from Hamas and other Islamist organizations, making the link between religion, self-sacrifice, and benefiting one’s own family even clearer. The second major part of Liddle et al.’s hypothesis is the promise of life after death. This conjecture is fairly straightforward: because religions like Islam claim that believers will be rewarded in paradise, the most obvious drawback to suicide terrorism – that the terrorists don’t live to tell stories about it down at the local barbershop – becomes less of an issue. Thus, when potential suicide bombers are weighing the costs and benefits of committing an act of terrorism, the specter of death seems far less forbidding. Liddle and colleagues offer suggestions for future lines of research, including investigating whether psychological priming with kin-related words increases people’s support for suicide terrorism. While many of their proposals won’t seem particularly novel to students of evolutionary science and the scientific study of religion, these researchers are perhaps the first to explicitly posit a link between religion, evolutionary behavior, and terrorism in a publication geared toward a broader scholarly audience. Of course, terrorism isn’t only a religious phenomenon – a wide range of political, economic, and psychological factors are obviously also at play. But there’s no denying that extremist religion is a real player in modern terrorism, and evolutionary explanations may play a key role in understanding why.


I quote from my article on ‘Science of Religion’:

Religion and politics are the two sided of the same coin with ‘religious diktats’ and ‘political will’ influence people’s life. It is the DNA and the mirror neurons in human brain that will determine the complex social behavior of an individual in society depending on the genetic code and the experiences of mirror neurons since childhood. Religiosity, culture, empathy and communication through language are functions of these mirror neurons under genetic influence.


I quote from my article on “Science against racism”:

Genes have an impact on cultural evolution via psychological predispositions on cultural learning. Genes encode much of the information needed to form the human brain. Genes constrain the brain’s structure and, hence, the ability of the brain to acquire and store culture. Genes may also endow individuals with certain types of transmission bias. Culture can profoundly influence gene frequencies in a population. One of the best known examples is the prevalence of the genotype for adult lactose absorption in human populations, such as Northern Europeans and some African societies, with a long history of raising cattle for milk. Other societies such as East Asians and Amerindians retain the typical mammalian genotype in which the body shuts down lactase production shortly after the normal age of weaning. This implies that the cultural practice of raising cattle for milk led to selection for genetic traits for lactose digestion. Recently, analysis of natural selection on the human genome suggests that civilization has accelerated genetic change in humans over the past 10,000 years. Ethnicity is culture. If your ancestors develop a culture, it is because they adapted to it. This violates the taboo that says humans are above nature, not shaped by it. Each ethnicity has produced unique traits that are worth preserving. Different ethnicities amount to different abilities due to different traits caused by different evolutionary paths resulting in constant infighting which may ultimately lead to war.


As far Islam is concerned, religion and culture merge. Religion becomes culture. So a child born in a Muslim family whose parents and ancestors were all Muslims for hundreds of years, would inherit genetic code of living in a Muslim way. Since other religions (non-believers) are considered infidels in Islam and since childhood, his mirror neurons copy hatred towards infidels through family, madrassa and sacred texts, he is likely to show extremist tendency at slight provocation or hardship or injustice; as he is carrying an Islamic genetic code consolidated by learning through mirror neurons. In my view, this is one of the reason of Islamic terrorism if I am allowed to use such term. If moderate Muslims start giving respect to other religions and do not call non-believers as infidels, then the problem can be solved.


Poverty and terrorism:

A natural response to the September 11th terrorist attacks against the United States has been an attempt to understand their root causes. Only by understanding the causes of terrorism can we win the war against it and prevent future attacks. The notion of being able to empirically study anything, even terrorism, is the essence of Westernism. If we can understand it, then we can control it. Unfortunately, most political, religious, and business leaders alike, as well as journalists and academics have abandoned empirical study in favor of a commonly held myth, that poverty is the root cause of terrorism. Colin Powell has said we will follow through on our campaign against terrorism by going after its root: poverty. At the World Economic Forum, Gloria Arroyo, president of the Philippines, went so far as to say “terrorism and poverty are twins”. The belief that poverty is to blame for terrorism is repeated so frequently by so many that few people question its truth. It is such a widespread and strongly held belief that those who advocate it don’t even bother to offer evidence for it. Is this because it is indeed self-evident and needs no empirical support? Or, is it because there is no empirical data to support it?


Poverty, economic disadvantage and globalization:

Terrorists may be driven by a sense of relative depravation and lack of upward mobility within society. Globalization and the modern media have given the ‘have nots’ an acute awareness of their situation compared to the ‘haves’. As Omer Taspinar states in Fighting Radicalism, Not Terrorism, “Globalization creates an acute awareness about opportunities available elsewhere. This leads to frustration, victimization, and humiliation among growing cohorts of urbanized, undereducated, and unemployed Muslim youth who are able to make comparisons across countries.” Seeing the economic differences between themselves and the Western world can infuriate some in underdeveloped countries, increasing tension and hostilities. This allows terrorist organizations to gain attention and entry to societies that have felt wronged by these perceived social injustices. Unfortunately the only real way to mitigate this is through economic development of the community, country, and region, but that takes time. For the foreseeable future there will always be those that are disgruntled by the comparison of living standards of the wealthy around the world versus their own, opening the doors to frustration and anger. Thus, this driver is remarkably hard to combat as globalization allows for more mechanisms of comparison between varying global socio-economic levels.

A more important factor may be the social stratification Williams is referring to and inequalities in the distribution of scarce resources. Extensive contemporary media and literature simplify this to the poverty argument (e.g. Murphy (2001) and Kristof (2002)): when a group is absolutely or relatively deprived they rebel. A comprehensive evaluation of the extant literature on the validity of this argument, the Economic Inequality – Political Conflict (EI-PC) hypothesis, has been carried out by Lichbach (1989), who came to the conclusion that “EI-PC studies have produced an equivocal answer about the EI-PC nexus” (p440) regardless the research angle (statistics, rational actor and deprived actor paradigms). Problems Lichbach identified were notions on the lack of exactly defined economic factors influencing the decision to resort to political conflict and the “tolerance for inequality” (p452), according to the Rational Actor (RA) approach shifting to behavioural dissent only when absolute poverty is present, the Deprived Actor (DA) scientific research program’s undefined additional “intermediate psychological processes” (p459), and another not fully explored factor of the (insignificant) influence of collective action (p465). Say, one dismisses the inconclusive research results and assumes that it is a (major) cause fuelling terrorism – proof  by contradiction: roughly 15% of the population consumes 85% of the resources, UN statistics show that citizens in the Third World are worse off now than 30 years ago, while a small faction in those countries enriched themselves, i.e. RA and DA are both present as well as the statistics. If either one of them is true, the West ought to be continuously subject to terrorist acts by (a small group representing) people from these Third World countries. But there is no huge mass uprising of the vast majority of the world population against the few in Western states, nor continuous terrorist attacks carried out by Third World citizens against the West. In fact, the amount of terrorist incidents declined in the 1990s.  Broadening the perspective to globalisation, Galtung (2002) blames the Third World – First World dichotomy as a new version of class conflict based on structural violence. This assertion in itself may provide an explanation as to why widespread social upheaval has not occurred. Proving injustice being done by structural violence is considerably more difficult than an overt assault on a country or discrimination of a target group, and even if one succeeds in convincing one’s own group, they will likely stumble upon resorting to terrorist methods, not possessing sufficient assets to purchase and develop so-called ‘weapons of mass destruction’. This is an example of a wider gap between means and ends. Guelke (1995) explores globalisation, inequality and the Third World from another direction and explores the possible links between economic affluence and a stable liberal democracy, thereby assuming that it would reduce incidence of terrorism. However, at the same time he asserts that a liberal democracy “has proved little more successful than other forms of political systems in overcoming the relative weakness of the state in many Third World societies” (p135) and that economic development is a more important factor to maintain law and order. Guelke is more concerned with intra-Third World conflicts than worldwide international terrorism as “there has been relatively little spill-over from political violence within Third World states into the international arena” (p142) and in addition to economic development, the possible effects a “debilitated” liberal democracy in Third World countries may induce and facilitate, but without formulating a sound conclusion on the matter either.


The World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, in December 2001, is quoted as saying, “This war is viewed in terms of the face of Bin Laden, the terrorism of al-Qaida, the rubble of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, but these are just symptoms. The disease is the discontent seething in Islam, and more generally, the world of the poor.”  Further in 2002, discussing the motivations of terrorists, the then-Secretary of State Collin Powel reiterated, “I fully believe that the root-cause of terrorism does come from situations where there is poverty, where there is ignorance and where people see no hopes in their lives”. Contrastingly, Tony Blair (2007) explores, “…it is also rubbish to suggest that Islamic terrorism is a product of poverty.” These are arguments at their own with mere statements, yet it has been researched and accepted by now that poverty is one such social evil that causes major threats to the entire humanity.


Does Poverty fuels terrorism?

Poverty as per se is not a direct cause of terrorism. It is seen that terrorism can occur anywhere, but is more common in developing societies, rather than in poor or rich countries, and is most likely to emerge in societies characterized by rapid modernization. Within countries, the groups that support and give rise to terrorist movements usually are relatively disadvantaged because of class, ethnic, or religious cleavages. Recruits are also drawn from among poorer and less-educated youth – those with a lack of opportunities to complete secondary or higher education, or unable to find reasonable and respectable jobs.

Is the individual terrorist impoverished? 

 Not necessarily true that a terrorist is primarily impoverished. However prolonged malnourishments, impoverishments coupled with structured inequalities within countries are breeding grounds for violent political movements in general and terrorism in particular. 


The figure below shows relationship between terrorism and income groups:


Unemployment as cause of terrorism:  

US intelligent report in the Middle East once underscores the fact that religion is only being ‘used’ to masking the problem that are essentially economic in nature (Juergensmeyer, 2002:1-9). The report goes further to situate that if jobs are available for the unemployed Egyptians, and Palestinian- that the problem of religious politics in these impoverished societies would quickly vanish. The implication for the above assumption is that unemployment is the core source of terrorism.


Poverty, just as the lack of democracy and state failure, has often been cited by politicians as a root cause of terrorism. This line of thought can also be traced back to prominent scholars such as T. Robert Gurr, and his theory about relative deprivation and political violence. The argument is that when the individuals’ expectations of economic or political goods are not satisfied, they will be more likely to use political violence in order to correct what they see as an injustice. Another similar argument is that not only relative, but also absolute poverty will lead to increased terrorist violence due to the sheer desperation of the population. The grievances that poverty gives rise to might then be exploited by terrorist organizations, to whom the population may turn in order to provide solutions to their problems. Therefore, according to this school of thinking, terrorism is more likely to occur in poor societies. However, much criticism has been directed towards this “rooted in poverty” hypothesis, and political scientists have repeatedly failed to establish any statistically significant connection between the GDP of a given country and its rate of terrorism.  Nor have they been able to establish that terrorists would be economically worse off than the average individual of the society in which they originate. On the contrary, political scientists have found indications that it might be a positive correlation between an individual’s socioeconomic background and their risk of joining terrorist organizations.


Does poverty and poor education make terrorists?

When it comes to identifying the root cause of terrorism, many are compelled to point fingers at poverty and lack of education. The argument, in a nutshell, goes as follows: Poor, uneducated people are easily lured with promises of heaven and can be convinced to blow up other people in order to attain it. However, the idea does not stand its ground when confronted with facts. Marc Sageman of the Foreign Policy Research Institute compiled background data of about 400 Al Qaeda members and discovered that three-quarters belonged to the middle or upper class. He further noted that the “vast majority — 90 percent — came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5 to 6 percent that’s usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways. Economists Efraim Benmelech of Harvard University and Claude Berrebi of the RAND Corporation also came to the same conclusion when they gathered data on Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel from 2000 to 2005. They discovered that education is very much valued in the “terrorism market.” Better educated individuals are more likely to be successful in carrying out large-scale terrorist attacks and have lower chances of getting caught. It should also be noted that the alleged leader of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammed Atta, had a graduate degree, while both Azahari and Noordin M Top, the masterminds of most of the major terrorist attacks over the last decade in Indonesia, were skilled engineers and scientists. None of them were poor; all three came from affluent families. Obviously, these terrorists don’t fit the poor-and-uneducated profile. As such, simply expanding education and eradicating poverty would unlikely affect terrorist recruitment. We need to look deeper. It’s not a coincidence that many terrorist masterminds come from countries with repressive governments, like the Arab states and, arguably, Malaysia. Repressive governments tend to bar legal avenues for voicing dissent, thus making extreme demonstrations of opposition more attractive. When the cost of legal dissent increases — due to threat of legal repercussions — the relative cost of illegal dissent is lowered. Hence terrorism becomes a viable venue. 


A study evaluates the popular hypothesis that poverty, inequality, and poor economic development are root causes of terrorism. Employing a series of multiple regression analyses on terrorist incidents and casualties in ninety-six countries from 1986 to 2002, the study considers the significance of poverty, malnutrition, inequality, unemployment, inflation, and poor economic growth as predictors of terrorism, along with a variety of political and demographic control variables. The findings are that, contrary to popular opinion, no significant relationship between any of the measures of economic development and terrorism can be determined. Rather, variables such as population, ethno-religious diversity, increased state repression and, most significantly, the structure of party politics are found to be significant predictors of terrorism. The article concludes that ‘‘social cleavage theory’’ is better equipped to explain terrorism than are theories that link terrorism to poor economic development. 


Studies on the Relationship between Poverty and Terrorism: there is no direct causal link between poverty and terrorism:

P J Smith wrote in 2002 that, ‘before the 11 September attacks, experts generally considered suicide bombers to be usually poor, [and] not particularly well-educated’ (Smith, 2002: 37). However, numerous studies and surveys, both prior to and since September 2001, have suggested that people who resort to terrorism are normally far from below the poverty line. In 1977 Russell and Miller found that the majority of terrorists they surveyed came from middle class backgrounds. Similarly, following interviews conducted with Islamists in Egyptian jails, Saad Eddin Ibrahim (1980, 440) concluded that they were usually from middle class families, and were ‘significantly above the average in their generation’. More recently, Krueger and Malečková (2002: 28-29) have suggested that a living standard above the poverty line may be positively associated with membership of Hezbollah, and the Jewish extremists they analysed were overwhelmingly from high paid jobs. Also using a country-wide analysis, Daniel Pipes observes that Kuwait’s Islamist party is traditionally dominant in parliament despite the wealthy nature of the state. He also argues that Muslims in Europe and North America are normally wealthier than the general population, and yet this has not stopped the flourishing of militant Islam in the West (2002). Malečková (2005: 41) concludes from these studies, that ‘neither the participants nor the adherents of militant activities… are recruited predominantly from the poor… [and] poverty on a national level does not predict the number of terrorist attacks carried out by individuals coming from a country’. If anything, there seems to be a more convincing relationship between wealth and terrorism. There are criticisms of these studies. Having quoted a senior member of Hamas claiming he has difficulty choosing from the ‘hordes of young men’ who are desperate to become terrorists, De Mesquita (2004: 1) argues that if screening is occurring, it’s not possible to draw conclusions about the pool of willing applicants merely by analyzing those who do become terrorists. Li and Schaub (2004: 237) point out that the definition of poverty is also problematic, as wealthy people (who are more likely to be better informed about the world) may not define their wealth with relation to their fellow countrymen. Berrebi acknowledges in his own work that there were also practical difficulties with inferring levels of poverty. However, if we accept the broad findings of these studies, where does this leave the relationship between poverty and terrorism? Harvard public policy professor Alberto Abadie concluded poor countries do not experience more terrorism than wealthy countries, after he studied wealth, political liberty and other variables in relation to terrorism. He also concluded that political liberty is a better indicator than poverty of terrorist activity.


Poverty as a Facilitator of Terrorism:

Having reviewed the evidence from numerous studies, some possible explanations were suggested as to why a direct causal link has not been found between poverty and terrorism. This is not to say that no link between poverty and terrorism exists, but rather to suggest that ‘terrorism is better understood as emerging from a process of interaction between parties, than as a mechanical cause-and-effect relationship’ (Bjørgo, 2005: 258).  Poverty has a role in facilitating terrorism by providing a moral ‘justification’; by creating support for terrorist tactics amongst the general population and by contributing to structured inequalities which lead to frustration and political violence. Issues such as poverty are important for extremists in order to legitimize their actions. This is evident in Hamas leader Mahmud az-Zahar’s claim that ‘It is enough to see the poverty stricken outskirts of Algiers or the refugee camps in Gaza to understand the factors that nurture the strength of the Islamic Resistance Movement’ (in Pipes, 2002). Liu and Ehlrich (2002: 186-187) observe that although some terrorists are very wealthy themselves, the socioeconomic conditions in their nations often ‘provide a good basis’ for moral indignation. Although no direct causal link exists, poverty is ‘exploited’ by extremists for their own ends (O’Neil, 2003: 1). Terrorist organizations use issues such as poverty in order to ‘exhort the individual to act on behalf’ of the masses (Brynjar and Skjølberg, 2004: 31). Therefore, whilst a terrorist might not be poor, poverty remains an important factor behind terrorism. Poverty also has an important role in creating support for the use of terrorist tactics. As noted by Gunning (in Gurr, 2005a), FARC in Colombia, Hizbollah in Lebanon, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland and Brigate Rosso in Italy have all drawn much of their support from marginalized socioeconomic groups. This observation is supported by a 2004 MacCulloch study: using data based on surveys from over a quarter of a million people, he concluded that the less poverty there is, the less support there is for revolutionary violence (pg 836). However, it is important to note the possibility that support for terrorism may not be a consequence of poverty itself, but rather a consequence of political instability (of which poverty is often a symptom). Some academics believe that the global economic system leaves the majority of people in peripheral countries with little prospect of escaping poverty, meaning that terrorism and internal conflict often result. Critics of globalisation argue that some countries are unable to sustain long-term economic development due to the nature of the global economic system. The result of this, Brynjar and Skjølberg report, is that poverty becomes structural and leads to ‘predatory and praetorian’ political systems, ‘which in turn fosters endemic social unrest and civil violence’ (2004: 29). Whilst prolonged poverty has been observed to lead to apathy (Lazarsfeld and Zeisal in Gurr, 1970: 34), there is also significant evidence that structural problems within a country can lead to terrorism. Schmid (2005: 228) reports that ‘almost a quarter of terrorists in Kashmir cited ‘joblessness’ as a recruiting motive’, and Sassen argues (2002: 315-316) that ‘socioeconomic devastation’ in the ‘global south’ provides a landscape where terrorism can thrive. Structured poverty and inequality within countries ‘are breeding grounds for violent political movements in general and terrorism specifically’. (Gurr (ed.), 2005: 20).  Although they do not exist in a mechanistic cause-effect relationship, poverty facilitates terrorism by enabling terrorists to rationalise their acts; by creating a basis of support for terrorist tactics and by contributing to structured inequalities which increase the likelihood of political violence.


On the whole, we must conclude that there is little reason to be optimistic that a reduction in poverty or increase in educational attainment will lead to a meaningful reduction in the amount of international terrorism without other changes. Jessica Stern has observed that many madresas, or religious schools, in Pakistan are funded by wealthy industrialists, and that those schools deliberately educate students to become foot soldiers and elite operatives in various extremist movements around the world. She further reported that “most madresas offer only religious instruction, ignoring math, science, and other secular subjects important for functioning in modern society.” These observations suggest that, in order to use education as part of a strategy to reduce terrorism, the international community should not limit itself to increasing years of schooling, but should consider very carefully the content of education.


