Terrorists and Suicide Attacks
CRS Report for Congress
Terrorists and Suicide Attacks
Audrey Ku rth Cronin
Specialist in Terrorism
Fo reign Affairs, De fense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Terrori s t s and Sui c i d e A ttac k s
Suicide attacks b y t errorist organiz ations have become more prevalent globally,
and assessing the t hreat of suicide attacks against the United S tates and its interests
at home and abroad has t herefore gained in strategi c importance.
This report focuses on the following questions: W hat are suicide attacks? W h at
have been the patterns and motivations fo r t errorist organiz ations using s uicide
attacks i n t he past? W hat t errorist groups an d o ther organiz ations are m ost likely t o
l aunch s uch a t t acks? How great a t hreat are t errori st sui ci d e at t acks t o t he Uni t ed
States, at home and abroad? How can the United States counter such a threat? It
anal yz es t h e k ey lessons of the i nternational ex perience with suicide attacks and
ex amines thei r rel evance to the United S tates.
Im port ant concl u si ons i n cl ude evi d ence t h at sui ci d e at t ackers general l y m ake
choices and are not impulsive or “craz y. ” T hey are u s u a l l y c arefully recruited,
indoctrinated and t hen t argeted b y o rganiz atio n s . It i s important, t herefore, t o
co n centrat e on analyzing the culture and s tructure of the organization when
fashioning a response. Historically, s uici de attackers h ave b een used by both s ecular
and religious groups. The Tamil Tigers, a secular group, carried out the m ost ruthless
campaign o f s uicide attacks i n t he 20th cent u ry; b u t t h ere h as been an i n creasi n g
number of casualties i nternationally, notably as a result of attack s by P al estinian
groups against Israelis and b y o rganiz ations in various countries believed associated
wi t h or i n ci t ed b y Al Qaeda. The u se of wom en as s ui ci d e a t t ackers i s not
historically unprecedented, but its frequency among groups such as the S ri Lankan
Tamil Tigers (or LTTE), t he Turkish Kurdistan W o rkers’ Party (PKK), and now the
Palestinian Fat ah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigad es and t he Chechens, may
indicate a s ocial b roadening o f t he phenomenon. W h ile the o rganiz ation i s
predominant i n t he ex ecution o f t he attack , over time it cannot recruit and sustain
itself without the acquiescence of the l arger s ociety.
The great es t t hreat to U.S. citizens comes from t he possibility of further attacks
orchest rat ed or i n spi r e d b y A l Qaeda, ei t h er i n t h e U .S . o r abroad. Furt herm ore,
suicide attacks o n U.S. citizens and civilians in Iraq are a m ounting c o n cern. To
counter the t hreat, t he United S tates m ay us e both o ffensive and defensive m easures.
Offensiv e m e asures i nclude counterterrorism efforts s uch as p reemptive s trikes
agai nst t errorist organizations, vigorous intelligence collection, and l onger t e rm
efforts to reduce the ability of terrorist organizations to recruit suicide candidates.
Defensive m easures include physi c a l prot ection o f U.S. assets, p sychological
preparation o f t he population, and t he full range o f anti-terrorism efforts required for
a robust homeland d efense.
The report concludes with a d iscussion of the implications for C ongress of the
i n crease i n s ui ci de at t acks, and a range o f opt i ons for m eet i n g t he t h reat . It wi l l not
In troduction ......................................................1
Historical Background ..............................................3
PersonalMotivations forSuicideAttacks ...............................5
OrganizationalMotivations forSuicideAttacks ..........................8
Womenand SuicideAttacks ........................................12
TheThreat to theUnitedStates ......................................15
How t o C ounter the T hreat .........................................19
Implications forU.S.Policy .........................................20
Terrorists and Suicide Attacks
Suicide attacks b y t errorist organiz ations have become more prevalent globally,
and assessing the t hreat of future suicide attacks against the United S tates has gained
in strategi c importance. While suicide attacks have been em ployed internationally
f o r cent u ri es, t he degree t o whi ch t hi s t actic could b e u sed t o carry out operations
agai nst Americans was more widely appreci at ed after 9/11. The vulnerability of the
U.S . hom el and t o s ui ci de at t acks w as am pl y d em onst rat ed: virtual l y al l p revi ous such
attacks by forei gn act ors against U.S. citizens had happened on forei gn soil, leading
to a mistaken belief that Ameri can s were only vulnerable when t hey were abroad.
