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Different types of suicide bomber: what makes them tick?
by Graeme J. Davidson, November 2005

See also: Suicide terriorism as a desperate weapon of liberation.

Most suicide terrorism is not the result of religious extremism or irrational thinking. It’s part of a well-organised popular campaign to force the withdrawal of occupying forces.

....A month before his wedding, Abu Anas Tuhami wrote his will, leaving his money to the Martyrs' Brigade, put on his explosive vest and kissed a comrade goodbye. As it was January 31, Election Day in Iraq, security was tight. Yet, he made it to a Baghdad polling station where he blew up himself, a policeman and two Iraqi soldiers.
.... Was it the hope of going straight to paradise and into the arms of 72 virgin brides? There’s even an urban myth that suicide bombers wear Kevlar underpants to protect their genitals when they blast themselves to the heavenly delights of kingdom come.
....The Al-Qaida website in Iraq, run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, extols the virtues of ‘martyrdom’. Abu Anas did it, the website explains, because he “hated the crusaders and their agents deeply” and their defiling of things sacred to Islam. There’s also mention of how he “talked frequently of the virgins of paradise and their beauty”.
....Suicide terrorists are usually in their early 20s and well educated. They gain maximum impact through media coverage of the carnage they create. As a tactic it works. The US retreated from Lebanon after a suicide bomber killed 220 of its marines in 1983. And the suicide attacks of 9/11 caused radical changes in US policies, including its ‘war on terror’ that put security ahead of individual rights and propelled its military into Afghanistan and Iraq.
....Increasingly, Muslim women are volunteering to blow themselves up. But they don’t expect 72 bridegrooms in an afterlife. In Turkey and Chechnya, most suicide terrorists are women. As females, they find it easier to slip past security and they gain more media attention when they push the button.
....Have these militants hijacked Islam? After all, Christians have had their faith perverted often enough: take Pope Urban II’s declaration in 1095, during the First Crusade, that killing infidels was not a sin and that it would gain remission of past sins. Muslims still remember that.
....The theme of the Koran, the holy book of Islam, is forgiveness and peace. Jihad is the personal fight to overcome evil and sinful influences. It also involves striving for justice.
.... Armed struggle or ‘holy war’, which is how the West understands jihad, is a last resort in defence of Islam. The Koran gives guidelines for war that are similar to our modern Geneva Conventions. Suicide is a sin.
....There are now numerous fatwas by Islamic leaders against suicide terrorism. Liberal Muslims treat the Koran’s promise of 72 brides in the afterlife as allegory, similar to the way most Jews and Christians treat the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
....Not all suicide bombers are Muslim. Until the Coalition forces took over Iraq, which uncorked a flood of suicide attacks there, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka led the world in suicide terrorism. They invented the suicide vest; and are a secular Marxist group drawn from Hindu families. As the Hindu faith is based on survival, suicide and the taking of life in all its forms is wrong. Suicide bombers would not advance in reincarnations but go backwards, and they would have to face the consequences of the painful karma they created.
....The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid suicide. Samson, the Bible’s strongman, is one of the first recorded suicide terrorists. He used his strength to pull down a Philistine temple, killing himself and hundreds of the enemy in the process.
....Jesus told his followers to love their enemies.
....What, then, is the real motive for suicide terror? After reviewing suicide notes on militant websites, Sean Yom and Basel Saleh concluded that religion was not the driving force for Palestinian bombers. It was revenge for Israeli military treatment and a protest against the part Israel’s security has played in causing Palestinian poverty.
....Few of Chechnya’s ‘black widow’ suicide terrorists are Islamic fundamentalists. Oppression and despair at having lost a male relative in the conflict with Russia are what drive them.
....Robert Pape has studied suicide bombings since the current wave began in Lebanon in 1981. He’s convinced that most suicide terrorism is not the result of religious extremism or irrational thinking. It’s part of a well-organised popular campaign to force the withdrawal of occupying forces. “Religion is rarely the root cause,” Pape says in his book, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, “although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organisations and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective”.
....Ethically, suicide bloodbaths are justified in much the same way the Allies sanctioned the slaughter when they sent their bombers to hit civilian targets in WWII. It’s a horrific means to an end.



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