We are told, the Islamic states are poor and undemocratic, which justifies rebellion against their tyrannical rulers. Perhaps most Muslim countries are undemocratic because they are Muslim. When given an electoral choice in 1992, most Algerians preferred the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) over the secular (and corrupt) ruling socialist party—although perfectly aware that FIS’s ideology meant not just “one man, one vote” but “one man, one vote, one time.” Which raises a very uncomfortable question for both conservatives in the U.S., who routinely blast the lack of democracy in the Arab world, and the human rights fundamentalists such as Amnesty International on the left, who support absolute democracy and at the same time condemn the Islamist disregard of all freedoms, as in Iran. The apologists of Marxism and Islamism also need to answer another basic question. Did such regimes as, say, Iran, Afghanistan under the Taliban, or the late regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union actually make the life of ordinary citizens better, or worse? And why would “democracy” be better in Saudi Arabia morally, ideologically, and practically, where the chances of an Islamist getting elected are at least as great as in Algeria? Does it make sense for the European Union to condemn Turkey for proscribing (constitutionally, one might add) Islamist parties? Does Brussels really believe that an Islamic-governed Turkey is better than the current, secular Turkey, a NATO ally? The poor in Muslim states may be the popular base of terrorist support, but they have neither the money nor the votes (who votes doesn’t count, who counts them does, in Stalin’s immortal words) the privileged do. Ultimately, Islamic terrorism, just as its Marxist or secessionist version in the West and Latin America was, is a matter of power—who has it and how to get it—not of poverty. Accepting this as a fundamental aspect of terrorism does not suggest any immediate solutions, but can direct further study toward better explanations of terrorism and theories with some potential predictive value.


Organized crime and terrorism:


The figure below shows spectrum of criminal activities right from gang activity to terrorism:



Organized crime, narcotic trade and terrorism:

Organized criminal groups dealing with narcotics as well as terrorist groups are non-state actors. They are leading a war against states, or the international community, and they operate on a transnational level. Therefore, a state acting on its own is not able to play a decisive role in the progress of these wars. The term ‘narcoterrorism’ was coined during the last two decades, especially to describe the violent activities of the Latin American drug cartels which aimed at influencing governments’ policies as well as societal attitudes. Narcoterrorism refers to the violent and intimidation techniques employed by drug barons and mafias in support of their narcotics production, trafficking, and distribution activities. Narcoterrorism has nothing to do with politically or ideologically motivated terrorist activities. Violent activities are an integral part of the narcotics business, and associated violence is as old as the narcotics trade itself. However, during the last few years, and more precisely since the 9/11 attacks, a new phenomenon has drawn the attention of counter-terrorism and law enforcement authorities, that is the presumed institutionalized cooperation or alliance between “narcotics terrorism” and “political terrorism” or “ideological terrorism”. So far there is no single term to describe this new phenomenon. In many reports and publications on terrorist groups, particularly in the political and academic literature published in the aftermath of 9/11, there are references to the “multiple links” that exist between resistance/terrorist groups and organized crime syndicates. They focus in particular on the drug lords and the assumed links between them and warlords. In fact, it is only in Latin America that evidence could be found proving the presence of strong relations between the narcotics producers/traffickers and some terrorist or militia groups, such as the Marxist FARC, AUC and ELN in Colombia and the Shining Path in Peru. Afghan President Hamed Karzai, for example, asserted in September 2004, that there is a direct relationship between security and drugs. He blamed three factors for insecurity in Afghanistan: terrorism, foreign support for terrorism, and opium cultivation, which he said, also promotes terrorist activities. President Karzai has cautioned the international community categorically by asserting, “Either we kill poppies, or poppies will kill us.”  Some reports have even tried to link Hezbollah of Lebanon to hashish production and trafficking. Their claims about the organization’s involvement in the drug trade are based on the fact that Hezbollah militias enjoy strong influence in and control over the main hashish production areas in southern Lebanon and the Bekaá valley near the Lebanon-Syrian border. However, apart from this geographical linkage, there is no accurate information or credible evidence to prove the truth of such claim:



Terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime are increasingly intertwined. Wechsler noted four trends in terrorism and transnational crime:

— Terrorist groups are adopting criminal techniques, including drug trafficking, to raise funds;
— Criminal organizations are adopting terrorist techniques, such as beheadings;
— Terrorist organizations and criminal organizations that have been separate are now “working together in ways that previously we hadn’t seen … [such as] the attempted assassination of a Saudi ambassador in the United States”;

— Some countries are using criminal activity to produce revenue.



Nowhere is the link between transnational organized crime, insurgency and terrorism more apparent than in Afghanistan, where the Taliban continues to receive a large percentage of its revenue through heroin trade.


As a general rule, drug production and narcotics trafficking has increased in the areas which are under the control of terrorist groups and vice versa. A terrorist group’s involvement in the narcotics trade could be motivated by the following factors:
1) Monetary aim: Terrorist groups, directly or indirectly, get involved in drug production and marketing for financial gains which constitute a major source to fund their activities and support the group’s survival.
2) Political aim: Terrorist groups could, politically and strategically, justify dealing in drugs as a means to undermine the integrity of the ‘enemy society’ of the ‘targeted state(s).’ This political objective could be achieved by providing protection and support, directly or indirectly, to drug cultivation, processing, smuggling, and marketing the illicit drugs in the ‘enemy society’ at cheap, affordable prices, through a wide distribution network with the ultimate aim of encouraging the drug habit among the youth of the targeted state(s). This would amount to a deliberate attack targeting the integrity and basic values of the ‘enemy’ society, and undermining the state’s authority and law enforcement.
3) Logistical and technical cooperation: Terrorist groups can utilize the illegal activities of the drug traffickers, and their experience in operating against the law, to facilitate their activities and serve their objectives. By their very nature, organized criminal groups and terrorist groups are both illegal and pursuing clandestine activities. Consequently, both are targets of law enforcement forces. As a result, the groups learn techniques to counter these forces. Terrorist groups, as well as armed groups, offer protection and a safe haven for drug groups. The interdependence between the two groups could potentially encourage the establishment of closer ties based on practical and mutual benefits.  


Areas of possible cooperation:
The potential areas of cooperation could be summarized as follows:
1) Trafficking in arms, ammunitions, explosives and trade in WMD material and exchange of know-how. This could be done by bartering drugs with weapons or other required material.
2) Human smuggling and trafficking activities which could be utilized by terrorist groups to infiltrate international borders and smuggle terrorist elements in while avoiding border control.
3) Contract assassinations, kidnapping and victim transfers.
4) Money laundering and illegal funds transfer.
5) Terrorist groups could utilize organized crime-related corruption to provide linkage with corrupt officials and law enforcement.
6) Sub-contracting documents for forgery and counterfeit.

7) Sub-contracting information and intelligence gathering.


Link between terrorism and organized crime:


In terms of comparisons between terrorist and organized criminal groups, the activities of the two types of organizations are seen as fundamentally different:

1. Organised crime is generally politically conservative. Its orientation is rarely towards political change but to making money or consolidating its power within the existing political and social system. However organized crime groups may seek to profit from political change that does take place. A good example is the way Russian organized crime groups profited from the privatization of state assets following the collapse of the Soviet system.

2. Terrorist groups generally seek the overthrow of the political status quo. They may see their actions as aimed at defending particular communities or redressing political and injustices when all other means have, in their eyes, failed. 



Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism:



Whether the ends are financial gain or terrorism, the means are the same. Counterfeiting is widely used to generate cash for diverse criminal organizations. In the case of DVD film piracy, criminal groups are moving to control the entire supply chain, from manufacture to distribution to street sales, consolidating power over this lucrative black market and building substantial wealth and influence in virtually every region of the globe. A study presents the findings of research into the involvement of organized crime and terrorist groups in counterfeiting a wide range of products, from watches to automobile parts, from pharmaceuticals to computer software. It presents detailed case studies from around the globe in one area of counterfeiting, film piracy, to illustrate the broader problem of criminal—and perhaps terrorist—groups finding a new and not-much-discussed way of funding their nefarious activities. Although there is less evidence of involvement by terrorists, piracy is high in payoff and low in risk for both groups, often taking place under the radar of law enforcement.  In Italy, a former Mafia boss turned government witness outlined how the Camorra, at times working in cooperation with Chinese and Taiwanese triads, generated millions of dollars from counterfeiting, including film piracy. In Malaysia, the Ang Bin Hoey triad has engaged in turf battles to maintain control over lucrative piracy markets, battles that resulted in knife and spear fights; robberies of bystanders, including families at bus stops; and assassinations of rival gang leaders. The tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has emerged as the most important financing center for Islamic terrorism outside the Middle East, channeling $20 million annually to Hezbollah. At least one transfer of $3.5 million was donated by known DVD pirate Assad Ahmad Barakat, who received a thank-you note from the Hezbollah leader. Barakat was labeled a “specially designated global terrorist” by the U.S. government in 2004.  As these cases indicate, DVD piracy, which has a higher profit margin than narcotics and minimal risks of enforcement, is attractive around the world as an element of criminal portfolios that also include drugs, money laundering, extortion, and human smuggling. The 14 case studies provide compelling evidence of a broad, geographically dispersed, and continuing connection between film piracy and organized crime. Moreover, three of the documented cases provide clear evidence that terrorist groups have used the proceeds of film piracy to finance their activities.  


Terrorism and cricket:

Recent IPL cricket saga in India revealed that organized crime is involved in betting & spot fixing and the huge profits of betting is diverted into terror financing by organized crime. Cricket which is considered as a religion in India has now become a national security risk. Notwithstanding, cricket stadiums are full of Indian people, as for them, entertainment is more important than morality as well as threat to their life as terror financing will cause more terrorist attacks. I have proved in my article ‘Entertainment’ that entertainment reduces ability to survive and IPL saga has confirmed it vividly.    


Terror financing:


The table below shows operational costs of various terror attacks:


Al-Qaida’s fund raising methods:

– Subscription/membership fees

– Investment projects

– Front companies

– False contracts

– Robbing state banks/bank employee

– Forging checks

– Credit card fraud

– Counterfeiting/forging currency

– Kidnapping

– Extortion

– Arms smuggling

– Drug trafficking

– Various trafficking (cars…)



Was Al-Qaeda funded by bin laden money or opium money?

Al Qaeda has primarily been funded from donations through fundraising. Indeed, according to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, bin Laden did not have an inherited $300 million, as is commonly thought: From about 1970 until 1993 or 1994, Osama Bin Laden received about a million dollars per year—adding up to a significant sum, to be sure, but not a $300 million fortune. In 1994 the Saudi government forced the Bin Laden family to find a buyer for Osama’s share of the family company and to place the proceeds into a frozen account. The Saudi freeze had the effect of divesting Bin Laden of what would otherwise have been a $300 million fortune.  According to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States 2004 Staff Monograph, there is no evidence that Al Qaeda ever traded in drugs. This conclusion is supported by a number of reasons: al Qaeda members are geographically hemmed in and are unable to travel as the narcotics business demands. Trafficking would unnecessarily expose al Qaeda operatives to risks of detection or arrest…. Established traffickers have no reason to involve al Qaeda in their lucrative businesses; associating with the world’s most hunted men would attract unwanted attention to their activities…. Al Qaeda neither controls territory nor brings needed skills and therefore has no leverage to break into the sector.


Terrorism Money Trail:

Zakat donations (Individuals, companies, banks)

Bank transfers

Charities and relief organizations

Local charity & relief offices

Hawala transfers

Terrorist organization

Local fraudulent schemes & criminal activities


Terrorism and zakat:

The al-Qaeda network extensively utilized the weakness of legal rules to rely on funds diverted from the Zakat and other direct donations through Islamic banks and since 1998, Osama bin Laden made regular calls for Muslims to donate through the Zakat system to his organization. In December 1998, during an interview with ABC News, Osama bin Laden stated that : “Muslims and Muslim merchants, in particular, should give their zakat and their money in support of this state [Taliban regime] which is reminiscent of the state of Medina (Al- Munawwarah), where the followers of Islam embraced the Prophet of God”.


The ‘roadmap’ of the ‘New Economy of Terror’ begins with its sources of financing, which encompass both legitimate and illegitimate means, and which can be grouped under the following broad headings:

a. Sympathetic governments, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran;

b. Islamic charitable organizations;

c. Legitimate businesses operating as fronts;

d. Exploitation of financial markets, especially the unregulated commodities markets;

e. Money laundering and trade diversion;

f. International trade, which can, for example, convert cash into precious commodities such as diamonds and gold;

g. Criminal activities, in the context of both ‘petty crime’ and ‘organized crime’, such as;

i. Extortion;

ii. Smuggling;

iii. Kidnapping;

iv. Prostitution rings and people trafficking;

v. Credit card fraud, identity theft and counterfeiting;

vi. Pirating of videos, compact discs, tapes and software;

vii. Arms dealing;

viii. Narco-terrorism, or the illegal trade in drugs such as heroin, hashish, cocaine and methamphetamines.

The most important feature of this ‘roadmap’ is the interconnectedness between these various financing sources that are at the heart of the ‘New Economy of Terror’, which as Ehrenfeld (2005) points out, has the effect of linking “money, geography, politics, arms, and tactics” to create a devastatingly powerful ‘alternative’ or ‘underground’ economy with an annual global turnover of roughly twice the GDP of the United Kingdom. As is readily apparent from the above list, these links fall into two main categories: linkages between terrorism and crime (whether organized or petty crime), and linkages between terrorism and apparently legitimate business, charitable and financial structures and mechanisms.


State sponsors have constituted a major form of funding; for example, Palestine Liberation Organization, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and some other terrorist groups were funded by the Soviet Union. The Stern Gang received funding from Italian Fascist officers in Beirut to undermine the British Mandate for Palestine. Pakistan has created and nurtured terrorist groups as policy for achieving tactical objectives against its neighbors, especially India. “Revolutionary tax” is another major form of funding, and essentially a euphemism for “protection money”. Revolutionary taxes are typically extorted from businesses, and they also “play a secondary role as one other means of intimidating the target population”.  Other major sources of funding include kidnapping for ransoms, smuggling, fraud and robbery.  


300% rise in terror financing cases: Finance Ministry India:

Over 1,400 instances of terror financing in India’s economic channels were red-flagged by intelligence and security agencies last year, a latest report of the Finance Ministry says.


Money laundering and terrorism:

Often linked in legislation and regulation, terrorism financing and money laundering are conceptual opposites. Money laundering is the process where cash raised from criminal activities is made to look legitimate for re-integration into the financial system, whereas terrorism financing cares little about the source of the funds, but it is what the funds are to be used for that defines its scope. An in-depth study of the symbiotic relationship between organized crime and terrorist organizations detected within the United States of America and other areas of the world referred to as crime-terror nexus points has been published in the forensic literature. The Perri, Lichtenwald and MacKenzie article emphasizes the importance of multi-agency working groups and the tools that can be used to identify, infiltrate, and dismantle organizations operating along the crime-terror nexus points. Terrorists use low value but high volume fraud activity to fund their operations.  Paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland were using legitimate businesses such as hotels, pubs and taxi operators to launder money and fund political activities. Even beyond Ireland, terrorists are buying out/controlling front-end businesses especially cash-intensive businesses including in some cases money services businesses to move monies. Bulk cash smuggling and placement through cash-intensive businesses is one typology. They are now also moving money through the new online payment systems. They also use trade linked schemes to launder money. Nonetheless, the older systems have not given way. Terrorists also continue to move money through MSBs/Hawalas, and through international ATM transactions. Charities also continue to be used in countries where controls are not so stringent. 


Terrorism and media:


Without communication terrorism would not exist. While publicity has been a central goal of most terrorists throughout history, the means of communication have advanced from word-of-mouth accounts by witnesses to news reporting in the print press, radio, newsreel, and eventually television, which has greatly enhanced terrorists’ propaganda capabilities. More recently, the Internet has emerged as a new and the perhaps the most potent propaganda platform for terrorist. In the course of the last decade revolutionary changes have occurred in the mass media, especially with the emergence of the Internet and its various outlets.


What terrorists want from media:

1. Terrorists need publicity, usually free publicity that a group could normally not afford or buy. Any publicity surrounding a terrorist act alerts the world that a problem exists that cannot be ignored and must be addressed. From a terrorist perspective, an unedited interview with a major figure is a treasured prize, such as the May 1997 CNN interview with Saudi dissident, terrorist recruiter and financier Osama Bin Laden. For news networks, access to a terrorist is a hot story and is usually treated as such.

2. They seek a favorable understanding of their cause, if not their act. One may not agree with their act but this does not preclude being sympathetic to their plight and their cause. Terrorists believe the public “needs help” in understanding that their cause is just and terrorist violence is the only course of action available to them against the superior evil forces of state and establishment. Good relationships with the press are important here and they are often cultivated and nurtured over a period of years.

3. Terrorist organizations may also seek to court, or place, sympathetic personnel in press positions–particularly in wire services–and in some instances may even seek to control smaller news organizations through funding.

4. Legitimacy. Terrorist causes want the press to give legitimacy to what is often portrayed as ideological or personality feuds or divisions between armed groups and political wings. For the military tactician, war is the continuation of politics by other means; for the sophisticated terrorist, politics is the continuation of terror by other means. IRA and Hamas are examples of groups having “political” and “military” components. Musa Abu Marzuq, for example, who was in charge of the political wing of Hamas is believed to have approved specific bombings and assassinations. Likewise, the “dual hat” relationship of Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein–the purported political wing of the IRA–to other IRA activities is subject to speculation. Distinctions are often designed to help people join the ranks, or financially contribute to the terrorist organization.

5. They also want the press to notice and give legitimacy to the findings and viewpoints of specially created non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and study centers that may serve as covers for terrorist fund raising, recruitment, and travel by terrorists into the target country. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad-funded and controlled World and Islam Studies Enterprise is but one known example. The Hamas-funded Islamic Association for Palestine (LAP) in Richardson, Texas, is another of many.

6. In hostage situations–terrorists need to have details on identity, number and value of hostages, as well as details about pending rescue attempts, and details on the public exposure of their operation. Particularly where state sponsors are involved, they want details about any plans for military retaliation.

7. Terrorist organizations seek media coverage that causes damage to their enemy. This is particularly noticeable when the perpetrators of the act and the rationale for their act remain unclear. They want the media to amplify panic, to spread fear, to facilitate economic loss (like scaring away investment and tourism), to make populations lose faith in their governments’ ability to protect them, and to trigger government and popular overreaction to specific incidents and the overall threat of terrorism.



By its very nature, a terroristic act is meant to be impressive. It is calculated to be an attention-getting activity. The watchers are those whom the terrorist wishes to impress; the very horror of all terroristic behavior lies in the incidental role assigned to the instant victim and the callous indifference towards his fate displayed by the perpetrator. These objects, for they can be classified no higher, of the terrorists’ attentions are mere pawns in a larger power play. The goal of terrorism is not to kill or destroy property but to break the spirit of the opposition. A minister is assassinated: his successor takes warning. A policeman is killed; ten others tremble. High tension lines are sabotaged; the news sweeps over the country. Terrorism seeks above all to create a sensation – within the ranks of the enemy, in the public opinion and abroad. The basic theory of terrorism is strikingly akin to that of general deterrence. Both require the aid of extensive publicity to reach their ulterior targets. While the role of the media is clearly, in the one case, legitimate by association, it is the association itself which is called in question when the media is used by the terrorist to attain his objective.


The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher once quipped that media coverage is the ‘oxygen of terrorism.’ Two economists Bruno Frey and Dominik Rohner, in a recent study of high profile press coverage ‘Blood and Ink! The Common-Interest-Game between Terrorists and the Media’ suggest that there is at least a two way set of interests involved in the media/terrorism relationship. They argue that mass media and terrorist groups help each other out. For every act of terror, circulation and profits of newspapers increase, and terrorist groups get publicity, feeding further acts of terror in an escalating cycle of violence and spectacle (Frey & Rohner 2006).


The above graph demonstrates that post-9/11, whilst the incidences of international terrorism have increased, the coverage of such events has increased disproportionately, at times three or fourfold the degree of coverage that would have obtained for the same number of terrorist fatalities pre-9/11. When we add electronic media into the equation, where our screens can be interrupted by blanket-feed coverage from CNN for days about an incident, mass media certainly raise the tempo of insecurity, and induce fears about personal and collective safety. 