Adding to the concern about suicide attacks i s t heir potential connection t o
increasingl y available new technol ogies. Although s o-called “weapons of massth
destruction” were not used in the S eptember 11 at t acks, t h e d est r u c t i o n w as
nonetheless unquestionably “massive.” The prospect of combining m odern weapons
technology (especially chemical, b iological, n u c lear or radiological weapons) with
an age-old willi n gn ess to die i n t he act of committing an attack could be
unprecedentedly d angerous. T he degree to which Al Qaeda and other groups have
recently step p e d u p t heir public advocacy of so-called m artyrdom operations,
combined with c a p tured evidence o f t heir interest in these weapons, i s also
worrisome. 1 With increas ing numbers of cas ualties from s uici de attack s o ccurring
gl obal l y i n pl aces such as Is rael , S audi Arabi a, M orocco, R ussi a/ C h echnya, and post -
conflict Iraq, a focus on the t hreat of future suicide attacks against Americans and
thei r i nteres ts, i n t he United S tates and el sewhere, merits consideration.
This report focuses on the following questions: W hat are suicide attacks? W h at
have been the patterns and motivations fo r t errorist organiz ations using s uicide
attacks i n t he past? W hat t errorist groups an d o ther organiz ations are m ost likely t o
launch s uch attacks? How great a t hreat are t errorist suicide attack s t o t he United
States, at home and abroad? How can the U nited S tates counter such a t hreat? In
short, the goal of t his r e p o r t i s t o s ummariz e the k ey lessons of the i nternational
ex perience with suicide attacks i n t he modern era and ex amine t heir relevance t o t he
United S tates i n t he current threat environment.
1 On Al Qaeda’s i nterest i n c hemi cal and b iologi c a l w e apons, s ee CRS Report RL31831,
Terrorist Motivations for Chemical and Bi ological Weapons Use: Placi n g t he Threat in
Some argu e t hat t he language used to describe terrorism plays a role in how it
i s percei ved, so words u sed i n d escri b i n g i t m ust b e v ery careful l y chos e n . F o r
ex am pl e, t h ere are m any phrases used t o de scribe the phenomenon to be discussed
here. S ome p eople u se the phrase “suicide bombings,” but that is too res trictive for
t h i s report , as i t seem s t o refer onl y t o at t acks t hat are carri ed out wi t h t h e u s e o f
ex plosives. S uicide attacks c a n o c cu r with other t yp es of weapons, i ncluding
jetliners. “Genocide bombings” and “homicide attacks” are phras es frequently used
by those who identify with the unwilling victims of attacks; these t erms em phasize
the criminal nature of the violence and de-emphasize the s el f-inflicted deat h of t he
perpetrator. On the o ther hand, “martyr dom operations” p laces the emphasis upon the
cause of the perpetrat ors, implying a connection t o t he notions of “holy war” and/or2
self defense, even in the killing of civilians. Fi nal l y “sui ci de operat i ons” p l aces t h e
em phasis on t he organization’s role i n s tagi ng the episodes, implying a military-type
charact er t o t h em .
None of the currently used terms i s p erfect. For the purposes of this report, the
phrase u sed wi l l be “sui ci de at t acks,” b y whi ch i s m eant , i n t h e s ense used here,
events where t he “s uccess” of the operation cannot occur without the deat h of t he
perpetrator, and h e o r s he is apparently aware o f t his i n advance.3 Li k e wise, t his
repo r t c o n c e n t rat es on sui ci d e at t acks t hat are carri ed out by “t errori st s,” b y whi ch
is meant nonstate actors whose goal i s t he threat or use o f v iolence for political ends4
a g ainst noncombatant o r c i v ilian t argets. These are off-the-battlefield episodes, with
the attackers not integrat ed into units in a formal military sens e. T h erefore,
specifically ex cluded are high risk military operations, where, although t he
perpetrator m ay ex pect his chances of survival to be vir t u a lly nil, he or she i s not
del i b erat el y s eeki n g h i s or her o wn deat h. An d t his report also does not include self-
inflicted d eaths that occur without any v iolence d irected outward, like hunger strikes5
2 Haim M a lka, “Must Innocents Di e? The Islamic Debate over Suicide Attacks,” Middle
East Quarterly (Spring 2003), p. 26.
