The Eleven Markers of A Suicide Bomber. Part 2


This piece follows Part One:

3. Most bombers have been unable to provide for their families despite their education. Atta lost the last job he ever held in 1997 when computer advancement made hand drafting obsolete. Much like kamikazes, suicide bombers see their role as a soldier fighting in a war for all of their own people. Without a wife or kids, or prospects for a successful future, many are lured into the cycle of violence.
4.  Suicide attacks will continue to be outside of the United States. The only suicide attacks we have had in the United States since 1980 were the terrorists aboard the four airplanes on 9/11. While they did not strap bombs to their bodies, they instead used airplanes as their bombs.  The Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hasan, was armed with guns and was subdued by police gun fire. While his end game is not known, he did not have the equipment for a suicide vest.  The other Islamist attacks in America have not been of the suicidal nature, but rather are of a suicide mission like the ancient zealots. Recently, we have seen knife attacks in NYC and Oklahoma. NYC ended in “suicide by cop,” which is different than a suicide bomber. In suicide bombing, death is certain; in “suicide by cop,” death happens because the suicide attacker is met with deadly force.
5. Countries with democracies will be targeted. For example, dictatorships are rarely used as locations for suicide attacks. When a dictatorship is attacked, the government cracks down with brutal and violent force. Dictatorships control the news and do not publicize the attacks. In a democracy,  the attack leads the news cycle, parliaments and legislatures wring their hands, and voters demand action. “When a democracy is attacked, policy is debated,” and then ultimately changed if the pain is too great to endure. Spain left the war in Iraq over terrorist attacks. China cracks down. Saddam destroyed entire villages. Mubarak imprisoned most of the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. The cost benefit analysis is too great to attack ruthless regimes using suicide operations. That human capital for suicide operations is more effective and impactful in democracies.
6. For two reasons, women will continue to grow in numbers as bombers.  First, women can be easily motivated for emotional reasons– such as the loss of a family member to the occupying force. Second, women can better hide a suicide device upon their person because of their clothing and dress. Due to the cultural norms that forbids looking at or touching a Muslim women, women are more likely to be successful in their mission. Dhanu, the most famous Tamil Tiger, was motivated by revenge when Indian soldiers looted and burned her home, gang raped her and killed her four brothers. She was the first known user of a suicide belt worn and hidden under her garments and  killed Rajiv Gandhi, India’s top political figure
7. Secular motives will continue to be the primary force behind attacks.  Of the 315 suicide attacks that occurred between 1980 and 2003,  seventy six of them were committed by members of the Tamil Tigers. The Tamil Tigers were fighting the occupation of the Sri Laken government and The Tigers used suicide terrorism from 1987-2001 until their defeat in 2009 by the Sri Lakan Army. “The 76 attacks represent more suicide attacks than any other organization in that time span and more than all Palestinian groups combined. The Tigers are considered to have formed from Marxist-Leninist ideas and their leaders were always considered to be atheists.”
8. Suicide attacks occur as part of a strategy or campaign and are rarely an isolated incident. The three most well known campaigns were the ancient Jewish Zealots, the Shia Assassins and the Japanese Kamikazes in WWII.  The Zealots campaign of suicide missions used daggers.  These killings were conducted from 4 B.C. to 70 A.D. The goal was to remove Rome from power in the Holy Land. The Shia Assassins from which the term assassination came from, were based in Northern Iran and in protest of “occupied” land.  “The Japanese kamikaze campaign lasted ten months from October 25, 1944 until August 15th 1945.” The goal was to knock US carriers out of the fight in order to prepare the homeland for invasion.  The Palestinians suicide attacks started in 1983 and have continued against Israel and their interests ever since, the only pause coming when peace seemed imminent as after “the 1993 Oslo accords.”

Stay tuned for Part 3.

(dr) Phil Kiver
After graduating from Eastern Washington University, Kiver joined the Army, serving overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chile, Kyrgyzstan and Germany. While stationed at Fort Hood Texas, Kiver anchored an Army news show on KCEN NBC in Waco, Texas. During this time, he received a master’s degree in Military History from American Military University. Currently, he is working on his PhD in Terrorism Studies. He has spoken at the Library of Congress, Ronald Reagan Library and Hillsdale University. Kiver is the author of “182 Days in Iraq” and “Iraq in Pictures," His books may be purchased directly from the publisher at
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