Terrorism and the Mass Media: A symbiotic relationship:

Over the last two decades, the influence of the mass media has grown enormously. People from all over the world are now able to collect information about all kinds of issues from a wide variety of sources, including television, the internet and newspapers. Terrorists seek to publicize their cause, influence public opinion and have become aware of the impact of mass media. Terrorist groups have thus discovered the usefulness of the mass media. On the other hand, media outlets seek to meet the needs of their consumers by providing stories that contain a number of specific elements: dramatic incidents, emotional resonance, or some highly disturbing aspect. Stories that directly affect the audience have also been found to have the greatest impact. On the basis of these well-established findings, researchers posit a symbiotic relationship between mass media and terrorist organizations.  Author Soriano concludes that Al Qaeda has evolved its media techniques along with the evolving media and technological landscape of the world today. Though Western media had traditionally dominated over public opinion, this is changing as new mediums such as Al Jazeera and the internet offer new options for Al Qaeda to speak to the public. With strong ties to Al Jazeera and the seemingly low risk access to the internet, Al Qaeda is moving forward with a new media strategy that gives them access to an “unlimited public”. The symbiotic relationship between the media and terrorists is multi-layered and media is being used as a tool of those who wish to manipulate audiences into supporting violence and terror. So media not only gives publicity to terrorists which inspire them to cause more spectacular mass murder but also manipulate some people to in fact support terror. “Terrorism is basically a media phenomenon,” says Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University and author of The Mind of a Terrorist. “You can look at it as a species of psychological warfare waged through the media.” This means that while we know terrorists influence the media, media coverage also influences terrorists.


Just imagine that you’re a terrorist with limited funds and you want to wreak havoc. You only have a few bombs, but you want your message broadcast to the world. How do you get the best bang for your buck? The answer is simple: turn the media into broadcasters for your acts of terrorism.  As the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon shows, the way for terrorists to broadcast their message to the world is to get the attention of the world media. Today’s terrorists know that they have the media at their disposal — CNN, ABC, NBC and the rest, including their online counterparts, are all at their beck and call — because today’s media outlets have 24 hours of airtime to fill, and what’s more salacious than the murder and mayhem of terrorism? There is a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media — especially television media. Not long after Americans were alerted to the news of the Boston bombings, the coverage quickly escalated to a frenzied level, with every possible angle being covered, whether inane or newsworthy. From minute-by-minute updates on the bombings to reports on what the average American thinks about the bombings, there is little ground that has not already been covered mere days after the tragic event. Take a look at CNN’s website coverage of the Boston bombings and the stories range from a moment by moment photo sequence of moments right after the blast, to photo and video reports from eyewitnesses on the scene, as well as an interactive map and timeline tracking the explosions and their aftermath. It’s almost as if they were creating an interactive video game. Yet does all this coverage really help us understand the tragedy any more or navigate terrorists and reduce a genuine tragedy to an entertainment spectacle? While journalists have a responsibility to report the news accurately and honestly, they play right into the hands of the terrorists when they cross over into entertainment reporting with the kind of continuous coverage we have been experiencing with the Boston bombings. As renowned terrorism expert Walter Laqueur writes in his book, The New Terrorism, “It has been said that journalists are terrorists’ best friends because they are willing to give terrorist operations maximum exposure. This is not to say that journalists as a group are sympathetic to terrorists, although it may appear so. It simply means that violence is news, whereas peace and harmony are not. The terrorists need the media, and the media find in terrorism all the ingredients of an exciting story.”  One reason terrorists’ use the tactics they do is to get publicity and thereby get their message across. However, in addition to providing them with a megaphone to the world, the publicity actually encourages further terrorist acts and also serves as a recruiting tool for more terrorists — whether foreign or homegrown. In other words, by shining a constant spotlight on these acts of terror, the media actually serve to spawn the system of terror. As Laqueur points out, “Terrorists have always recognized the importance of manipulating the media.” Indeed, terrorists the world over have mastered the art of marketing themselves to a sensationalism-driven media, and the media lap it up. Ask yourselves: why do terrorists fly planes into buildings and blow up buildings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon? Do they do it to be mean, or because they like to destroy things? Perhaps in part. But the real motivation behind these acts of urban terrorism is the attention the terrorists receive from the world media. Laqueur quotes one terrorist leader as saying, “If we put even a small bomb in a house in town, we could be certain of making the headlines in the press. But if the rural guerrilla liquidated 30 soldiers in some village, there was just a small news item on the last page.”


The mass-media has a fundamental role in increasing the efficiency of actors engaging in political violence worldwide. Theorists such as Brigitte Nacos have gone as far as describing this relationship as ‘mass-mediated terrorism’ (2007). She went on arguing that due to the strife for sensational, and the appetite for shocking images, global media actors such as CNN or BBC are providing terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda with the means to enter the ‘triangle of political communication’ (Nacos, 2007), and this way spread the psychological effect of their attacks to their real victims, that is the Western civilian populations. Charles Kegley has correctly pointed out that many times ‘the psychological impact of an attack can exceed the physical damage’ (2003). The trend is indeed worrisome as more and more news channels have shifted from a profile of information to one of ‘infotainment’ (Nacos, 2007). The importance of the media for al-Qaeda has been proved by public diplomacy. Democracy oriented speeches of Osama Bin Laden have been clearly designed to influence the perceptions and the views of the electorates in Western countries, and especially in the United States (Devji, 2008). By getting significant amounts of public exposure, terrorist organizations not only find it increasingly easy to recruit alienated citizens in Western societies and all over the world, but also diminish at the public perception level the existing asymmetry between them and the state system. Furthermore, terrorist organizations such as Hamas or Hezbollah have created their own television companies and ‘hate radios’ (Kaufman in Lennon, 2003) in order to ‘help keep emotions alive’ (Kaufman in Lennon, 2003) among the supporting population group and gain legitimacy for their actions. The empirical data provided so far suggests that a global media war is under way and further proof of this fact is the very creation by the US government in 2002 of a US Office of Strategic Influence, designed to ‘win the battle for hearts and minds’ (Kaufman in Lennon, 2003) of global civilian populations and promote US interests through the material that is being broadcasted on all international television channels (Norris et. al, 2003). By effectively using media channels, al-Qaeda is achieving its main public relations goals such as attracting attention to its cause and goals, getting recognition of its aims, and gaining respect and sympathy from troubled groups of people worldwide (Nacos, 2007). The media also helps terrorist organizations transform their legal status to a quasi-legitimate political one by giving interviews on world renowned media channels where Western leaders are also actively present (Nacos, 2007).


Every schoolchild knows the script: the terrorist, Kalashnikov in hand, transfixed in the glare of the television lights as he displays his hostages before the cameras, stands as a peculiarly modem hybrid of cold- blooded killer, glib ideologue, and fast-talking advertising man. By hijacking an airliner or seizing an embassy he plays master of ceremonies at a media spectacle staged wholly to sell the legitimacy of his political cause and promote his mortal metamorphosis – the erstwhile thug emerges a “guerrilla” or, better still, a “freedom fighter.” The power of today’s media, especially television, makes possible this violent road to legitimacy. The terrorist’s bloody theatrics lure the journalist, who exhibits the hijackings and kidnappings before the world, thereby transforming them into political statements. By providing the terrorist with a podium in exchange for a photo opportunity, by replacing what he does with what he says, the media become indispensable partners in terrorist productions.  


Terrorism is a category of political violence, which is intended to influence foreign and domestic governments, as well as communities. Terrorism uses its immediate victims and material targets for semiotic and symbolic purposes (Lewis 2005). Attacks are designed to create an atmosphere of fear or a sense of threat. In the same vein, terrorism can also refer to politically motivated deeds perpetrated by groups or individuals for the sake of communicating messages to a larger audience (Nacos 2002). In any case, the terrorists’ need for media publicity and media’s need for a greater audience and profits form a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media. This symbiosis is not inevitable. Implementing certain policies that are different than the previous failed policies can facilitate the breaking of that cycle by forcing at least one side of the equation–the media–to act in a more responsible, more conscious, and more cooperative manner. Only then starving the terrorists of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend can become possible and more robust steps can be taken to win the ideological and actual battle against terrorism. The Boston bombing was, undoubtedly, a horrific event, and a big story. We don’t call for some exact equivalence in minutes of TV time devoted to each crime event. But no reasonable person can say that the tidal wave of news coverage that accompanied it was a rational and proportional response to its importance for our nation, when taken in the context of “things that might actually hurt you.” The average American knows who Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is, but has no idea about the gun crime rate. And it still kills far, far more people than 9/11 did. That is not the product of balanced journalism. That is the product of ideology in action. The ideology of terrorism and the ideology of media have something in common, that is to harm society by deceit, by misrepresentation and by spreading panic.   


The other view however, is that championed by the likes of Rick Van Amersfool and David Hohmes, which opines that reporting crime and terrorism is both beneficial to the media, the state and its agencies as well as the public. However in engaging in reportage of this nature, the media should resist the urge for sensationalism, outright falsehood and unnecessary exaggeration and be guided by well tested ethics of the profession – objectivity, control and that which promote healthy values in society. Media practitioners should deliberately work towards building a strong synergy between them and the law enforcement agencies in the task of ensuring safety of lives and property and addressing the scourge of terrorism. We must understand that to achieve their objectives, terrorists need the media much more than a child needs the mother’s breast milk or a thirsty man his water. Terrorists like Osama bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri were believed to be obsessed “with the international media because of their basic need for attention”. To gain attention of the media, terrorists carefully plan and select targets of attack that would attract maximum media coverage. One example here perhaps may suffice to illustrate this tendency: In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, while every eye was glued to the Games, the Palestinian terrorists struck and kidnapped Israeli athletes and thus monopolized the attention of the global television’s estimated 800 million audiences. Media can and should be held to account for the quality, means and consequences of their publishing activities to society in general and/or to other interests that may be affected. I expect the media to stop feeding the public with publications and broadcasts which border on sentiments & emotions and restrain themselves from writing subjective stories, especially ones capable of causing apathy, hatred, despondency and xenophobia in our society. Similarly, I appreciate the importance of a strong, free and incorruptible press in the affairs of any modern state. Thus, I am not, and will not canvass for the restriction of the freedom of the media in any way. I however recommend a responsive and responsible reportage in line with national interests and the prevailing security challenges of the nation.


Internet and terrorism:



Terrorism and the Internet are related in two ways. First, the Internet has become a forum for terrorist groups and individual terrorists both to spread their messages of hate and violence and to communicate with one another and with sympathizers. Secondly, individuals and groups have tried to attack computer networks, including those on the Internet ­ what has become known as cyberterrorism or cyberwarfare.


The growing presence of modern terrorism on the Internet is at the nexus of two key trends: the democratization of communications driven by user generated content on the Internet; and the growing awareness of modern terrorists of the potential of the Internet for their purposes. The internet has long been a favorite tool of the terrorists. Decentralized and providing almost perfect anonymity, it cannot be subjected to control or restriction, and allows access to anyone who wants it. Large or small, terrorist groups have their own websites, using this medium to spread propaganda, raise funds and launder money, recruit and train members, communicate and conspire, plan and launch attacks.


The presence of terrorist groups on the internet is a relatively new phenomenon, the growth of which has exploded in the past decade. Accurate estimates on the number of active terrorist group’s websites vary due to difficulties measuring but, there is a general consensus that in 1996 there was just under 100 websites and to well over 5000 websites today. It is also widely accepted that all Foreign Terrorist Organisation’s listed by the U.S. Department of State website have established an online presence of some form.


Analysts say nearly every group designated as a for­eign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department now has an online presence, including Spain’s Basque ETA movement, Peru’s Shining Path, al Qaeda, the Real Irish Republican Army and others. The Internet appeals to terrorists for the same reasons it attracts everyone else: It’s inexpensive, easily accessible, has little or no regulation, is interactive, allows for mul­timedia content and the potential audience is huge. And it’s anonymous. You can walk into an Internet café, enter a chat room or Web site, download instructions to make a bomb, and no one can find you. They can trace you all the way down to the computer terminal, but by then you’ll already be gone. Terrorism on the Internet extends far beyond Web sites directly operated or controlled by terrorist organizations. Their supporters and sympathizers are increasingly taking advantage of all the tools available on the Web. “The pro­liferation of blogs has been exponential,” says Sulastri Bte Osman, an analyst with the Civil and Internal Conflict Programme at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Just two years ago, Osman could find no extremist blogs in the two predominant languages of Indonesia and Malaysia; today she is monitoring 150. The Internet has certainly added to the problem. Not only do online searches yield recipes for making powerful bombs, they provide access to videos that offer step-by-step instructions.  


Besides providing the perfect environment for the spread of the ideological Islamic “unmah” (Seib, 2008), the recruitment of new members and the launching of attacks against ‘weak-minded Americans’ (Seib, 2008), the internet can provide the instrument to launch cyber attacks on a states’ computer infrastructure and this way not only ‘disrupt the communication infrastructure of a country’ (Kegley, 2003), but also counterbalance the existing power asymmetry. Furthermore, the internet provides vital information about the environment in which an attack is to be carried out in, but also technical information on how to assemble an explosive device. Computer programs and technology available online have made it possible for terrorist cells to communicate without detection by government agencies through chat rooms or encryption programs, therefore increasing the organizational efficiency of the terrorist organization. Furthermore, websites have been used to recruit fans but also to promote propaganda through violent games, imagery, videos of beheadings, or manipulated information. Another way the internet is making al-Qaeda more effective relates to financing. If terrorist organizations had to resort to kidnappings, robberies, or loyal Diasporas, as was the case with the Red Brigades or IRA, nowadays thanks to virtual trade and electronic payment services hackers can get funds much easier and in a more time efficient manner than ever before. Terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda, now have what Seib has termed ‘virtual communities’ (2008) replacing many of the material or logistical needs any terrorist organization seeks to manage in order to function efficiently. Cronin and Ludes correctly stress the fact that terrorism has become an ‘unprecedented threat’ (2004) because of the technology that is now available to an ever increasing number of individuals. This is true especially if we are to compare the challenges a terrorist organization, such as the Red Army faction, had to face in order to attain some political reaction. The same is valid for groups of political violence such as the Russian anarchists, the Irish Fenians, or the Jewish Irgun.


The internet is an un-paralleled media suite. Terrorists no longer have to have their messages diluted and edited by the media. Instead they can disseminate information of their choice to aid their causes. In most cases, this is achieved by the terrorists focusing on their grievances in order to justify why they are resorting to terrorist activities. This is usually achieved by the publication of various articles combined with pictures galleries, although this may be supplemented by video and audio files in which the terrorists themselves orally defend their actions. An example of this would be a gallery of atrocities against innocent civilians in Iraq supposedly carried out by foreign forces in order to generate local as well as international support for the terrorists. Interestingly, the regions with the largest concentrations of terrorist groups — the Middle East and Asia — have some of the lowest Internet usage rates. The highest rates are in developed countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


Why is the internet so attractive to terrorist groups?

The internet is an ideal arena for numerous terrorist activities for several reasons:

  • There is very little regulation or censorship
  • An internet presence is inexpensive to develop and maintain
  • There is a high level of anonymity of communication
  • Information can reach large audiences throughout the world
  • It is very easy to access the internet globally
  • It allows for the combination of different media (images, text and videos etc.) to convey messages
  • It provides for the immediate flow of information


How have terrorists established a presence on the internet?

Terrorist organizations and supporters have established a presence on the internet in several formats. Most notably, they have established a direct presence through:

  • Official terrorist websites – run by the terrorist organizations themselves or by extremist religious scholars.
  • Unofficial terrorist websites – such as discussion forums and blogs which address issues of terrorism (usually from a pro-terrorist perspective).
  • Distributor websites – which provide links to the above as well as other terrorist materials such as online magazines and videos.

It is to be noted that a terrorist presence also exists indirectly on the internet through commercial media reports; governmental websites presenting and commenting on terrorist activities; extreme Anti-Terrorist websites, which generally adopt an extremist political perspective.


Terrorists use internet for:


Data mining

Fund raising







Social media and terrorism:

In a study by Gabriel Weimann from the University of Haifa, Weimann found that nearly 90% of organized terrorism on the internet takes place via social media. According to Weimann, terror groups use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and internet forums to spread their messages, recruit members and gather intelligence. Terror groups take to social media because social media tools are cheap and accessible, facilitate quick, broad dissemination of messages, and allow for unfettered communication with an audience without the filter or “selectivity” of mainstream news outlets.  Also, social media platforms allow terror groups to engage with their networks. Whereas previously terror groups would release messages via intermediaries, social media platforms allow terror groups to release messages directly to their intended audience and converse with their audience in real time:


Anybody with overexposure to Facebook can find pages dedicated to hate and terrorism, but according to SWC Research team member Rick Eaton, Facebook actually does a reasonably good job of either removing them or, in some cases, catching them as they appear. The only hurdle they have related to this problem is actually finding offensive content. “Once Facebook is notified of the existence (of hateful content) – by ourselves or other groups or users – they do get them off the site,” Eaton confirmed with Digital Trends. “Some things such as ‘Holocaust Denial’ are considered ‘discussion’ and are usually left alone unless they get out of hand which usually happens at some point. What about YouTube?  They have taken off some terrorism material such as Anwar Al Awlaki’s videos, but usually only after it has become a major issue (Awlaki was killed in September 2011 by an American drone in Yemen). Offensive videos also have a way of reappearing on the site, and YouTube has yet to find a way to directly deal with that problem. There is an immense amount of how-to stuff on YouTube, not necessarily posted by Jihadists, but [they are] all the same. Cell phone detonators, how to make flamethrowers, napalm … it is all there. Also a lot of things in Arabic and other languages promoting terrorism, as well as an immense amount of hate related material. If you thought that was bad, it gets worse: According to the report, in the last six months, Twitter has exploded (no pun intended) with so much content that classifies as hate and terrorism that the SWC had to give it an F rating. Terrorist groups, hate groups, and other extremists regularly use Twitter to upload links to many sites, including an English magazine Inspire, and its offshoot, The Lone Mujahid Pocketbook (LMP). Both contain many how-to ideas, including how to construct a pressure-cooker bomb, similar to the one used in the Boston Marathon bombings. According to Eaton, LMP was released around two weeks before the bombing at Boston happened.  It was also around that time that Al Qaeda Airlines #4 – a magazine in a mix of English and Arabic – was released; it’s over 600 pages and includes a detailed explanation of Hydrogen Cyanide, and how it could be used to attack a building.


How effective is online terrorist propaganda?

Perhaps the most effective way in which terrorists use the Internet is the spread of propaganda. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda cell in Iraq has proven particularly adept in its use of the web, garnering attention by posting footage of roadside bombings, the decapitation of American hostage Nick Berg, and kidnapped Egyptian and Algerian diplomats prior to their execution. In Iraq, experts say terrorist propaganda videos are viewed by a large portion of society, not just those who sympathize with terrorists and insurgents. In addition to being posted online, the videos are said to be sold in Baghdad video shops, hidden behind the counter along with pornography. Evan Kohlmann, an expert in terrorists’ use of the Internet, points out that propaganda films are not exclusively made in the Middle East; groups from Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Chechnya have also produced videos. Nor are videos the only form of propaganda. Some jihadi websites have even offered video games in which users as young as seven can pretend to be holy warriors killing U.S. soldiers.


What advantages does the Internet offer terrorists?

The greatest advantage of the Internet is stealth. Terrorists swim in an ocean of bits and bytes. Terrorists have developed sophisticated encryption tools and creative techniques that make the Internet an efficient and relatively secure means of correspondence. These include steganography, a technique used to hide messages in graphic files, and “dead dropping”: transmitting information through saved email drafts in an online email account accessible to anyone with the password. The Internet also provides a global pool of potential recruits and donors. Online terrorist fundraising has become so commonplace that some organizations are able to accept donations via the popular online payment service PayPal. Yet some terrorism experts say while the Internet has proven effective at spreading ideology, its use as a planning and operational tool is minimal. For instance, the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November 2008 could never have carried out their strike if they hadn’t received actual training in a physical camp, says terrorism expert Peter Bergen. “We talk about the Internet being important for terrorism, which I think is ridiculous. The people who did the Mumbai attack didn’t sit around reading about how to do attacks on the Internet. They actually went to a training camp in Muzaffarabad for several months.”