3 Ibid. See also Scott Atran, “Genesis of Suicide T errorism,” Science, 7 M arch 2003, V ol.
4 The question of a definition of t errorism is much-debated, but the central elements of the
concept are generally agreed. For more information, see Audrey K urth Cronin, “Behind t he
Curve: Gl obalization and International T errorism,” International Security, V ol. 27, No. 3
(Winder 2002/03), pp. 32-33. On the c hallenges of defining terrorism, s ee also Omar Malik,
Enough of the Definition of Terrorism! Royal Institute of Internation a l A f f airs ( London:
RIIA, 2001); a nd Alex P. Schmid, Political Terrorism: A Research Guide (New Br unswi ck,
N.J .: T ransaction Books, 1984).
5 Yoram Schweitzer, “Suicide T errorism: Development and ma i n characteristics,” i n
Countering Suicide Terrorism: An I nternational Conference (Herzliya, Israel: t he
International Policy Institute for Counter-T errorism, 2001), pp. 75-76.
The phenomenon of suicide attacks cannot be fully understood without placing
it within its broader historical contex t. Self-sacrifice i n t h e i n terest of a broader
cause is not unusual i n human history, especial l y i n m i l itary settings ; but terrorist
suicide attacks as t hey are defined h ere also h ave a l engt hy pedigree.
Members o f p remodern groups without access t o d yn amite did not have the
immediacy and certainty of thei r own demise t hat i s currently the cas e, nor could t hey
ex pect t h e publ i ci t y for t hei r at t acks t hat i s s een t o d a y; but t h ey di d engage i n
deliberat e, cal culated s el f-sacrifice i n t he act of killing civilian t argets for s ym bolic
Fo r ex ample, among the earliest groups that have been thoroughly s tudied, t he
Muslim Assassins (also known as Ismailis-Nazari) operated from 1090-1275, C.E.
They prepared t h ei r m em bers t o di e i n t he ex ecut i o n o f an at t ack, d el i b erat el y s eeki n g
martyrdom as they used daggers to kill thei r victims.6 The Assassins assured
t h em sel v es publ i ci t y b y at t acki n g p rom i n ent o ffi ci al s i n publ i c pl aces, u sual l y on
holy d ays when t here were m a n y w itnesses. 7 The group’s d escription o f t he
assai l ant s as “fedayeen” (m eani n g consecrat ed ones o r d e d i cat ed ones) and t hei r
admiration for martyrdom in the course of killing i s an oft en-cited historical
precursor for s ome o f t he s u i c ide attacks by Islamic terrorist organizations seen
Another h istorical ex ample o f t he use o f s uicide attacks i s found among Muslim
communities i n Asia during t he ei ghteenth, ninet eenth and early twentieth centuries,
part i cul arl y o n t h e M al abar coast o f S out hwest ern Indi a, i n At j eh i n Nort h ern
Sumatra, and i n M indanao and Sulu in the S outhern Philippines. Muslims in thes e
regi ons engaged i n s uicidal jihads aimed at i nflicting punishment and i nstilling fear
am ong t h e E uropean col oni al powers. In al l o f t hese pl aces, t he perpet rat o rs engaged
i n r e l i gi ous rituals p rior to carrying out the attacks, aspired t o a perceived h er o i c
stat us of martyrdom, and carried out thei r killings as religious act s i ntended t o s erve
t h e i nt erest s of t h ei r o wn com m uni t y. In each case, a s hi ft t o t h e u s e of sui ci d e
attacks followed a period of unsuccessful open warfare agai nst t he militarily much
stronger European s . The s uici dal jihad agai nst civilians was s een as a m eans of9
desperate counterattack and even a means o f k eeping awareness of the cause alive.
6 Davi d C. Rapoport, “Fear and T rembling: T erro r ism i n T hree Religious T r aditions,”
Americ a n Po l i tical Science Review, V ol. 78, No. 3 ( September 1984), pp. 658-677, and
Bernard Lewis, The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (New York: Basic Books, 1968).
7 Rapoport, p. 665.
8 Ibid. See also W. B. Bartlett, The Assassins: The Story of M edie v a l I slam’s Secret Sect
(London: Sutton Publishing, 2001).