Internet not to blame for terrorism: A report:

A new report from the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence is yet another indication that the Internet is not the main culprit for society’s woes. The report, “Countering Online Radicalization: A Strategy for Action,” debunks the myth that the Internet is a major recruiting and training tool for extremists and would-be terrorists. The report focuses primarily on the United Kingdom but has implications for the United States and elsewhere. The authors found “little evidence to support the contention that the Internet plays a dominant role in the process of radicalization.”  That’s not to say that extremists don’t ever use Web sites to reinforce their messages but that “self-radicalization and self-recruitment via the Internet with little or no relation to the outside world rarely happens, and there is no reason to suppose that this situation will change in the near future.”  It also found that “much of the jihadist Web presence was about ‘preaching to the choir'” and that “it is largely ineffective when it comes to drawing in new recruits.” And, of course, there is the issue of creating a false sense of security by thinking that stamping out radical sites will in any way stop terrorism or interrupt the work of the networks which are mostly “real-world social relationships.” Any attempt to remove all potentially radicalizing content from the Internet “would generate social and political costs that would far outweigh the benefits that might be gained from having certain materials removed, especially in the context of a liberal democracy.” The report advocates empowering online communities to self-regulate and enforce their own community standards and, to enhance media literacy to “improve young people’s capacity to deal with extremist internet content critically.”


Potential indicators of Terrorist activities related to Internet Café:

What should I consider suspicious?

People Who:

  • Are overly concerned about privacy, attempts to shield the screen from view of others
  • Always pay cash or use credit card(s) in different name(s)
  • Apparently use tradecraft: lookout, blocker or someone to distract employees
  • Act nervous or suspicious behavior inconsistent with activities
  • Are observed switching SIM cards in cell phone or use of multiple cell phones
  • Travel illogical distance to use Internet Café

Activities on Computer Indicate:

  • Evidence of a residential based internet provider (signs on to Comcast, AOL, etc.)
  • Use of anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address
  • Suspicious or coded writings, use of code word sheets, cryptic ledgers, etc.
  • Encryption or use of software to hide encrypted data in digital photos, etc.
  • Suspicious communications using VOIP or communicating through a PC game

User Computers To:

  • Download content of extreme/radical nature with violent themes
  • Gather information about vulnerable infrastructure or obtain photos, maps or diagrams of transportation, sporting venues, or populated locations
  • Purchase chemicals, acids, hydrogen peroxide, acetone, fertilizer, etc.
  • Download or transfer files with “how-to” content such as:
    • Content of extreme/radical nature with violent themes
    • Anarchist Cookbook, explosives or weapons information
    • Military tactics, equipment manuals, chemical or biological information
    • Terrorist/revolutionary literature
    • Preoccupation with press coverage of terrorist attacks
    • Defensive tactics, police or government information
    • Information about timers, electronics, or remote transmitters / receivers



Cyber-terrorism is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace. It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks against computers, networks and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives…. An attack should result in violence against persons or property, or at least cause enough harm to generate fear. Cyber-terrorism is the purposeful or threatened use of politically, socially, economically or religiously motivated cyber warfare or cyber-targeted violence, conducted by a non-state or state-sponsored group for the purposes of creating fear, anxiety, and panic in the target population, and the disruption of military and civilian assets.


Hundley and Anderson (1996:17) meanwhile have identified a set of potential “bad actors” who have access to cyberspace and the objectives behind their actions:


If your look at the projected eCommerce number for this year, the Internet being down for just one day could disrupt nearly $6.5 billion worth of transactions. More than just eCommerce transactions flow over the Internet; email, voice communications, some banking machines, credit card authorizations for physical stores and the list goes on and on. Information is the life blood of commerce, regulatory oversight and even social status. The importance of the information and the ability to access it, transfer it and act upon it has increased to the point that it is unfathomable for all but the smallest of businesses to operate without computers or networks. As the value of the computing infrastructure increases so to does the value of disruption. The financial implications are one thing, but the psychological impact of the Internet disruption could be even more damaging. How likely is this to happen? It is not, if it will happen, but when. The likelihood of a cyber terrorism attack disrupting the Internet increases every day. The increased reliance on the Internet by business, government and society has made it a prime target for terrorist intent on disrupting our economy and way of life. Security professionals have expressed their increasing concern over not only the increase in frequency of attacks against the Internet, but also the increase in the level of sophistication of these attacks. While the complexity of the attacks is increasing, the skill level of the intruder that launched the attack is decreasing. This is a very troubling trend. As the terrorists learn from every attack what works and what doesn’t, where the vulnerabilities are, how we respond, and the methods we use to detect these attacks, they gain the knowledge that will increase their odds for success. The intention of a cyber terrorism attack could range from economic disruption through the interruption of financial networks and systems or used in support of a physical attack to cause further confusion and possible delays in proper response. Although cyber attacks have caused billions of dollars in damage and affected the lives of millions, we have yet witness the implications of a truly catastrophic cyber terrorism attack.


Some attacks are conducted in furtherance of political and social objectives, as the following examples illustrate:

 In 1996, a computer hacker allegedly associated with the White Supremacist movement temporarily disabled a Massachusetts ISP and damaged part of the ISP’s record keeping system. The ISP had attempted to stop the hacker from sending out worldwide racist messages under the ISP’s name. The hacker signed off with the threat, “you have yet to see true electronic terrorism. This is a promise.” In 1998, ethnic Tamil guerrillas swamped Sri Lankan embassies with 800 e-mails a day over a two-week period. The messages read “We are the Internet Black Tigers and we’re doing this to disrupt your communications.” Intelligence authorities characterized it as the first known attack by terrorists against a country’s computer systems. Hacking and defacing provide glimpses into what ambitious cyberterrorists and activists can accomplish. Policy-makers fear that cyberterrorists and infosurgents will conduct electronic raids on vital national systems controlled by computers (e.g., financial services, transportation networks, and power grids). Fear is no longer based on the prospect of violence: information and the ability to control it has become the new form of power.


Is cyber-terrorism a hoax? Counterview:

There is no such thing as cyberterrorism–no instance of anyone ever having been killed by a terrorist (or anyone else) using a computer. Nor is there compelling evidence that al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization has resorted to computers for any sort of serious destructive activity. What’s more, outside of a Tom Clancy novel, computer security specialists believe it is virtually impossible to use the Internet to inflict death on a large scale, and many scoff at the notion that terrorists would bother trying. “I don’t lie awake at night worrying about cyberattacks ruining my life,” says Dorothy Denning, a computer science professor at Georgetown University and one of the country’s foremost cybersecurity experts. “Not only does [cyberterrorism] not rank alongside chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, but it is not anywhere near as serious as other potential physical threats like car bombs or suicide bombers.”  This is not to say that cybersecurity isn’t a serious problem–it’s just not one that involves terrorists. Interviews with terrorism and computer security experts, and current and former government and military officials, yielded near unanimous agreement that the real danger is from the criminals and other hackers who did $15 billion in damage to the global economy last year using viruses, worms, and other readily available tools. That figure is sure to balloon if more isn’t done to protect vulnerable computer systems, the vast majority of which are in the private sector.


Does Terrorism Work?

Is terrorism an effective tool for achieving political goals?  A study:

Yes, up to a point, according a new paper. By exploiting variation in terror attacks over time and across locations in Israel from 1988 to 2006, researchers show that local terror attacks cause Israelis to be: (i) more willing to grant territorial concessions to the Palestinians; (ii) more willing to accept a Palestinian state; (iii) and less likely to identify oneself as being right-wing. These effects are especially pronounced within demographic groups that are traditionally right-wing in their political views. Terror attacks beyond a certain “threshold” level of deaths backfire, though, and cause Israeli attitudes to become more hardline, according the study’s authors, Eric D. Gould and Esteban F. Klor, two economists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The authors also found that terrorism causes Israelis to vote increasingly for right-wing parties — which might seem to contradict the findings above, until you consider that right-wing parties have shifted to the left in response to terrorist attacks. The conclusion is that terrorism appears to be an effective strategy in terms of shifting the entire Israeli political landscape to the left.


Michael Walzer and Haig Katchadourian, argue that terrorism never works to advance a group’s ultimate goals. But there a number of counterexamples. For one thing, state terrorism has frequently achieved desired goals; the American “manifest destiny” was partly achieved through terrorism against Native Americans, and it has been argued that the terror bombing of Japanese cities in 1945 hastened the end of WWII. Non-state terrorism has also been effective for example, the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine in 1948, with a decisive Jewish majority, would never have been achieved without the use of terrorist tactics in causing an exodus of the bulk of the Palestine’s Arab population from the territory that became part of that state. In a recent study of suicide terrorism, Robert Pape has pointed out cases where suicide bombings has gone some way in enabling a group to secure desired goals:

• Hezbollah against the US and France in 1983 (forcing a withdrawal of their military forces in Lebanon).

• Tamil Tigers against Sri Lankan Government in the 1990s.

• Hamas against Israel in 1994-1995 (hastening a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza).


Terrorism can be practiced by states—as the United States did when it bombed Hiroshima (a non-military target) in a (successful) attempt to get the Japanese public to withdraw its support for continued prosecution of World War II; or it can be practiced by oppositional groups—as the Islamists did when they bombed the Madrid commuter trains in a (successful) attempt to get the Spanish public to withdraw its support for continued participation in the Iraqi war.


Terror does not work: A study:

Thomas Schelling asserted more than a decade ago that terrorists frequently accomplish “intermediate means toward political objectives . . . but with a few exceptions it is hard to see that the attention and publicity have been of much value except as ends in themselves.” This study corroborates that view; the twenty-eight groups of greatest significance to U.S. counterterrorism policy have achieved their forty-two policy objectives less than 10 percent of the time. As the political mediation literature would predict, target countries did not make concessions when terrorist groups had maximalist objectives. Yet even when groups expressed limited, ambiguous, or idiosyncratic policy objectives, they failed to win concessions by primarily attacking civilian targets. This suggests not only that terrorism is an ineffective instrument of coercion, but that its poor success rate is inherent to the tactic of terrorism itself. Why are terrorist groups unable to coerce governments when they primarily attack civilian targets? Terrorism miscommunicates groups’ objectives because of its extremely high correspondence. The responses of Russia to the September 1999 apartment bombings, the United States to the attacks of September 11, and Israel to Palestinian terrorism in the first intifada provide evidence that target countries infer the objectives of terrorist groups not from their stated goals, but from the short-term consequences of terrorist acts. Target countries view the deaths of their citizens and the resulting turmoil as proof that the perpetrators want to destroy their societies, their publics, or both. Countries are therefore reluctant to make concessions when their civilians are targeted irrespective of the perpetrators’ policy demands.


The opposing view argues not only that there is very little evidence that terrorism is effective (Abrahms 2006), but that in fact terror is not an effective tool.  Abrahms (2006) examined 28 terrorist groups, and argues that terrorists achieved their political goals only 7% of the time (in contrast to the more than 50% success rate reported in Pape [2003] with a different sample). Moreover, he argues that terrorism against democracies is ineffective because democracies are more effective in counterterrorism. In support of this claim, Abrahms (2007) presents evidence that democracies are less likely to be the target of terror activities than autocratic regimes, and that democracies are less likely to make territorial or ideological concessions. Using the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System database of international and domestic terror incidents from 2004 to midway through 2005, Abrahms (2007) shows that terror incidents decline with the level of a country’s “freedom index,” and that the freedom index is uncorrelated with the level of casualties from terror. In particular, Abrahms (2007) shows that, among the ten countries with the highest numbers of terror casualties, only two are “free countries” (India and Philippines), whereas the rest are “not free” (Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, and Pakistan) or “partially free” (Nigeria, Nepal, Colombia, and Uganda). This evidence leads Abrahms (2007) to conclude that terrorism is not an effective strategy against democratic countries. Thus, a summary of the literature reveals that very few studies have even attempted to analyze the strategic effectiveness of terrorism, and there is little agreement among those that have. Thus, whether terror is effective or not is not only important in terms of understanding why terrorism exists, it is still very much an open question in terms of the evidence.


Terrorism by the IRA, the PLO and other Palestinian groups, Sikhs, Tamils, Basques, Philippino Muslims — none of these has succeeded in altering the policies of the affected states. Neither has state-sponsored terror by Rogue states led to the defeat of an enemy. However, if the goal of terrorist acts by these groups is to prevent peace and reconciliation, terrorism has worked. The variables determining the success or failure of acts of terror are thus indeterminate and complex. Perhaps the most we can say is that terror can help the stronger party in a conflict win more quickly and with less loss of life on its side (the rationale underlying the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings or the massacre of Palestinians in 1948). Yet as perpetrators of terrorism move away from single issue causes (freeing Northern Ireland or Palestine) and become more apocalyptic, hoping like Osama bin Laden to start war on a global scale, the standard for measuring success changes, as the worst possible scenario on all sides is exactly what is hoped for. In such a situation it becomes all the more important for citizens and leaders in the West and its allies in the Muslim world — in fact, all people everywhere — to understand the role their policies, and indeed the whole world system as presently and unequally structured, plays in the fostering and sustaining this new generation of terrorists. Yet the scope and horror of the violence inflicted by the new terrorism makes such introspection all but impossible. In this sense, Osama bin Laden and his comrades around the world might achieve their goals through their very destruction.


Arguments for justification of terrorism:



From a Utilitarian perspective, terrorism is sometimes justified. Utilitarianism is the belief that the greater good triumphs over the good of an individual. Terrorism is justified if it furthers the progress of humanity. An example of this would be the use of violence against government buildings in the time of occupation or oppression. Although the deaths of ordinary citizens may be an unfortunate consequence to these actions, they may bring an uprising among the citizens to take over an oppressive government. A modern example of this would be the ANC’s targets of governmental buildings during South African Apartheid. Although several citizens were killed in the incidents, the ANC brought about change in the South African government and it led to more equal treatment of all citizens. From a utilitarian perspective, the well-being of millions of people was enhanced with the sacrifice of just a few people. So according to utilitarian perspective, the lives of a few million outweigh the lives of a few. If you think that terrorism is an act of using violence in order to achieve a political aim, then Nelson Mandela is a terrorist…. If there is ever a time that is so bad that it calls for a revolution, acts committed for the cause fighting worth should not be considered terrorism, but an act of freedom fighting. During times of revolution, acts committed that could be considered terrorism are necessary for the success of the revolution. Insurrection by means of guerrilla bands is the true method of warfare for all nations desirous of emancipating themselves from a foreign oppression. Martin Luther King was considered a terrorist and part of a terrorist group call Umkhonto Sizwe and after a while he went to prison and the group got violent, but without it, there would be no multiculturalism today. What may seem like a justifiable act to someone, may be viewed as an act of terrorism to another. It’s all based on perception and where you stand with your beliefs. America talks about their war on terrorism when they seem to be the country that has caused the most terror throughout history. The dropping of the Atomic bomb is a perfect example.


Michael Walzer argued that terrorism can be morally justified in only one specific case: when a nation or community faces the extreme threat of complete destruction and the only way it can preserve itself is by intentionally targeting non-combatants, then it is morally entitled to do so.


Arguments against justification of terrorism:

 Killing and terrorizing general people is a crime, an unforgivable crime against humanity. Terrorism in every form should be prevented. It does not matter what the reason for the attack there is never a good justification for why it was done. I don’t think there could ever be a good reason for why someone would attack and kill innocent people. I don’t care what their religion or beliefs tell them, there should still be a thought that comes into their mind that it isn’t the right thing to do no matter what. Mahatma Gandhi led freedom fight non-violently as opposed to Nelson Mandela and yet Nelson Mandela got Nobel peace prize and not Gandhi. That is because the west considered ANC violence as freedom fight. Terrorism is an act of cowardice performed by the weak of mind. To assign guilt by association to innocent men, women and children and destroy them rather than to face a stronger opponent is the ultimate act of cowardice. No matter what twisted logic is used as an excuse, it can never be justified. The use of violence and intimidation is barbaric and only serves to further this epidemic and cycle of violence. Threats, torture, killing, intimidation or any means used by any individual or group of individuals serves no purpose. There is no incidence that I can imagine that would warrant the use of abuse for political gain or to obtain information. It is cruel and should not be tolerated or promoted. If terrorism is justified then it cannot be stopped. There would be bombs going off all the time and everyone would be helpless to stop it.  


Impact of terrorism:

The primary impacts of terrorism on society are:

Increased fear and heightened security

Erosion of civil liberties

Economic consequences

Health consequences

Political consequences


Continuum of reaction to terrorism:


Economic impact of terrorism:

Researchers’ estimate suggests that a one standard deviation increase in the intensity of terrorism produces a 5% fall in the net FDI position of the country (normalized by GDP). Both the model and the empirical evidence suggest that the open-economy channel may be an important avenue through which terrorism hurts the economy.


The 11 September attacks inflicted casualties and material damages on a far greater scale than any terrorist aggression in recent history. The destruction of physical assets was estimated in the national accounts to amount to $14 billion for private businesses, $1.5 billion for State and local government enterprises and $0.7 billion for Federal government. Rescue, cleanup and related costs have been estimated to amount to at least $11 billion. Lower Manhattan lost approximately 30 per cent of its office space and scores of businesses disappeared. Close to 200,000 jobs were destroyed or relocated out of New York City, at least temporarily.


Using terrorism data from the 2005 MIPT Terrorism knowledge database, which integrates more than 20,000 terrorism incidents from various sources, researchers made several empirical estimations based on cross-sectional and period fixed-effects regressions with White-heteroskedasticity consistent standard errors. The main findings below are categorized by four specifications that include a set of control variables and four different measures of terrorism:

Real GDP per Capita Growth:

• The greater the number of terrorist incidents per million population, the lower the real GDP per capita growth.

• The higher the number of terrorist incidents per $U.S. billion GDP, the lower the real GDP per capita growth.

Capital Formation to GDP:

• The higher the number of terrorist incidents per million population, the lower the capital formation as a percentage of GDP.

• The higher the number of terrorist incidents per $U.S. billion GDP, the lower the capital formation as a percentage of GDP.

• The higher the fatalities and injuries per $U.S. billion GDP, the lower the capital formation as a percentage of GDP.

Number of Incidents by Target:

• More terrorist attacks at private citizens and property per million population is related to lower capital formation/GDP.

• More terrorist attacks at airlines, airports, transportation, utilities and telecommunication targets is related to both lower real GDP per capita growth and capital formation to GDP.

The results show that terrorism is indeed associated with adverse economic effect. In general, terrorist incidents have a negative and significant impact on economic growth.


Panic affects the patterns of consumption and investment behaviour of individuals and companies and can then lead to distinct market disturbances. Therefore, one of the most important short term effects of terrorist attacks is this feeling of insecurity having much wider repercussions. According to Dr. Michael Williams, the main effect of terrorist attacks is their ability to disrupt the population’s spending pattern (interviewed in Royal Holloway, 2011). After 9/11, the immediate response was a fall in confidence:  In the United States, consumer and business surveys showed falls in the overall confidence measures akin to those observed in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and much larger than those following terrorist attacks in the 1990s. Therefore a terrorist attack plays a big part in the impact on the economy. It can for example lead to drops in demand in the tourism area. Indeed, hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and other tourism-related businesses confronted a sharp drop in demand (immediately after 9/11), in the United-States but also in the many other countries, in particular in the Caribbean and in the Middle East.


How do you prevent and respond to terrorism:


We will remain at an unacceptable risk of near term attack without an honest assessment of a few fundamental challenges:

1) Who is the enemy, what does it seek, and by what means?

2) Are we at war or is the current threat simply another manifestation of violent crime?

3) Are today’s terrorists predominantly disaffected individuals in search of the means to act out, or is there an organized movement seeking out disaffected individuals to use for its own violent purposes?



Prevent terrorism:

It’s a fact that certain kinds of activities can indicate terrorist plans that are in the works, especially when they occur at or near high profile sites or places where large numbers of people gather—like government buildings, military facilities, utilities, bus or train stations, major public events. If you see or know about suspicious activities, like the ones listed below, please report them immediately to the proper authorities. In the United States, that means your closest Joint Terrorist Task Force, located in an FBI field office. In other countries, that means your closest law enforcement/ counterterrorism agency.

Surveillance: Are you aware of anyone video recording or monitoring activities, taking notes, using cameras, maps, binoculars, etc., near key facilities/events?

Suspicious Questioning: Are you aware of anyone attempting to gain information in person, by phone, mail, email, etc., regarding a key facility or people who work there?

Tests of Security: Are you aware of any attempts to penetrate or test physical security or procedures at a key facility/event?

Acquiring Supplies: Are you aware of anyone attempting to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, uniforms, badges, flight manuals, access cards or identification for a key facility/event or to legally obtain items under suspicious circumstances that could be used in a terrorist attack?

Suspicious Persons: Are you aware of anyone who does not appear to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or near a key facility/event?

“Dry Runs”: Have you observed any behavior that appears to be preparation for a terrorist act, such as mapping out routes, playing out scenarios with other people, monitoring key facilities/events, timing traffic lights or traffic flow, or other suspicious activities?

Deploying Assets: Have you observed abandoned vehicles, stockpiling of suspicious materials, or persons being deployed near a key facility/event?


Twelve Rules for Preventing and Countering Terrorism:

By Alex P. Schmid(Director TRI & former Officer-in-Charge of UN Terrorism Prevention Branch)

  1. Try to address the underlying conflict issues exploited by the terrorists and work towards a peaceful solution while not making substantive concessions to the terrorists themselves;
  2. Prevent radical individuals and groups from becoming terrorist extremists by confronting them with a mix of ‘carrot and stick’ –tactics and search for effective counter-motivation measures;
  3. Stimulate and encourage defection and conversion of free and imprisoned terrorists and find ways to reduce the support of aggrieved constituencies for terrorist organizations;
  4. Deny terrorists access to arms, explosives, false identification documents, safe communication, safe travel and sanctuaries; disrupt and incapacitate their preparations and operations through infiltration, communication intercept, espionage and by limiting their criminal- and other fund-raising capabilities;
  5. Reduce low-risk/high-gain opportunities for terrorists to strike by enhancing communications-, energy- and transportation-security, by hardening critical infrastructures and potential sites where mass casualties could occur and apply principles of situational crime prevention to the prevention of terrorism;
  6. Keep in mind that terrorists seek publicity and exploit the media and the Internet to propagate their cause, glorify their attacks, win recruits, solicit donations, gather intelligence, disseminate terrorist know-how and communicate with their target audiences. Try to devise communication strategies to counter them in each of these areas.
  7. Prepare for crisis- and consequence-management for both ‘regular’ and  ‘catastrophic’ acts of terrorism in coordinated simulation exercises and educate first responders and the public on how to cope with terrorism.
  8. Establish an Early Detection and Early Warning intelligence system against terrorism and other violent crimes on the interface between organized crime and political conflict;
  9. Strengthen coordination of efforts against terrorism both within and between states; enhance international police and intelligence cooperation, and offer technical assistance to those countries lacking the know-how and means to upgrade their counter-terrorism instruments.
  10. Show solidarity with, and offer support to, victims of terrorism at home and abroad.
  11. Maintain the moral high-ground in the struggle with terrorists by defending and strengthening the rule of law, good governance, democracy and social justice and by matching your deeds with your words;
  12. Last but not least: counter the ideologies, indoctrination and propaganda of secular and non-secular terrorists and try to get the upper hand in the war of ideas – the battle for the hearts and minds of those terrorists claim to speak and fight for.


Are you willing to give up Civil liberties to fight terrorism?

Although worries about terrorism have edged up following the Boston Marathon bombings, a new national poll indicates only four in ten Americans say they are willing to give up some civil liberties to fight terrorism. And according to a CNN/Time/ORC International survey, the public is particularly concerned about the government eavesdropping on their cell phones or reading their email. The poll suggests that public attitudes toward terrorism and civil liberties have changed dramatically since 1995, when the deadly bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City first ushered in a new era of anti-terrorism measures that impacted the lives of ordinary Americans. Back in 1995, 57% of the country said that they were willing to give up some civil liberties if that were necessary to curb terrorism. Today, that figure is down to 40%, and it appears that the biggest change is in attitudes toward cell phones and email. After 9/11, 54% of Americans favored expanded government monitoring of cell phones and email. Now, the message is ‘hands off. Only 38% favor expanding government monitoring of those forms of communication. The survey indicates that support for government monitoring of the internet is down eight points from right after 9/11, although there is still majority support, and there is widespread and growing approval of surveillance cameras in public places, possibly a reaction to the fact that the big breaks in the Boston bombing case came from security cameras in the area of the attack. Six in ten report that they are more worried about the government restricting civil liberties than they are that the government will fail to enact new anti-terrorist policies.



Anti-terror measures worldwide have seriously undermined international human rights law, a report by legal experts says. After a three-year global study, the International Commission of Jurists said many states used the public’s fear of terrorism to introduce measures. These included detention without trial, illegal disappearance and torture. It also said that the UK and the US have “actively undermined” international law by their actions. It concluded that many measures introduced to fight terrorism were illegal and counter-productive. It called for justice systems to be strengthened and warned that temporary measures should not become permanent.  


The war on terror must not take place at the expense of fundamental freedoms and basic dignity of individuals. Success in defeating terrorism can come only if we remain true to those values which terrorists eschew. In resorting to the lesser evil of curtailing liberties and using violence to defeat terrorism, we must be careful not to succumb to the greater evil of destroying the very values for which democracy stands.


Is conventional wisdom wrong?

Why do terrorist attacks frequently succeed, even though later investigations almost always show that warnings had been available but were either misunderstood or ignored?  Conventional wisdom, as seen in the 9/11 Commission Report, holds that disasters such as the 9/11 attacks have been caused by failures of analytical imagination, a lack of long-term strategic intelligence on the threat, and organizational limitations that prevent the U.S. intelligence community from being able to “connect the dots” of the existing intelligence. The conventional wisdom is reassuring, because it suggests that if we can fix these problems, the American intelligence community (IC) will be more likely to connect the dots next time and prevent the next major terrorist attack. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, and this reassurance is misplaced. The history of American efforts to prevent terrorist attacks suggests that more imagination, better strategic intelligence, and intelligence reorganization will not prevent future disasters.  In order for intelligence to be most useful in preventing attacks, it must be actionable, combining precise, tactical level warning with decision makers who are receptive to it. The history of unsuccessful terrorist attacks against Americans—plots that have been foiled—tells us that this sort of actionable intelligence is most likely to come from on-the-ground, local and domestic intelligence gathering. 


Aircraft hijacking:

Aircraft hijacking (also known as skyjacking and sky controlling) is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by an individual or a group. In most cases, the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers. Occasionally, however, the hijackers have flown the aircraft themselves, such as the September 11 attacks of 2001. In at least one case, a plane was hijacked by the official pilot.  Most aircraft hijackers intend to use the passengers as hostages, either for monetary ransom or for some political or administrative concession by authorities. Motives vary from demanding the release of certain inmates (notably IC-814) to highlighting the grievances of a particular community (notably AF 8969). Hijackers also have used aircraft as a weapon to target particular locations (notably during the September 11, 2001 attacks). According to reports, U.S. fighter pilots have been trained to shoot down hijacked commercial airliners should it become necessary.  Other countries, such as India, Poland, and Russia have enacted similar laws or decrees that allow the shooting down of hijacked planes. 



Airport security:

Large numbers of people pass through airports every day, this presents potential targets for terrorism and other forms of crime because of the number of people located in a particular location.  Similarly, the high concentration of people on large airliners, the potential high death rate with attacks on aircraft, and the ability to use a hijacked airplane as a lethal weapon may provide an alluring target for terrorism, whether or not they succeed due their high profile nature following the various attacks and attempts around the globe in recent years. Airport security attempts to prevent any threats or potentially dangerous situations from arising or entering the country. If airport security does succeed in this, then the chances of any dangerous situations, illegal items or threats entering into aircraft, country or airport are greatly reduced. Travelers are screened by metal detectors. Explosive detection machines used include X-ray machines and explosives trace-detection portal machines (a.k.a. “puffer machines”). In the United States the TSA is working on new scanning machines that are still effective searching for objects that aren’t allowed in the airplanes but that don’t depict the passengers in a state of undress that some find embarrassing. Explosive detection machines can also be used for both carry on and checked baggage. These detect volatile compounds given off from explosives using gas chromatography. A recent development is the controversial use of backscatter X-rays to detect hidden weapons and explosives on passengers. These devices, which use Compton scattering, require that the passenger stand close to a flat panel and produce a high resolution image:


The figure above shows X-ray backscatter technology (AIT) machine used by the TSA to screen passengers. According to the TSA, this is what the remote TSA agent would see on their screen.


War on terror:

The War on Terror (also known as the Global War on Terrorism) is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign which started as a result of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. This resulted in an international military campaign to eliminate al-Qaeda and other militant organizations. The United Kingdom and many other NATO and non-NATO nations participate in the conflict. The Bush administration and the Western media have since used the term to signify a global military, political, lawful, and conceptual struggle—targeting both organizations designated as terrorist and regimes accused of supporting them. It was typically used with a particular focus on militant Islamists, al-Qaeda, and other jihadi groups. Although the term is not officially used by the administration of US President Barack Obama (which instead uses the term Overseas Contingency Operation), it is still commonly used by politicians, in the media and by some aspects of government officially.



Counter-terrorism (also spelled counterterrorism) incorporates the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to attack terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed. One of the primary difficulties of implementing effective counter-terrorist measures is the waning of civil liberties and individual privacy that such measures often entail, both for citizens of, and for those detained by states attempting to combat terror. At times, measures designed to tighten security have been seen as abuses of power or even violations of human rights. Examples of these problems can include prolonged, incommunicado detention without judicial review; risk of subjecting to torture during the transfer, return and extradition of people between or within countries; and the adoption of security measures that restrain the rights or freedoms of citizens and breach principles of non-discrimination. Many would argue that such violations exacerbate rather than counter the terrorist threat. Counter-terrorism falls within four models: defensive, reconciliatory, criminal-justice, and war. Those models in turn fit into the broader categories of COIN identified by David Galula in his seminal book on the subject. The difference between counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency is simple: counter-terrorism focuses more narrowly on combating the tactics and strategy of terrorism and those who employ it, while counter-insurgency is a broader category of responses to political violence carried out by minority groups, both terroristic and otherwise. The latter subsumes the former.


Does Killing terrorists actually prevent terrorism?

Various terrorist plots suggest that recent efforts, and even successes, in pursuing and killing ideological leaders of these groups has not stopped, or even reduced, their followers desire to attack civilians. But perhaps the fact that the overwhelming majority of these plots have been foiled, or failed on their own, should give us comfort, and not just in the sense that we’ve been lucky. Chasing terrorists in Waziristan with missiles clearly is not going to end, or definitively win, the “War on Terrorism,” and whether we should think about a diplomatic rapprochement with these groups instead of fighting an endless war with them is a legitimate question. I personally believe that diplomacy and negotiations do not work with evil mind and destruction of evil mind is still the best option. I could be wrong.


Do we negotiate with terrorists?

We know that some of the political claims terrorist groups make are outrageous, non-starters. But, according to Audrey Kurth Cronin, a professor at the National War College, that is not a reason to ignore the underlying logic that informs their actions. For if terrorists are logical, then perhaps there are means other than capture-and-kill policies that will work better to stop them. As Lemann summarizes her view: “Negotiating with terrorists—a practice usually forsworn, often done—can work in the long term, Cronin says, not because it is likely to produce a peace treaty but because it enables a state to gain intelligence about its opponents, exploit differences and hive off factions, and stall while time works its erosive wonders.” What’s more, Cronin points out, as one example, that the Peruvian government had better luck imprisoning Shining Path terrorists, rather than killing or torturing them, since the latter usually caused sympathizers to turn them into martyrs.


Can terrorist be reformed?

Governments don’t need to worry much about terrorists who have been given the death penalty or a life sentence. They’ll never be free. Of concern, however, are those terrorists who we only have enough evidence to hold for a fixed period of time, after which they’ll have to be released. The challenge is: How do we prevent them from rejoining their former groups once they’re free? If the detainees haven’t been rehabilitated, in all likelihood they’ll return to terrorism. We’ve unfortunately seen how terrorists released from Guantanamo have gone on to launch new terrorist attacks. One time Guantanamo inmate Abdallah al-Ajmi, for example, drove a truck filled with explosives into an Iraqi army base on March 23, 2008, killing 13 Iraqi soldiers and wounding 42 others.


Terrorists are often described as beyond reason, beyond redemption. But the reality, as recent and not-so-recent history shows, is very different. The record shows that some radical groups can be persuaded to give up the gun when the combination of inducements and local conditions is right. It’s an imprecise prescription. But a combination of the heavy stick of the state, followed by giving militant leaders positive incentives to rejoin a society they often come to regret having left, seems to be at its core. “Deradicalization” is now a growth industry in corners of the psychological and anthropological professions. Research is being published and careers are being made on it, so caution in assessing it is required. And it should be noted that, by itself, deradicalization doesn’t address the grievances that fuel the drive to militancy. 


Studying de-radicalization:

In the real world, psychologists also are exploring the effectiveness of initiatives taking place in countries including Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Kingdom that are seeking to soften the hearts and minds of terrorist detainees. In preliminary research, many of these programs share:

  • An intellectual component, often involving moderate Muslim clerics who hold dialogues with imprisoned detainees about the Quran’s true teachings on violence and jihad.
  • An emotional component that defuses detainees’ anger and frustration by showing authentic concern for their families, through means such as funding their children’s education or offering professional training for their wives. This aspect also capitalizes on the fact that detainees are weary from their lifestyles and imprisonment.
  • A social component that addresses the reality that detainees often re-enter societies that may rekindle their radical beliefs. A program in Indonesia, for instance, uses former militants who are now law-abiding citizens to convince former terrorists that violence against civilians compromises the image of Islam.

Some of these efforts have already shown promise. For example, Egypt’s largest radical Islamic group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, renounced bloodshed in 2003, the result of a deal brokered by a Muslim attorney between the group and the Egyptian government, and a program where Muslim scholars debated with imprisoned group leaders about the true meaning of Islam. 


The advantages of reforming terrorists are not just that it reduces the odds that they’ll return to terrorism and increases the odds that they’ll cooperate and provide intelligence. It’s also likely that the reformed terrorists will encourage other group members to abandon the cause. And having served time for the group, released terrorists have a credibility among members that’s hard to challenge. Rehabilitation is just one area of a broader terrorism risk reduction strategy that researchers studied. They found that a comprehensive strategy – beginning from the moment the terrorists are arrested and first interact with the state (and propaganda they’ve been indoctrinated with will either be reaffirmed or rebutted) to how critical thinking is encouraged while they are in jail – is needed. And naturally any strategy needs to be tailored to local conditions to be effective.


Response to terrorism:

According to a report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin in the Washington Post, some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

Specific types of responses include:

  • Targeted laws, criminal procedures, deportations, and enhanced police powers
  • Target hardening, such as locking doors or adding traffic barriers
  • Preemptive or reactive military action
  • Increased intelligence and surveillance activities
  • Preemptive humanitarian activities
  • More permissive interrogation and detention policies


Personal protective measures against terrorism:

A. At All Times:

(1) Encourage security awareness in your family and discuss what to do if there is a security threat.

(2) Be alert for surveillance attempts or suspicious persons or activities, and report them to the proper authorities. Trust your gut feelings.

(3) Vary personal routines whenever possible.

(4) Get into the habit of checking in to let your friends and family know where you are or when to expect you.

(5) Know how to use the local phone system. Always carry telephone change. Know the emergency numbers for local police, fire, ambulance, and hospital.

(6) Know the locations of civilian police, military police, government agencies, US Embassy, and other safe locations where you can find refuge or assistance.

(7) Avoid public disputes or confrontations. Report any trouble to the proper authorities.

(8)Know certain key phrases in the native language such as “I need a policeman,” “Take me to a doctor,” “Where is the hospital?,” and “Where is the police station?”

(9) Set up simple signal systems to alert family members or associates that there is a danger. Do not share this information with anyone not involved in your signal system.

(10) Carry identification showing your blood type and any special medical conditions. Keep a minimum of a 1-week supply of essential medication on hand at all times.

(11) Keep a low profile. Shun publicity. Do not flash large sums of money.

(12) Do not unnecessarily divulge your home address, phone number, or family information.

(13) Watch for unexplained absences of local citizens as an early warning of possible terrorist actions.

(14) Keep your personal affairs in good order. Keep wills current, have powers of attorney drawn up, take measures to ensure family’s financial security, and develop a plan for family actions in the event you are taken hostage.

(15) Do not carry sensitive or potentially embarrassing items.

B. At Home:

(1) Have a clear view of approaches to your home.

(2) Install strong doors and locks.

(3) Change locks when you move in or when a key is lost.

(4) Install windows that do not allow easy access.

(5) Never leave house or trunk keys with your ignition key while your car is being serviced.

(6) Have adequate lighting outside your house.

(7) Create the appearance that the house is occupied by using timers to control lights and radios while you are away.

(8) Install one-way viewing devices in doors.

(9) Install intrusion detection alarms and smoke and fire alarms.

(10) Do not hide keys or give them to very young children.

(11) Never leave young children at home alone.

(12) Never admit strangers to your home without proper identification.

(13) Use off street parking at your residence, if at all possible.

(14) Teach children how to call the police, and ensure that they know what to tell the police (name, address, etc.).

(15) Avoid living in residences that are located in isolated areas, on one-way streets, dead-end streets, or cul-de-sacs.

(16) Avoid residences that are on the ground floor, adjacent to vacant lots, or on steep hills.

(17) Carefully screen all potential domestic help.

(18) Do not place your name on exterior walls of residences.

(19) Do not answer the telephone with your name and rank.

(20) Personally destroy all envelopes and other items that reflect personal information.

(21) Close draperies during periods of darkness. Draperies should be opaque and made of heavy material.

(22) Avoid frequent exposure on balconies and in windows.

(23) Consider owning a dog to discourage intruders.

(24) Never accept unexpected package deliveries.

(25) Don’t let your trash become a source of information.

C. While Traveling:

(1) Vary times and routes.

(2) Be alert for suspicious-looking vehicles.

(3) Check for suspicious activity or objects around your car before getting into or out of it. Do not touch your vehicle until you have thoroughly checked it (look inside it, walk around it, and look under it).

(4) Know your driver.

(5) Equip your car with an inside hood latch and a locking gas cap.

(6) Drive with windows closed and doors locked.

(7) Travel with a group of people–there is safety in numbers.

(8) Travel on busy routes; avoid isolated and dangerous areas.

(9) Park your car off the street in a secure area.

(10) Lock your car when it is unattended.

(11) Do not routinely use the same taxi or bus stop. Buses are preferred over taxis.

(12) If you think you are being followed, move as quickly as possible to a safe place such as a police or fire station.

(13) If your car breaks down, raise the hood then get back inside the car and remain there with the doors locked and the windows up. If anyone offers to assist, ask the person to call the police.

(14) Do not pick up hitchhikers.

(15) Drive on well-lit streets.

(16) Prearrange a signal with your driver to indicate that it is safe to get into the vehicle. Share this information only with persons having a need to know.

(17) Have the driver open the door for you.

(18) If the driver is absent, do not get into the car.

(19) If possible, tell your driver your destination only after the car has started.

(20) Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full.

D. In Hotels:

(1) Keep your room key on your person at all times.

(2) Be observant for suspicious persons loitering in the area.

(3) Do not give your room number to strangers.

(4) Keep your room and personal effects neat and orderly so you will recognize tampering or strange out-of-place objects.

(5) Know the location of emergency exits and fire extinguishers.

(6) Do not admit strangers to your room.

(7) Know how to locate hotel security guards.