9 St ephen F. Dale, “Re l i gi o u s Suicide i n Islamic Asia: Anticolonial terrorism in India,
Indonesia, and t he Philippines,” Journal of Conflict Resolution , V ol. 32, No. 1 ( March1988),
pp. 37-59, and M artha Crenshaw, “‘Suicide’ T e r r o rism in Comparative Perspective,”
Cha p t e r 2 of Countering Suicide Terrorism: An I nternational Conference (Herzliya, Israel:
The employm ent o f s uicide attac k s a s a t e rrorist technique is not ex clusive t o
one culture or religion: with the i nvention of dynamite in the l at e 19 th cen t u r y, t he
use o f bombs in terrorist attacks b ecame a generally favored method, and t his also
applied t o s uici de tactics. For ex ample, t he Russian radical s of t he late 19 th cent u ry,
in putting t hemselves close enough t o t he t a r g e t to assure success, usually also
consciously sought th e i r o w n demise. Prox imity was important to the s uccessful
targeting o f t he crude ex plosions. In t hose i nstances where t he terrorists s urvived and
were capt u red, t h ey oft en refused offers of cl em ency and w ere ex ecut ed. 10 Dying for
the cause was a highly valued fate, a source of legitimacy for t he cause, and a rallying
point for future recruits. It was not, o n t he ot her h and, an effect i v e l ong-t erm s t rat egy
in this case: the R ussian regime successfully rooted out such well-known groups as
Narodnaya Volya (People’s W ill) well before the R ussian revolution, and t hey were
not admired by the Bosheviks.
Ironically, with the devel opment of better ex plosives and means of det onating
t h em , s ui ci de at t acks b ecam e l ess com m o n i n t he t w ent i et h cent u ry. M ore advanced
technological means m eant t hat i t w a s n o t necessary to sacrifice a m ember o f t he
organiz ation. Favored methods in the mid-t wentieth century included p re-placed or
remotely detonated ex plosives, hostage-tak i n g, and attacks on airliners. As
counterterrorist methods began t o improve, however , m e t h o d s o f t errorist attack
began t o evol ve as wel l . Faced wi t h m et al d et ect ors at ai rport s , i ncreased securi t y
perimeters around valuable targets, and m an y o ther antiterrorism measures, t errorist
organiz ations began t o i nnovate tactically. The reintroduction o f t he use o f s uicide
attacks, especially by ethno-nationalist groups or religiously-motivated groups, was
one of the results.
Although i t was not the first such attack, m any people date t he initiation of a
wave of contemporary s uicide attacks t o t he October 1983 destruction o f t he U.S.
Mari ne barracks i n Bei rut b y a t ruck bom b, a wat ershed part i cul arl y for Am eri cans.11
The ex plosion lifted t he entire building o ff its foundation and caused i t t o implode
upon itself, ki lling 241 o ff-duty U.S. s oldiers and injuring more than 100 others. 12
At almos t p r eci s e l y the sam e time, a similar t ruck bomb ex ploded at t he French
peacekeeping compound nearby, k illing 5 8 s oldiers and wounding 15 others.13 The
1983 Beirut attacks resulted i n t he withdrawal of U.S. and French f o r c e s f r o m
Lebanon. These withdrawa l s h a v e s ubsequently been pointed to by Al Qaeda and
T he International Policy Institute for Counter-T errorism, 2001), pp. 27-28.
10Crenshaw, pp. 26-27.
11T he American Embassy in Beirut had been attacked by a s uicide bomber i n April of that
year, killing at l east f orty people, including the bomber. There was also a Hezbollah s uicide
attack against t he Israeli military headquarters i n T yr e even earlier, in November 1982.
12Report of t he DoD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act, October 23,
13Ibid. T here is some debate among experts a bout whether t he Beirut barracks a ttacks were
“terrorist” i ncidents, since the t argets were military soldiers. Most people argue that the f act
that they were off-duty means t hat t hey were “ noncombatants” but this rema ins a point of
some contention, especially outside the United States.
other groups as important sign s t hat s uicide attacks can be ex tremely effective against
W est ern d em ocrat i c powers.