Hostage Defense Measures:

a. Survive with honor–this is the mission of any hostage.

b. If your duties may expose you to being taken hostage, make sure your family’s affairs are in order to ensure their financial security. Make an up-to-date will and give appropriate powers of attorney to your spouse or to a trusted friend. Concern for the family is a major source of stress for persons in kidnap or hostage situations.

c. If you are taken hostage and decide not to resist, assure your captors of your intention to cooperate, especially during the abduction phase.

d. Regain your composure as quickly as possible after capture, face your fears, and try to master your emotions.

e. Take mental note of the direction, time in transit, noise, and other environmental factors that may help you identify your location.

f. Note the numbers, names, physical characteristics, accents, personal habits, and rank structure of your captors.

g. Anticipate isolation and terrorist efforts to confuse you.

h. Try to mentally prepare yourself for the situation ahead as much as possible. Stay mentally active.

i. Do not aggravate your abductors; instead, attempt to establish a positive relationship with them. Do not be fooled by a friendly approach–it may be used to get information from you.

j. Avoid political or ideological discussions with your captors; comply with their instructions, but maintain your dignity.

k. Do not discuss or divulge any classified information that you may possess.

l. Exercise daily.

m. Read anything you can find to keep your mind active.

n. Eat whatever food is offered to you to maintain your strength.

o. Establish a slow, methodical routine for every task.

p. When being interrogated, take a simple, tenable position and stick to it. Be polite and maintain your temper. Give short answers, talk freely about nonessential matters, but be guarded when the conversation turns to substantial matters.

q. If forced to present terrorist demands to authorities, in writing or on tape, do only what you are told to do. Avoid making a plea on your own behalf.

r. Be proud of your heritage, government, and military affiliation, but be careful that your behavior does not antagonize your captors. Affirm your faith in basic democratic principles.


In the event of a rescue attempt:

(1) Drop to the floor.

(2) Be quiet and do not attract your captors’ attention.

(3) Wait for instructions.

(4) Rescue forces will initially treat you as one of the terrorists until you are positively identified as friend or foe. This is for your security. Cooperate, even if you are initially handcuffed.

(5) Once released, avoid making comments to the news media until you have been debriefed by the proper US authorities.


National and community strategies:

1. Ensure preparedness of schools, including training of teachers, staff, parents, and students.

2. Ensure preparedness of NGOs and faith-based groups, including training in the psychological impacts of trauma.

3. Community leaders should provide simple calming explanations.

4. Help teachers, staff, and students maintain routines, while providing support and acknowledging the pain and grief.


Family and individual level strategies:

1. Help children understand that terrorists want us to be scared, but that the actual risk of any one child being a victim is virtually zero.

2. Provide reliable information and dispel baseless rumors.

3. Reassure children that in the very unlikely event of an attack in any one area of the country, the government is doing all it can to handle it when it happens.

4. Limit exposure of children to images of terror by: turning off televisions and radios if the focus is on war and terror and conceal newspapers and magazines with horrific photos.

5. In the event of an attack, maintain routines as much as possible.

6. Share and help children remember previous successful coping strategies.

7. Provide children with simple, non-dramatic explanations of what happened.

8. Provide children in advance with simple explanations of security arrangements at airports, museums, government buildings, public events, etc. so that they are prepared for security scenes when travelling or attending high security functions.

9. Teach children active coping strategies and engage in both functional (such as helping around the house) and play activities.

10. Help children explore and deal with their emotions, particularly their grief, through talking, art, music, sport, and theatre.

11. Ensure family support and social solidarity offered to the family also includes the children. Hugs and other forms of physical comfort are very needed by children, especially if they have lost a family member.

12. Teach children self-calming, relaxation, positive visualization, and positive self-talk.

13. Assist children with developing their problem-solving and decision-making skills, which may have been paralyzed by stress.

14. Teach children non-violent conflict resolution and constructive alternatives to revenge.

15. Emphasize the positive commonalities of all humanity.

16. Seek skilled professional help for both the adults and the children. Trained and experienced trauma specialists for children can best handle the specific effects displayed by children who have experienced terror.


How to spot a terrorist living in your neighborhood:

Essentially, there will be changes in behavior. A sudden ostentatious insistence on religious ritual, especially in a secular context (demands for prayer rooms where no other religion has them); a withdrawal from social interaction with women and disapproval of feminine dress. There may be a sudden obsession with physical fitness, more via Outward Bound activities than team games. Someone may adopt traditional Arab dress or abruptly abandon it (so as not to attract attention). They might forbid or avoid music, collect jihadi material, withdraw from contact with non-Muslims or Muslims who are not extremist; there may be single-issue conversation, vociferous hatred of the West and Israel, and perhaps attempted travel to troubled regions or misleading vagueness as to where they’ve been.   


If you receive a suspicious letter or package, what should you do?


Technology against terrorism:

Technical Innovations in the War on Terrorism:

Backscatter X-ray (discussed earlier):

After the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, Americans faced the reality that terrorists could leverage commercial airplanes as powerful weapons. Consequently, fliers have had to endure the inconvenience and discomfort of more rigorous security checks at airports so they can feel safer. One of the technical innovations designed to speed up and improve accuracy in these security checks is the backscatter X-ray system. Backscatter X-ray scans are weaker than X-ray scans you might get at the doctor, only penetrating slightly past the surface of the skin. When used for full-body scanning at airports, backscatter X-rays provide security personnel with pictures of what passengers might be hiding under their clothes. This includes organic and inorganic items that metal detectors alone would have missed. Civil rights groups have protested the extent to which the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses backscatter X-rays at airports. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are concerned that the X-ray image shows details of a person’s body that are otherwise hidden by clothing, including attached medical devices such as a colostomy bag or portacath. Currently, the only alternative to the backscatter X-ray is a thorough and equally controversial pat down by a TSA official.


Future attribute screening technology (FAST):

Like the backscatter X-rays mentioned earlier, FAST is a screening technology intended for use when security personnel need to quickly identify potential threats. Similar to the way a lie detector works, FAST measures your physiological responses. Unlike the lie detector, though, FAST requires no direct physical contact with the subject being analyzed, and airports and public buildings could use it similar to the way they use security cameras. FAST incorporates multiple technological advances that are rather remarkable on their own. Original plans for FAST included a remote cardiovascular and respiratory sensor, a remote eye tracker, thermal cameras and high-resolution video. It looks for sharp swings in body temperature, pulse and breathing that mimic the kind of anxiety exuded by a would-be terrorist or criminal.


Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit (SEEK):

Law enforcement organizations around the world store arrest and criminal records in databases. Intelligence organizations, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the U.S., do the same for people they’re tracking. These records store everything from photos and fingerprints to retinal scans and DNA analysis to create comprehensive digital dossiers. During a crisis, when time is of the essence, it’s important to have fast, reliable access to that data. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) wants to make sure that when soldiers are in the field, they can quickly retrieve necessary information to ensure appropriate action is taken without delay. Soldiers also need to be able to gather and save new information to those databases with the same speed. A device known as the Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit (SEEK II) is helping them do just that. The SEEK II is a handheld electronic device that records a person’s biometric data. Developed and marketed by Cross Match Technologies, the SEEK II can capture fingerprints, facial scans and iris scans. Soldiers can send that data over a 3G wireless network or a direct USB connection to a nearby network-connected computer. As of this writing, the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) uses the SEEK II more than any other device for gathering biometric data during missions all over the world


Critical Infrastructure Inspection Management System (CIIMS):

You’re probably aware that law enforcement and military agencies use aerial photography and surveillance as part of their work. If you’ve ever looked out of an airplane window while you’re in flight, though, you know it can be difficult to make sense of anything on the ground when you’re looking at it from the air. Thus, a map and GPS are an essential part of in-flight surveillance. An innovative system known as the Critical Infrastructure Inspection Management System (CIIMS) is going beyond static map and GPS data. CIIMS features mobile tablet devices with touch screens, similar in function to the Apple iPad or Motorola Xoom. Using CIIMS, people conducting air surveillance can send and receive real-time information about activities on the ground. This means that both air and ground forces have access to crucial data needed to make swift decisions during a crisis


Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer (VCOT) & Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE):

No matter how much a solider trains to handle a situation, the real world always throws something unexpected. This is especially true in the war on terrorism where soldiers have to defend against covert forces that have no consistent mode of attack. To better prepare its troops to respond to the unanticipated, the U.S. military now employs immersive computer simulators that provide a game-like interaction for both individuals and groups. The group simulators have probably made the biggest difference in the war on terrorism. Soldiers are in a room together wearing virtual reality gear over their eyes and handling equipment such as turrets, rifles and steering wheels. All the gear and equipment is plugged into the simulator, which feeds the soldiers the variables of the simulation and, in turn, responds to the soldiers’ movements. In one simulator called the Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer (VCOT), a team of soldiers, each in different roles, handles certain scenarios as they travel in a virtual convoy. VCOT trains troops to communicate and work together when the virtual terrorists put them in an unplanned combat scenario. The Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) takes the battle out of the convoy, training infantry to work together during ground combat. FITE simulates sights, sounds and even smells of a Middle East war zone.


Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) to retrieve deleted messages:

A deleted message is retrieved with the use of top Israeli technology that develops software and hardware used to prevent terror activity. The sophisticated technology can retrieve deleted or lost data from mobile phones, digital tablets and PCs — but it is only available to authorized government agencies and corporate organizations such as insurers. The Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) is able to retrieve data from a mobile phone — from the technology of a suspicious person. Someone could think that if they press delete the message is gone — but it’s not the case.


Terrorism insurance:

Terrorism insurance is insurance purchased by property owners to cover their potential losses and liabilities that might occur due to terrorist activities. It is considered to be a difficult product for insurance companies, as the odds of terrorist attacks are very difficult to predict and the potential liability enormous. For example the September 11, 2001 attacks resulted in an estimated $31.7 billion loss. This combination of uncertainty and potentially huge losses makes the setting of premiums a difficult matter. Most insurance companies therefore exclude terrorism from coverage in casualty and property insurance, or else require endorsements to provide coverage. However, long-term terrorism insurance is available in the some countries:


Lessons for the Future:

Terror Training Camps continue to feed terror. Early disruption of terror plots requires Early Intelligence. Terrorists fixate on many targets—it’s not possible to secure them all. The Public is important in preventing terror attacks, but should not be the First Line of defense. Treating terrorism as a standard law enforcement concern underestimates the Threat. The Key to stopping International Terrorism is international relationships. The Relationship between the Intelligence Community and Federal, State, and Local law enforcement need to be better coordinated. We must be ahead of terrorists on internet. Current aviation security is expensive & largely inconsequential and therefore need to be systematically revamped.


Why Muslims hate America?

When Osama bin laden masterminded 9/11, it was recognized worldwide that he wanted American military out of Saudi Arabia as it was unthinkable for him to reconcile with the fact that the infidels were protecting the land of Prophet Muhammad. Everybody conveniently forgot that American presence in Saudi Arabia was not a military invasion but invitation by Saudi regime and if Osama was so angry, he should have sent hijacked planes to Saudi towers. When thousands of Bosnian Muslim women were raped by Serbian militia, no Islamic country came to their help and American military intervened to liberate Bosnia. To answer the question: “Why do they hate Americans?” we need look no further than at the Islamofascist leaders worldwide who are jealous of American success, threatened by American freedom, humiliated to the point of fury and violence due to their culture’s emphasis upon shame vs. honor. Rather than learn from Americans or work with them, they seek to destroy them. They cannot admit to their followers or to others that their real motivation is their own shame and fear. Instead, they make up a long list of fictitious misdeeds in order to justify their hatred. Then they teach and preach to their societies, and especially to their young, the lies about why they hate Americans, and their children grow up believing such lies. In addition, they are buttressed by Arab and pro-Arab intellectuals and professors in the West who re-write history in order to make us believe that this hatred is new and is a function of the fictional crimes of which Americans are accused. For example, academic reassessments of American foreign policy since World War II have begun to cast President Eisenhower as opposed to Arab nationalism, marginalizing Palestinians, waging war on Islam. All of this is pure fiction. But many of us fall prey to these lies. By getting us to think that Americans are the cause, that their “imperialism” has generated the grinding poverty and tragic hopelessness in the Muslim world, the Islamofascist leaders seek to make it harder for us to focus on what we must do to stop the scourge of global terrorism. In short, they want us to believe that they hate Americans for what they do, not for what they are. Then, those who do believe their lies can self-righteously oppose any American action that could forestall the advance of Jihadist Islam.


End of terrorism:

While it is clear that policymakers will need to turn to a range of policy instruments to conduct such campaigns — including careful police and intelligence work, military force, political negotiations, and economic sanctions — what is less clear is how they should prioritize their efforts.


The figure above shows how 268 Terrorist Groups Worldwide Ended, 1968–2006. A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory. How do terrorist groups end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process. This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qaeda that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering rather than a “war on terrorism” approach that relies heavily on military force.

The analysis also found that

  • Religiously motivated terrorist groups took longer to eliminate than other groups but rarely achieved their objectives; no religiously motivated group achieved victory during the period studied.
  • Size significantly determined a group’s fate. Groups exceeding 10,000 members were victorious more than 25 percent of the time, while victory was rare for groups below 1,000 members.
  • Terrorist groups from upper-income countries are much more likely to be left-wing or nationalist and much less likely to be motivated by religion.


If the war on terrorism is modeled on the war on drugs—a continual battle against an elusive and changing enemy—it will be an ongoing failure. A military response to terrorism will only create more terrorism. Targeting specific terrorists is also not a permanent solution, as more will simply spring up to replace those removed. Instead of a war on terrorism, the United States should focus on preventing terrorist attacks on the homeland. This approach would be safer and more effective than becoming entangled in unstable, hostile countries around the world. Terrorist organizations are human networks, not armies. They rely on trust, relationships, and communication to operate. Military operations and bombing campaigns will be ineffective against such groups because they will not destroy the trust and connections those networks are built upon. Therefore, the most effective way to reduce terrorism is to wage a war of wits. With good intelligence gathering techniques, authorities can learn who the key terrorists are and either eliminate them or tarnish their reputations in the eyes of others in the network. Unraveling the ties that bind terrorists will win the war on terrorism.  Historically, it has been easier to deal with terrorism than insurgencies. When terrorist movements are left to run their course, they tend to last around a dozen years. The good news about them is that, unlike insurgencies, which seldom lose, terrorism rarely seems to win. Terrorism, properly and intelligently confronted, is a short-term, dramatically violent irritant and not much more.  By its nature, terrorism cannot depend on support from the local population.  If their general populations are actively opposed to them, they are faced with the difficult task of operating entirely underground.  Recently Al Qaida in Iraq has been losing support from mainstream Muslims because they have indiscriminately killed civilians in defiance of the teachings of the Quran. They are now being targeted and killed by Iraqis.


Warfare and lawfare against terrorism:

To many, the enemy is an extreme and activist ideology that seeks the marriage of mosque and state, by any means necessary, including mass murder and maiming of civilians should their leaders stand in the way. This terrorist war on us was declared decades ago and is likely to be a multi-generational struggle in which all support for the enemy must be countered – ideology, intelligence, politics, finance, and security. To others, the enemy is a collection of individuals who can be captured, killed, prosecuted, or otherwise managed by using the legal and security institutions present where the terrorist resides. The contending approaches can be reduced to favoring warfare or lawfare or both.


How terrorism ended in Punjab:

It’s interesting to note that once the extremism in Punjab was beyond the level of controlling. There were even speculations of secession. The extremists were inflicting huge causalities on both the Government and on the public. Their hands even stretched up to Delhi. They even dared to kidnap the ambassador of Romania. There were train massacres in which terrorists even did not spare children. Punjab was taken for a ride by some who called for a separate state called `Khalistan’. The arms and ammunitions were pouring in to Punjab. But nearly a decade long struggle came to a halt after the security forces adopted the policy of `tit for tat’. That meant the same extremist’s family who once targeted the family of security forces were targeted. Border infiltrations were kept at bay. Rigorous measures were taken by the security forces in quelling the armed struggle. Of course, moderate Sikhs helped police catch the extremists. Their efforts did not go in vain. The spinal cord of terrorism was mercilessly crushed. Normalcy returned to the state. Many of the terrorist leaders were either killed or caught. Many of them escaped to the Western countries and some jumped over the fence. There were `widespread concerns’ of human rights violations. But the ruling machinery and the system remained intact and together. Today Punjab is affluent and booming state in India.


Racial profiling:

Racial profiling is the use of an individual’s race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest). The practice is controversial and is illegal in many jurisdictions. Racial profiling rests on the idea that people from particular racial or ethnic groups are more likely to be involved in acts of terror than people from other groups. The theory then suggests that law enforcement officers should spend a greater proportion of their time scrutinizing people from the ‘high risk’ group. One problem with this approach is that innocent people who also belong to the targeted group rapidly become offended, and some may even become radicalized as a result.


“Racial profiling reduces Terrorism” by Richard Lowry:

In order to support his views on racial profiling, Lowry demonstrates several claims which support that racial profiling reduces terrorism. His claims are as follows: Lowry’s major claim is that racial profiling would have prevented September 11. Lowry states that if the politicians would have been more worried about looking for terrorists other than concerned about hurting the feelings of some ethnic groups. According to Lowry, ethnic profiling is not discrimination, it is accepting reality, today’s terrorist share a common factor, their race. The current U.S. security system is absurd. It is preposterous to think that an eighty year-old white woman should be treated with the same ‘level of scrutiny’ as a Muslim man. The government should concentrate on the most likely threats and not waste valuable time and resources. The United States does not have the tough mindedness needed to make a system of racial profiling (like the one in Israel).Racial profiling can work to reduce terrorism in America.


Political correctness threatens to make obsolete one of America’s most valuable terrorist-fighting tools: racial profiling. Because it is primarily Islamic Arabs who commit terrorist acts against the United States, they should be scrutinized over other ethnic groups. Such ethnic profiling is not a matter of discrimination; it is simply common-sense security. Current profiling systems that do not take into account race, ethnicity, or national origin undermine efforts to prevent attacks. Indeed, checking everyone, or checking people arbitrarily in the interest of appearing fair wastes time and fails to concentrate energy on who is most likely to be dangerous. Applying racial profiling to screening systems is the most common-sense way to reduce terrorism in America. However, in the past, engaging in racial profiling has not made law enforcement any more successful in reducing crime. Indeed, a helpful indicator of intent to harm is not how people look but how they behave; focusing on looks distracts authorities from identifying suspicious behavior. Most importantly, homing in on only one type of person ignores the fact that terrorists are of a multitude of ethnicities and nationalities.


Why racial profile works:

Terrorists are most often Muslims; worth profiling them. Political correctness should not prevent profiling/safety. Political correctness killed innocent people at Fort Hood, an Army base in Texas, when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan gunned down 13 people and wounded many others despite the fact that his fellow officers were aware of his attachment to radical Islamism and all that it implied. It is the same political correctness that is stopping us today from doing what we truly need to be doing at airports and other public places: profiling all passengers. Most people accept profiling as necessary for security. Profiling will help avoid invasive scanners and pat-downs. Body-scanning and patting-down all travelers, including older disabled men and women, is excessive and often invasive. Many feel very strongly that the procedure violates their privacy. Profiling those individuals that are a real potential threat is a good way to avoid these problems. More screening can actually result in less security by directing security attention and resources (which by definition, are finite) onto people who are not a threat, which in turn moves such attention and resources away from people who are a threat.   


Research on racial profiling:

In the Significance paper, Press, based in the departments of Computer Science and Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin, takes a thorough mathematical and statistical view of the process that underlies racial profiling, and concludes that some forms of racial profiling may even result in a smaller chance of detaining a terrorist than carefully conducted standard sampling. In a world threatened by terrorists from a small number of countries, it is tempting to think that racial profiling for security purposes, even if morally objectionable, might save lives. “But uniform sampling, without the use of profiling, is surprisingly good. It is robust against false assumptions, it is deterrent, it is easy to implement, it is about as effective as any real-life system can be — and it is devoid of moral and political hazard,” says Press. He believes that the choice between a strategy of profiling and one of uniform random sampling should not be viewed as difficult; uniform random sampling wins.


Racial profile makes counterterrorism ineffective:

Because racial profiling diverts precious law enforcement resources and destroys the relationship between local law enforcement authorities and the communities they serve, it is a flawed method of law enforcement in any context. But it is particularly ineffective in the counterterrorism context for two additional reasons. First, even if one accepts the false assumption that terrorists are likely to be Arabs or Muslims, the application of the profile is fraught with error. The profile of a terrorist as an Arab or Muslim has been applied to individuals who are neither Arab nor Muslim (e.g., Sikhs and other South Asians). Profiling of Arabs and Muslims amounts to selective enforcement of the law against anyone with a certain type of “swarthy” foreign-looking appearance even if they do not in fact fit the terrorist profile. The profile is then useless in fighting terrorism, as well as offensive to an ever-broadening category of persons. Second, using racial profiling in the counterterrorism context is a classic example of refighting the last war. Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are pan-ethnic: they include Asians, Anglos, and ethnic Europeans. They are also adaptive organizations that will learn how to use non-Arabs such as Richard Reid to carry out terrorists attacks, or to smuggle explosive devices onto planes in the luggage of innocent people. Chertoff, the former DHS secretary made this point when, in his statement following the bomb attempt by Reid, he observed that “one of the things the enemy does is to deliberately recruit people who are Western in background or in appearance so that they can slip by people who might be stereotyping.” In short, the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were Arabs means little in predicting who the next terrorists will be. In a situation analogous to the one facing Arabs and Muslims today, the 10 individuals found to be spying for Japan during World War II were not Japanese or Asian, but Caucasian. They clearly did not fit the profile that caused America to order the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans.  Racial profiling in any case is a crude mechanism; against an enemy like al Qaeda, it is virtually useless.


Pitfalls of racial profiling:
Under these new TSA guidelines, security screeners will conduct “full pat-down body checks” and extensive carry-on luggage checks for all passengers traveling from a country which the U.S. considers to be a “security risk.” These 14 countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Additionally, passengers traveling from any other foreign country may also be checked at ‘random’ as well. These new rules mean that “every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening,” the TSA said. On its face, this clear use of ethnic, racial and religious profiling will not achieve greater security in the long term for the U.S. In fact, by targeting only certain passengers for additional screening, “blind spots” can be easily identified and duplicitously exploited by violent extremists wishing our country harm.

1. Under international law, countries including the United States that use race, color, ethnicity, religion or nationality as a proxy for criminal suspicion are in violation of international standards against racial discrimination and multiple treaties to which the U.S. is a party. These include the U.N. Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

 2. Racial Profiling can send Police down wrong path. For years, the concept of “racial profiling” has reportedly undermined important terrorist investigations here in the United States. Most notably, these examples include the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in which the two white male domestic terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were able to flee while officers operated on the theory that the act had been committed by “Arab terrorists” for the first 48 hours of the investigation.

3. Pay attention to Criminal behavior, Not Race. In fact, not only do such “racial profiling” practices waste limited resources, they simply make us less safe. For example, the arrests of John Walker Lindh (a white, middle-class man better known as the ‘American Taliban’) and Richard Reid (a British citizen of West Indian and European ancestry now serving a life sentence at the Supermax prison in Colorado) confirm that effective law enforcement techniques must rely solely on criminal behavior and not race, religion or nationality in order to ensure our citizens’ security. 

 4. Profile from one group and terrorists will recruit from another. Once aware of national profiling, terrorists will simply use people from “non-profiled” countries or origins. Terrorists could dress and behave differently to avoid profiling. Massoud Shadjareh, the chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said in January of 2010: “It’s not true that all terrorists are Muslims. Any such measure would not only alienate people, it would also be ineffective in terms of stopping terrorists. What’s to stop them dressing up as orthodox Jews in order to evade profiling-based searches?”

5. Profiling alienates groups needed in terrorism fight. Treating all Muslims as suspects also undermines our efforts to gain intelligence on terrorists. We shouldn’t be profiling the very communities we need information from to catch the bad guys. Umar Abdul-Muttallab’s father gave us such information to prevent the Dec. 25 terror plot. David Harris, professor of law and values at the University of Toledo College of Law in Ohio, says that focusing on specific ethnic groups alienates the very people authorities need to help them catch terrorists. “By the time the threat is at the subway or airport, we’re down to the last line of defense,” Harris says. “You really want to catch these people before they go to the subway.” That can be accomplished only by gathering information from people who live in the communities where sleeper cells reside and can tell authorities who’s new in a neighborhood and who seems to have income without holding a job.   

6. Airport profiling would make minority groups second-class citizens. So it’s not ‘political correctness’  that is standing in the way of replacing full-body scans with a strong and effective profiling system: it’s reality. All that ‘political correctness’ is preventing is the implementation of an equally (and likely even more) ineffective piece of security theater in which we single out one minority group for intensive screening while giving a pass to everyone else. This would certainly annoy fewer people, but it wouldn’t make us safer and its sole benefits would be accomplished by treating an entire minority group as second-class citizens.  

7. Profiling is institutionalized racism.

8. Profiling gives terrorists a justification for their acts. When we abandon our principles, we not only betray our values, we also run the risk of undermining international and community support for counterterrorism efforts by providing an injustice for terrorists to exploit as a way of justifying further acts of terrorism.

9. There is a difference between ethnic profiling and behavioral profiling. Behavioral profiling has a high efficiency rate.

In 1999, when the Customs Service abandoned a profile based on ethnicity and instead focused on behavior, its productivity and efficiency soared. The number of searches declined from 10,733 in the first quarter of 1999 (pre-reform) to 2,814 searches in the first quarter of 2000 (post-reform), but the percent of searches that yielded contraband leaped from 3.5 percent to nearly 11 percent.

10. But the most important reason to oppose racial profiling, it simply doesn’t work. When police use race or ethnic appearance as a factor in law enforcement, their accuracy in catching criminals decreases. Even worse, it can lead to accidental deaths, such as the fatal shooting by London police of an innocent Brazilian man after the bombings there.


Can mathematics be used to destroy terror cells?


The graph model of terror cell:

In this seven-member cell, removing A would have little effect on the organization. Removing E and G instead would split the cell into two units that presumably would be less effective on their own. For graphs of various sorts, it’s possible to estimate the probability that the removal of a certain number of nodes would split the graph into two or more separate units. A graph model, however, may not be the best one available for representing a typical terrorist organization. Modeling terrorist cells as graphs ignores an important aspect of their structure, namely their hierarchy, and the fact that they are composed of leaders and followers. It’s not enough to disconnect terrorist networks. A remnant may yet contain a leader and enough followers to mount a serious attack.


The hierarchy model of terror cell:

In this ordered-set representation of a terrorist cell, points represent individual members and lines show communication links. Members A, B, and C are leaders and rank higher than all other members. I, J, and K have the lowest rank. There are many “maximal” chains linking leaders to foot soldiers. In this case, the relationship of one individual to another in a cell becomes important. Leaders are represented by the topmost nodes in a diagram of the ordered set representing a cell and foot soldiers are nodes at the bottom. Disrupting the organization would be equivalent to disrupting the chain of command, which allows orders to pass from leaders to foot soldiers. A chain of command linking a leader with a foot soldier is called a maximal chain in the ordered set. A given ordered set may have several such chains. All of these chains must be broken for a cell (or remnant) to be considered ineffective. Analyzing the structure and common nodes of such chains allows you to determine the probability that a terrorist cell has been disrupted. This method of analysis could help officials make decisions about the allocation of resources, money, and personnel when fighting terrorism. This tool will help law enforcement know when a battle against Al Qaeda has been won, thus saving the public’s money without unduly risking the public’s safety. However law enforcement often doesn’t know how a terrorist cell is organized or even its full membership. It’s also not clear that terrorist attacks occur just when orders are passed down from leaders to foot soldiers.


Infiltrate terror cells:

British Agent infiltrated terror cell in 2006. Terrorists were in the “final stages” of a plot to simultaneously blow up as many as 10 jets leaving Britain for the U.S., sending the planes and thousands of passengers into the Atlantic Ocean. British and Pakistani authorities teamed up to thwart the attacks, and 24 men were arrested in overnight raids in Britain. An undercover British agent infiltrated the group, giving the authorities intelligence on the alleged plan. Information gathered after recent arrests in Pakistan convinced British investigators they had to act urgently to stop the plot, sources said. The FBI had also penetrated another cell which carried out the 1993 world trade center bombing, but had — at the last minute — canceled the plan to have its FBI infiltrator substitute fake powder for real explosives, against the infiltrator’s strong wishes. The best way to end terror is to infiltrate terror cells by intelligence agency agent. Israel has prevented several terrorist attacks by infiltrating Hamas and other Palestinian groups. 


Traits of a possible sleeper cell:

Pipes lists some 42 traits or characteristics that he believes may be helpful in separating possible sleeper cell terrorists from the moderate Muslim community. Of course, he does not say that any one trait or even any combination of traits should mark someone as a terrorist; presumably, however, an accumulation of the traits listed by Pipes might make it more likely that a person is a sleeper. Thus, if a person shows enough such traits, or a few of them to an extreme, this would be a reason for concern and closer investigation or surveillance.

The 42 traits that Pipes lists are subdivided into six categories:

1. Connection with foreign countries (4 items);

2. Making preparations for (terrorist) operations (9 items);

3. Displaying certain attitudes, such as “accusing the West of trying to destroy Islam” (11 items);

4. Identity problems (5 items)

5. Questionable social activities (e.g., financial support for militant Islamic groups) (6 items);

6. Miscellaneous pointers, such as “a preference for cash transactions” (7 items). 


Counter terrorist cell:

In a broad sense, there are two primary ways to destroy terrorist cells: one is to eliminate existing cells, and the other is to prevent future cells from being created. Each of these objectives requires a specifically tailored strategy. The human body primarily fights hostile cells (bacteria) with immune cells. We should apply that lesson to the war on terrorism by the formation of counter terrorist cells. These counter terrorist cells would have the benefit of mobility, flexibility, while simultaneously having the capacity to draw on the enormous resources of the nation. Small teams of counter-terrorist cells could similarly loiter (on the ground) in an area of suspected terrorist presence and if a target is identified it could then be attacked. The on-site cell leader would approve the attack once he had the intelligence that a target had been identified.  This information could come from a member of his cell, a member of a different cell, or from any number of other sources that may or may not lend themselves to easy predictability. This kind of autonomy is also not without risks. Mistakes are inevitable in any complex operation, but on the balance the potential for error is no greater than with traditional intelligence operations or past efforts to destroy terrorist organizations. Using counter-terrorist cells would certainly be more cost-effective than conventional weapons. The primary purpose of counter-terrorist cells would be to eliminate terrorists. While the idea of independent assassination squads would be certain to shock most civilians, it shouldn’t.  During the large-scale conventional wars of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of soldiers fought and killed each other on the battlefield.  In the west this was regarded as lawful combat, and soldiers who killed the enemy under those conditions were rewarded, not prosecuted. Terrorists don’t wear uniforms, but they are combatants and therefore legitimate targets nonetheless. One significant obstacle would be how to control or direct these cells. In a country like India, fake encounter is not uncommon. Killing of Osama bin laden by American security forces may be classified as a counter terrorist cell activity as it was possible to capture him alive and produce before American court.


Myths of terrorism:


1. Myth: All terrorists are madmen.

Fact: First, let’s dispel the myth that terrorists are mentally ill. If you believe that most terrorists are crazy, psycho, or suicidal you are wrong. 30 years of research has failed to identify a good profile of a terrorist. We now know that terrorists are no more likely to have mood disorders, psychopathology, or personality disorders than non-terrorists from the same background. In fact, individuals chosen for a terrorist mission have undoubtedly demonstrated that they are trustworthy, reliable, loyal, organized, intelligent, and dedicated to a specific cause.  Increasingly, terrorist groups are recruiting highly skilled professionals who have expertise in fields such as communications, computer programming, engineering, finance, and the sciences. Terrorists use groups and networks for both logistical and psychological support. Groups afford a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and perhaps even a sense of identity. Even ‘lone wolf’ terrorist is found to be sane individual rather than crazy individual.  The assumption that all terrorists are madmen in its simplest form is a myth that is promoted by states so as to deny political legitimacy to terrorist actors or their goals. At one level the myth maintains that, “only madmen would resort to many of the actions that terrorists have undertaken.”  This view, which is common in Western media and governmental circles, allows observers the easy opportunity to reduce non-state actors, their actions and problems to psychological ones, the end result of which states that terrorists and their violent behavior is anything but rational. Terrorism is not an irrational act committed by the insane but by very sane people with definite objectives. 


2. Myth: Terrorism is a random act carried out by irrational people who hate our way of life.

Fact: If only it were that simple. To the innocent bystander caught in the crossfire or explosion connected to a terrorist incident there is no doubt that the incident and his/her victimization is random and hence even more terrifying. However, the reality of terrorism is that it is purposeful and involves selectivity in its execution. In fact, terrorists are typically motivated by geopolitical grievances, not blind hatred. The agendas of individual terrorist groups vary, but their tactical goal is always more or less the same: to sow fear and confusion by deliberately targeting civilians in order to intimidate a country into changing its policies and ways. So political calculations are key here. Terrorist groups develop their modus operandi based on where they originate, who supports them, who their enemies are, what their likelihood of success will be and a host of other tactical and strategic considerations. Citizens of countries that occupy other countries, for example, are more likely to be targeted by terrorists. In addition, wealthy democracies are more likely to be the targets of terrorist strikes than are totalitarian regimes, which suggest that terrorists deliberately strike countries that are susceptible to public pressure. Another reason not to see terrorist attacks as random: They’re often timed to occur when they can have maximum impact, such as the eve of pivotal elections. In Israel, for example, attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups bent on sabotaging peace talks are more frequent before elections when left-wing governments hold power, in hopes of pushing Israeli voters in a more hawkish direction, according to research by Claude Berrebi of the Rand Corporation and Esteban F. Klor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. There’s even a cold logic to the time of day that terrorists pick for their attacks, which also suggests a rhythm that’s far from random. The analysis of U.S. government data from the National Counterterrorism Center reveals that terrorists are most likely to strike in the morning — in time to enter the day’s news cycle.


3. Myth: Terrorists are no different than ordinary criminals.

Fact: Wrong. Criminals tend to be poor and uneducated. But terrorists tend to come from families with above-average means and are often well-educated. For example, members of the military wing of the radical Shiite group Hezbollah who were killed in action in the 1980s and early 1990s were better educated and less likely to be poor than their Lebanese countrymen. Researchers have found similar results for other terrorist groups. People who join terrorist organizations often have legitimate, well-paying jobs, unlike common criminals. Terrorists have a specific goal in mind while the “ordinary” criminal is one who seeks opportunistic targets, has little backing, is selfish, lacks discipline and may be deterred relatively easily. Criminals tend to hide after they commit a crime, but terrorists often like to take credit and bask in the media’s propaganda. It is rare for terrorist acts to result in any identifiable criminal gain. However, groups which have been labeled as terrorist groups have engaged in what are clearly “criminal” acts simply to generate funds for their operations. Such acts should not be confused with terrorism as their purpose has nothing to do with creating fear and/or compliant behavior in terms of the political system.   


4. Myth: Terrorism never succeeds.

Fact: If terrorism didn’t work, it would be far rarer than it now is. Sometimes terrorists do achieve their goals, which is why others continue to try the tactic. Of course, it’s not always easy to determine what the terrorists’ objectives are, but sometimes their goals are pretty clear. Consider the devastating commuter-rail bombings in Madrid in March 2005, three days before Spain held congressional elections. The Islamic radicals who set off the bombs reportedly hoped to change the Spanish government. It worked. A new study by Jose Garcia Matalvo, an economist at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, compared absentee ballots cast before the bombings with votes cast after them on a province-by-province level. His work convincingly shows that the shock of the bombings led the Socialist Party to defeat the incumbent conservative government. Upon assuming power, the Socialist Party immediately withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.


5. Myth:  A dirty bomb will kill me.

Fact: A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive that, when detonated, disperses radioactive material. But in reality, the initial blast is not going to level a city, and it would only kill you if you were standing right next to the device when it exploded. Furthermore, the radioactive material would be spread in a relatively small area, and it can be cleaned up without rendering a city uninhabitable. And if by chance you were exposed, there are treatments and you would likely survive.


6. Myth:  Poison gases and nerve gases exist.

Fact: Believe it or not, there are no poison or nerve gases. They are actually liquids that must be dispersed as an aerosol. Because of this, there is a better than average chance for survival if you are exposed. Some medical attention and a hot soapy shower could be all it takes to decontaminate you. It is possible to receive a lethal dose of these types of agents, but it would have to be a substantial dose. If you live long enough to realize what has happened, chances are you will survive.


7. Myth: I should be worried about Small Pox.

Fact: The World Health Organization eradicated Small Pox in the 1970’s, with the last known case occurring in Somalia in 1977. One small amount exists for study at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and another small amount is also at the Russian version of the CDC, known as Vector. There have been rumors that terrorist groups or even Saddam Hussein may have gotten their hands on some of that material, but there is no concrete proof. The rumors are based on shaky evidence at best, so the concern is extremely over-blown.


8. Myth: The chemical/bio-weapons out there are so horrible that there is nothing I can do, and an attack will probably kill everyone in the area.

Fact: The types needed for effective bio-terrorism are difficult to get, hard to handle, and nearly impossible to control. Bio-weapons are dangerous, but they are also made of naturally occurring elements that humans have co-existed with for thousands of years. There are medical treatments available. Plus, to bring about the mass casualties and sickness that people seem to envision, a terrorist would have to have an extremely large amount of the chemical agent. Chances are, they wouldn’t be able to obtain enough. Could some people die in an attack? Absolutely. But will a bio-weapons attack mean a catastrophic end to civilization? No.


9. Myth: Most terrorism in the United States has an international origin and is committed by radical Muslims.

Fact: Actually, the majority of terrorist acts have no connections to the Middle East or Asia, but are strictly home-grown, originating with American citizens who are left- or right-wing extremists, animal activists, environmental radicals, anti-abortion extremists. Most are committed by American citizens. Few are Islamic fanatics. According to the FBI, terrorist organizations in the United States have included the Animal Liberation Front, Aryan Nations, the Black Liberation Army, the Earth Liberation Front, the Jewish Defense League, Ku Klux Klan, the Order, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the F.A.L.N. (Puerto Rican Independence Organization).


10. Myth: Terrorism knows and respects no boundaries.

Fact: The assumption that terrorism knows and respects no boundaries flows from the same base that perpetuates the myth that terrorism is random and indiscriminate. Yet, much of the statistical analysis points to identifiable limits within the realm of terrorist violence. While it is correct to suggest that the entire international system has experienced international terrorism at one time or another, it is more accurate to argue that a relatively small group of states are the constant targets of international terrorism while the vast majority reside on the periphery of this violence. Empirical evidence that over half of all international terrorism has been perpetrated in just thirteen states and less than seven states account for over fifty per cent of all victimization indicates the reality of terrorism. Further evidence also suggests that the majority of terrorist acts are not characterized by the large-scale wanton killing and destruction that is so often assumed.  


11. Myth: Terrorism is synonymous with massive death and destruction.

Fact: Despite its vicious notoriety, the data indicates that international terrorism results in less than one fatality per incident and over ninety per cent of the incidents have not resulted in the death of any victims. There are also relatively few “high end” incidents such as the bombing of airliners. In fact, there were only twenty-one bombings of airliners over a twenty-seven year period and only twelve resulted in the deaths of more than twenty people. While these types of incident do indeed occur, they are the exception rather than the rule. The mainstay of terrorism to date has been a combination of threatened violence with an assortment of other violent acts that have produced proportionally more fear than death or destruction.


12. Myth: Terrorism is the exclusive activity of non-governmental actors and its purpose is to create chaos.

Fact: The reasoning behind this myth is that small non-state (and perhaps irrational) actors are the sole force behind terrorism. If this assumption is true, it follows that given their relatively small stature vis-à-vis states relegates them to disturbing the peace without realistically establishing any counter-order. While it is clearly true that a primary purpose of terrorism, as practiced by challengers to governmental authority, is the production of chaos, to demonstrate the inability of the regime to govern, it is also a reality of terrorism is that it is regularly employed by states to enforce order. This phenomenon occurs in many states and is noted at several stages of states’ political development. In each case, it is the production of order, not chaos that the relevant terrorists strive for.


13. Myth: Governments always oppose non-governmental terrorism.

Fact: The myth that states: “Governments always oppose non-governmental terrorism,” can be easily corrected by adding the simple contextual addendum, “When they find it politically expedient.” Although states have traditionally been considered as “society’s neutral conflict manager,” a more accurate view treats them as interested parties. In this conceptualization the role of states as keepers of order is expanded to include instances where non-state actors have acted with a state’s political interests in mind. In other words, there are circumstances where the terrorist activity of non-state actors is accepted as order rather than chaos inducing. One prominent example of state support for nongovernmental terrorism is found in the relationship between certain states and vigilante groups engaged in domestic terrorism. When vigilante groups seek to assist the established government in the maintenance of order they are not only tolerated, but encouraged by governments, for example, both the Argentine and Brazilian governments resorted to supporting domestic, non-state terrorist groups during the 1970s with the intent of achieving greater political control within their own borders. State support for nongovernmental terrorism also extends to the international arena. Again, there are instances where the terrorism of non-state entities coincides with the national interests of sovereign states. State support in this respect generally depends on a cost-benefit analysis that calculates the benefit thought possible from the desired outcome, the believed probability with which the action will bring about the desired state of affairs and the believed probable cost of engaging in the action.


14. Myth: All Muslims are not Terrorists, but all Terrorists are Muslims.

Fact: Since the 11th Sept 2001 WTC attack, this started being popularized and by now it has become part of social common sense. In India, the Kashmir militancy indulged in by a section of youth is again cited as example of Muslim terrorists. To add to this the incidents of Akshardham temple, Ansal plaza, high jacking of Indian Airlines plane to Kandhar, attack on parliament are blown up as, in all these either Muslims were involved or in some cases it was projected that they were. All said and done, there is enough number of cases where Muslims are involved and organizations like Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas have become household names. But interestingly there are many other organizations using violence which are not much taken note of. One of the major such organizations is Liberation Tiger of Tamil Elam (LTTE), the majority of the members of this are Hindus. One member of this group, Dhanu strapped a bomb and killed Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly Khalistani movement was the major force resorting to terror just few years ago. Those belonging to Christian and Hindu militants are active in North East India. Worldwide, the Irish Republican Army militants belong to Christianity, the one who bombed a Hotel in Cairo in 1942 was a Jew, and the Oklahoma bomber was a Christian, Timothy McWeigh. Wherever dissatisfaction goes beyond a particular level some of the people do resort to violence to achieve their supposed goal. It is not related to any one religion in particular. National Democratic Front: Bodoland, All Tripura Tiger Force, Japanese Red Army, Lords Salvation Army, ETA, Spain are some more examples of organizations which are scattered in different parts of world, using terror tactics for their political goals and have nothing to do with Islam.


Americans continue to live in mortal fear of radical Islam, a fear propagated and inflamed by right wing Islamophobes.  If one follows the cable news networks, it seems as if all terrorists are Muslims. It has even become axiomatic in some circles to chant: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslims.” But perception is not reality. The data simply does not support such a hasty conclusion.  On the FBI’s official website, there exists a chronological list of all terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil from the year 1980 all the way to 2005. According to this data (see figure above), there were more Jewish acts of terrorism within the United States than Islamic (7% vs. 6%).  These radical Jews committed acts of terrorism in the name of their religion. These were not terrorists who happened to be Jews; rather, they were extremist Jews who committed acts of terrorism based on their religious passions, just like Al-Qaeda and company. Yet notice the disparity in media coverage between the two. It would indeed be very interesting to construct a corresponding pie chart that depicted the level of media coverage of each group. 


15. Myth: Zero tolerance to terrorism is achievable.

Fact:  Of course, leaders are duty-bound to assuage terrified citizens and the seriousness with which terrorism is being taken is captured to an extent in this declaration. The problem is that this goal is simply not achievable. As explained earlier, terrorism is a strategy and not an apparatus existing in isolation. There are, of course, training camps where guerilla warfare and terrorist tactics, indoctrination and suicide attacks are taught. But these are tactical measures and cater largely to the last mile. The characteristic of terrorism is that it leverages the very apparatuses it seeks to destroy. Terrorists use public transportation, public communication channels, commercial houses, legitimate and illegitimate fund transfer methods to further their aims. Consider this. Every day millions of dollars worth of contraband and spurious goods are smuggled in and out of India. These include spurious automobile parts, medicines, fake branded watches, exclusive label wear, drugs, counterfeit currency and human trafficking. This illegal trade flourishes using the very same channels which terrorists can piggyback on without any danger of detection. So the next time you see pirated DVDs being sold in neighborhood shops or admire a friend’s fake Rolex, you are watching the terminal end of a supply chain that could have well been used to transport high explosives, weapons or even terrorists into the country. There is simply no way to achieve zero tolerance to terrorism in an environment that has high tolerance for every other crime.


16. Myth: There is a silver closed circuit TV (CCTV) out there which is going to contain or prevent the next attack.

Fact: The efficacy of terrorism is demonstrated when inexperienced citizens too, pitch in their advice on how to tackle terrorism by buying tools. CCTV can certainly catch terrorists as exemplified in Boston bombing but it is unlikely to prevent terrorism or deter terrorists from carrying out heinous acts. In fact, in my view, next time, terrorists would brag before CCTV and then detonate explosives to create panic. Terrorism can only be addressed through fundamental changes in mindset, long-term development of modern institutions and all-round revamp of governance systems. We need better policing and better politics. 


Civilian casualty ratio:

In armed conflicts, the civilian casualty ratio (also civilian death ratio, civilian-combatant ratio, etc.) is the ratio of civilian casualties to combatant casualties, or total casualties. The measurement can apply either to casualties inflicted by or to a particular belligerent, casualties inflicted in one aspect or arena of a conflict or to casualties in the conflict as a whole. According the International Committee of the Red Cross, the civilian-to-soldier death ratio in wars fought since the mid-20th century has been 10:1, meaning ten civilian deaths for every soldier death. The civilian casualty rate in World War I is therefore approximately 2:3 or 40%. The civilian to combatant fatality rate in World War II lies somewhere between 3:2 and 2:1, or from 60% to 67%. During the First Chechen War, 4,000 separatist fighters and 40,000 civilians are estimated to have died, giving a civilian-combatant ratio of 10:1. The numbers for the Second Chechen War are 3,000 fighters and 13,000 civilians, for a ratio of 43:10. The combined ratio for both wars is 76:10. According to a 2010 assessment by John Sloboda of Iraq Body Count, a United Kingdom-based organization, American and Coalition forces had killed at least 28,736 combatants as well as 13,807 civilians in the Iraq War, indicating an essential civilian to combatant casualty ratio of 1:2. The civilian casualty rate for U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan is notoriously difficult to quantify. The U.S. itself puts the number of civilians killed from drone strikes in the last two years at no more than 20 to 30, a total that is far too low according to a spokesman for the NGO CIVIC. At the other extreme, Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution suggests that drone strikes may kill “10 or so civilians” for every militant killed, which would represent a civilian to combatant casualty ratio of 10:1. The head of the Shin Bet reported to the Israeli Cabinet that of the 810 Palestinians killed in Gaza in 2006 and 2007, 200 were civilians (a ratio of approximately 1:3). Haaretz assessed this to be an underestimation of civilian casualties. Using B’tselem’s figures they calculated that 816 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza during the two-year period, 360 of whom were civilians. 1,010 Israelis were killed between September 29, 2000 and January 1, 2005. Of these, 773 were civilians killed in Palestinian attacks, resulting in a ratio of approximately 5:1. The UN estimates that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.


Drone attack:

War in Iraq, war in Afghanistan and drone attacks in Pakistan are part of war on terror by the U.S. Since average civilian casualty ration is 3:1 worldwide in various wars, any ratio greater than that would be unacceptable. I can understand that some innocents will be killed when you try to tackle terrorism on war footing. Inconsistently and slowly Americans pay condolence payments to family members of victims in the range of few thousand dollars per death. Since the U.S. drone attack in Pakistan and Afghanistan has civilian casualty ratio of 10:1 as per independent estimates, it is likely to promote terrorism and help al-Qaeda and Taliban recruit more terrorists. 


American double standard vis-à-vis terrorism:

In 2006, epidemiologists from the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health found that from 2003 to 2006, 654,965 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US-led war. Other sources put the figure above one million. Not only did the US murder Iraqis but also poisoned them. The depleted uranium in US bullets coated Iraq with a thin layer of low-level radioactive dust that will sicken Iraqis for years. The University of Michigan’s department of obstetrics and gynecology studied 56 families in Fallujah between 2007 and 2010 and found that over half of babies born had birth defects, e.g., missing limbs, heart defects, brain defects and so on. Prior to 2000, the birth defect rate was under 2 percent. Unfortunately, the Iraq war is not an exception. US global terrorism predates 2003 and continues today with Obama’s illegal drone war that has left thousands dead. Last year’s important NYU/Stanford report entitled “Living Under Drones” exposed this murderous policy. The ominous prospect of death by drone “terrorizes men, women, and children” in Pakistan, the report says. The study details the use of “secondary strikes” or “double taps” – drone attacks on rescuers that come to aid the original drone victim. The US has even targeted funeral processions of drone victims, discouraging family members from attending. As many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years. The trouble with defining terrorism was replayed the following day after Boston bombing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked point-blank whether a US drone strike that killed 11 children a few days earlier is “a form of terrorism.” The rambling and incoherent response from Carney, his struggle to find the definition of terror and defend US actions, is a pristine example of Orwell’s notion of “doublethink” in action. For Obama, Carney and the Washington establishment, terror is only something they – the Muslims, radicals, their enemies – do to us. When the events of history and reality unfold before their eyes, those in power struggle to incorporate them into their Orwellian framework, stumbling as they do, with facts as plain as the nose on their face.


Double standard of media reporting: Norwegian massacre:

“If the person who killed 93 people on 22 July 2011 in Norway was Muslim, the press would have declared him a terrorist. But he is just an ‘assailant’, ‘attacker’ (Reuters), or ‘gunman’ (international TV channels). Looks like ‘terrorist’ is a name reserved for Muslims. The US Department of State calls it an ‘act of violence,’ not an ‘act of terrorism.'” Who is then Anders Behring Breivik? Breivik is a gunman, attacker, assailant, evil killer, but without a doubt, Anders Behring Breivik is first and foremost a terrorist. Accordingly, he has been labeled as such by the court which has charged him with acts of terrorism. To be more specific, it can be said that Breivik is a right-wing terrorist. It should be noted here that this is not a new concept created only as a response to Breivik`s case. Ideologically, the evidence of this form of terrorism in Europe dates back to the era of Fascism and National Socialism.  


Flawed morality about terrorism:


Foiled terrorist attacks:

At least 50 publicly known terrorist plots against the United States have been thwarted since 9/11—of these, at least 42 could be considered homegrown terrorist threats. What these plots show is that terrorists, both at home and abroad, continue to seek to harm the United States and its citizens. Ensuring that the U.S. is able to thwart the next terrorist plots requires the continued vigilance of law enforcement, intelligence, and the American people. After the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, many worried that al-Qaeda would try to carry out another large-scale attack against the United States as an act of revenge. Indeed since bin Laden’s death, at least nine publicly known Islamist-inspired terror plots against the United States have been foiled. Ultimately, none of the plots foiled since bin Laden’s death proved to be of the scale that many feared, with the vast majority of the plots lacking major international connections. Instead, many of these plots could be categorized as homegrown terror plots—planned by American citizens, legal permanent residents, or visitors radicalized predominately in the United States. Boston bombing was carried out by American citizens who came from Chechnya and radicalized in America via internet. For the individual homegrown terrorist, personal motives may vary greatly. It could be a desire for collective revenge against the U.S. for the purported “war on Islam,” poverty or social alienation, or brainwashing. There is no one path to radicalization. As DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has indicated, motives and paths to radicalization can vary significantly depending on one’s ideology and religious beliefs, geographic location, or socioeconomic condition.  Nevertheless, trends do seem to exist among those attempted homegrown terror plots thwarted since 9/11, most significantly a seeming aversion to suicide or martyrdom.


The figure below shows foiled terrorist attack on the U.S. since 9/11 till Boston bombing:


Terrorism plot size of 7/7 attacks ‘foiled every year’ in UK:

Four suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured more than 700 on London’s public transport system on 7 July 2005. The coordinated attack was linked to al-Qaeda. There is no doubt that the big sophisticated 9/11 or 7/7 type plots are much harder to organize, they did need a lot of overseas direction and some of the al-Qaeda leadership have said that’s good if you can do it, but if not, any attack whatever you can do at whatever size is useful. Police are foiling a terrorism plot as big as the 7 July attacks every year, a senior officer has said. 


Concept of terrorism abolition ratio (TAR):

How do you know whether intelligence and security agencies of your country is doing its job competently and efficiently to protect you from terrorism by any objective yardstick?

Here it is.

Let me begin with one example.

Successful attack means terrorist planted a bomb in public place which exploded causing devastation.

Failed attack means terrorist planted a bomb in public place which did not explode due to technical problem.

Foiled attack means terrorist has conceived a plan to plant bomb at public place but he was caught before implementation.


Now look at the formula below:


Terrorism abolition ratio is the ratio of the number of foiled terror attacks to the number of successful plus failed terror attacks in a given time. I theorize one decade as given time; for e.g. 2001 till 2010; 2011 till 2020 etc.


This formula of terrorism abolition ratio (TAR) is an objective scientific analysis of intelligence & security agencies’ performance in protecting people from terrorism in a given unit time. One example is sufficient. Since 9/11 attack in 2001, America has taken steps to prevent terror attacks. It foiled 50 terror attacks in last 12 years till Boston bombing. So TAR of America for last 12 years is 50. Now you can compare TAR of America with India during the same time. You will find that India did foil few terror attacks but also conceded many successful terror attacks. So obviously TAR of India is low compared to America. In other words, Indian citizen is at higher risk of terrorism than American citizen. 


The moral of the story:


1. With more than 100 official definitions of terrorism and when scholars & experts on terrorism could not formulate one definition acceptable to all despite herculean research and efforts over several years, the only thought in my mind is that everybody is in search of definition that suits them and defames their opponents. The classical example is gun violence in America. The nation averages 87 gun deaths each day as a function of gun violence, with an average of 183 injured, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Centers for Disease Control. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe these indiscriminate slaughters of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. As a rule, the rare violence committed by Muslims, with some political or religious motivation, is “terrorism,” and deserving of the attention of the public, leaders and media. The far more common and destructive acts of violence committed every single day on the streets of America is treated as some timeless aspect of the human condition. It is inescapably ironic that while Boston was under siege, the American Senate was busy rejecting a measure that would have mandated near-universal background checks for gun purchases nationwide.


2. Developing an effective strategy against terrorism requires agreement on what it is we are dealing with, in other words, we need a definition of terrorism. I define terrorism as “premeditated, intentional, threat of violence and/or act of violence against non-combatants, in order to achieve political/ religious/ economic/ social/ ideological goals, through spread of fear & publicity, by non-state and/or state actors, coercing government and/or civilian population to change its policies & ways”.


3. There is a double standard in terrorism by world powers. The U.S. killed 654,965 Iraqis from 2003 to 2006 in the name of war on terror. As many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years. The collateral damage seems to be far more than the target damage but Americans would never accept it as terrorism as it was not premeditated. Any war on terror with high civilian casualty ratio [more innocent civilians killed for every terrorist death] is unlikely to end terrorism but may promote terrorism as many youths will be radicalized seeing innocent people killed by legitimate government actions. What happened in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is that Americans killed many terrorists but sadly also killed thousands of innocents.   


4. There is no just cause of terrorism. Like torture, genocide, ethnic cleansing and slavery, terrorism can never be justified. One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless. Everybody must condemn violence without regard for the color or creed of the perpetrators, and without displaying an ounce of respect for the life-denying ideologies that motivate them.


5. Terrorism does not work most of the times to achieve the goals set by their masterminds. Studies have shown that terrorists achieved their political goals only 7% of the time. However, terrorism does work to prevent peace and reconciliation.


6. There are many differences between criminal behavior and terrorist behavior, and therefore terrorism cannot be classified as conventional crime. The notion that terrorists are by definition criminals is true in terms of the legal code but not necessarily helpful beyond that.


7. Terrorism is not an irrational act committed by the insane.


8. Terrorism and organized crime are cooperating with each other and increasingly intertwined. Terrorists are using techniques of organized crime for fund raising and organized crime is using techniques of terrorists to spread fear by beheading victims.


9. Full and mature democracy has lowest potential to promote terrorism as compared to any other political system. Terror incidents decline with the level of a country’s freedom index.


10. Even though there is overlap between terrorism, insurgency and guerrilla war, by and large, terrorists target non-combatants and insurgents/guerrilla target combatants. 


11. Freedom fighters use violence to gain land, sovereignty or liberty but once gain is attained, violence is replaced by politics. Terrorists use violence to replace politics no matter whether they gain anything or not.


12. I do not believe that ‘religion has nothing to do with terrorism and terrorists have no religion’. Had there been no Islam, there would be no 9/11. Has there been no Sikhism, there would be no khalistan movement. Has there been no Christianity, there would be no IRA. Fundamentalism is often a form of nationalism in religious disguise. Religion is used by terrorists to kill innocents as religion provides them moral legitimacy and a cover up. In addition to spiritual reward of transcendence, religion may also offer benefits in the afterlife that can hardly be matched in this world. The change desired by religious terrorists is so badly needed that failure to achieve change is seen as a worse outcome than the deaths of civilians. This is often where the inter-relationship between terrorism and religion occurs. When a political struggle is integrated into the framework of a religious struggle, such as over the control of an ancestral homeland or holy site such as Jerusalem, failing in the political goal becomes equated with spiritual failure, which, for the highly committed, is worse than their own death or the deaths of innocent civilians. The terrible combination of nationalism, politics and religion has deadly consequences for the people.


13. Mere verbal condemnation of religious terrorism by moderate believers is a lip-service. The way to end religious terrorism is to expose and corner extremist individuals by moderate believers and also provide vital information about extremists to police by moderate believers. This is so because only moderate believers know who extremists are and people outside faith do not know who is moderate and who is extremist.


14. Poverty per se does not cause terrorism but may facilitate terrorism. Repressive regimes with no political freedom to voice grievance/dissent do cause terrorism. However, poverty can be caused by repressive regimes & political instability and thus can augment terrorism. Terrorist organizations exploit poverty in order to ‘exhort the individual to act on behalf’ of the masses.


15. Terrorist incidents have a negative and significant impact on economic growth.


16. Racial profiling does not work to prevent terrorism. When police uses race as a factor in law enforcement, their accuracy in catching criminals decreases. Instead pay attention to criminal behavioral profile. Mathematically, uniform random sampling is better than racial profiling to catch terrorists.


17. Spread of fear and publicity are the two things most terrorist master minds want and we must deny it. The buck stops at people for spread of fear and the buck stops at media for giving publicity to terrorists.


18. Media is an ally of terrorists and both benefits from each other. The terrorists’ need for media publicity and media’s need for a greater audience & profits set up a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and media. Violence is news, whereas peace and harmony are not. 


19. Terrorists swim in an ocean of bits and bytes on internet surreptitiously. The internet has proven effective at spreading ideology but its use as a planning & operational tool is minimal.


20. Best way to end terrorism is better policing, better intelligence, infiltrating terror cells and better politics; and not use of military force.


21. There is simply no way to achieve zero tolerance to terrorism in an environment that has high tolerance for every other crime. How can India eliminate terrorism when politicians, media, bureaucrats, police, CBI officers, actors, cricketers, doctors and lower judiciary are involved in corruption? 


22. I propose the concept of terrorism abolition ratio (TAR). Terrorism abolition ratio is the ratio of the number of foiled terror attacks to the number of successful plus failed terror attacks in a given time. This is to judge the competence of intelligence and security agencies of your country in tackling terrorism. Higher the TAR more secure you are. Lower the TAR more vulnerable you are.


Dr. Rajiv Desai. MD.

June 1, 2013



Terrorists and their sympathizers would be angry at me for exposing them and they may seek revenge against me. Nevertheless I went ahead with publishing this article because I also have some social responsibility, I also have my conscience and I refuse to give in to evil.      


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