Be t w e e n 1983 and 1986, the apparent success o f t he Beirut suicide attacks
agai nst t he U.S . an d F r a n c e w as fol l o wed b y a redi rect i o n o f t arget i n g t oward t he
Is rael i Defense Forces i n Lebanon and t hen S out h Lebanese Arm y post s . 14 The 1983
Marine barracks bombing al so led at l eas t i ndirectly to the i nitiation of perhaps the
most ruth l e s s a n d b loody suicide campaign i n m odern history b y t he Tamil Tigers
(LTTE). T heir first attack occurred i n S ri Lanka in May 1987. 15 The Tamil Tigers,
whose l eader Velupillai P rabhakaran l ater claimed t hat h e was inspired by the 1983
attacks, have since b een responsible for m ore t han h alf o f all suicide attacks carried
out worldwide. 16
W h ile the t echnique was b y n o m eans h istorically unprecedented, the 1983
attacks s ignaled t he begi nning of a growing use o f s uicide attacks i n t he late 20th and
earl y 21st centuries . In m odern times, suicide attacks have been em ployed by a l arge
variety o f groups, i ncluding Muslim (both S hi’ite and S unni), Christian, Hindu, Sikh,
J ewi sh and s ecul ar o rgani z at i ons, especi al l y i n t h e M i ddl e E ast but al so m any ot her
regi ons of t h e world.17 A p artial list o f t errorist groups that actively u se suicide
attacks i ncludes Ham as , t he Palestinian Islamic J i had, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
of Yassir Arafat’s Fat ah movement, Al-Ansar M ujahidin in Chechnya, the Egyptian
Is lamic J i had (EIJ ), Hez bollah, Lashkar-e-taiba of Pakistan/Kashmir, t he Armed
Is lamic Gro u p (GIA) of Algeria, Barbar Khalsa International(BKI) of India, the
Li beration T igers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) of S ri Lanka, t he
Kurdistan W orker’s P arty (P KK) of Turkey, and Al Qaed a . 18 It is the apparently
growing use of suicide attacks i nternationally and t he increa s e d t argeting against
Americans t hat c o n c e r n s counterterrorism ex perts. The t rend may h ave important
implications for future U.S. s ecurity.
Personal M otivations for S uicide Attacks
One perception about suicide attacks is that they are carried out by individual
deranged fanatics b u t this is almost never t he cas e. Research on suicide attacks
indicat es that most terrorist operatives are psychologically normal, in the s ense that
psychological pathology does not seem to be present , and t he at t acks are vi rt u a l l y
14Yoram Schweitzer, “Suicide T errorism: Development and Main Characteristics,” Chapter
15Amy Waldman, “Masters of Suicide Bombing: Tami l Guerrillas of Sri Lanka,” The New
York Times, 14 J anuary 2003, p. A8.
17Walter Laqueur, No End t o War: Terrorism in the Twenty - f i r s t Century (New York:
Continuum, 2003), p. 78.
18J ane’s Intelligence Revi ew, “Suicide T errorism: A Gl obal T hreat,” 20 October 2000;
accessed at [ http://www.j a nes.com] on 16 October 2001; and other va rious sources.
al ways prem edi t at ed. 19 There h ave b een i n st ances o f c o e r c i on or decept i o n i n
recruiting s uici de attackers and/or ex ecuting t he attacks, 20 but most perpetrators are
as aware of t heir imminent fat e as t hey are of the fat e of t heir victims.
Why would anyone choose to engage in such an attack? The answer to this
question requires an i nsight into the psychologi cal and cul t u ral aspect s o f t errori sm .
The m o t i v ations for s uicide attacks are not so different in many ways from t he
moti v a t i o ns for other types of t errorism, including attention t o a cause, p ersonal
not ori et y, anger, revenge and ret ri but i o n agai n st a p ercei ved i n j u s t i ce. 21 From the
perspective o f t he individual attacker, t he act of “ m a r tyrdom” m ay offer an
opportunity to impress an audience and b e rememb e r e d , a n a c t that may b e a
powerful i ncen t i v e for individuals who percei ve thei r lives as having little
si gn i fi cance o t h erwi s e. 22 Suicide attackers are sometimes widows or bereaved
si bl i n gs who wi s h t o t ake v engeance for t hei r l oved one’s vi ol ent d eat h. In t h e case
of widows, for ex ample, t he death o f t he spouse m ay cu t t h e w o man o ff from
productive s ociety and/or leave h er with a sense of hopelessness, especially in very
traditional s ocieties. Increas ing numbers of women s eem to be carrying out suicide
at t acks i n recent years, a d evel opm ent t hat m ay be part l y t raced t o t h i s fact or and w i l l
be discussed further below.
A l onging for religious purity and/or a s trong commitment to the wel fare of the
group may drive indiv i d u a l s to engage in suicide attacks. The role of t he central
religious, political , or ethnic culture or ideology is important. S uici de attacks among
Palestinian groups, for ex ample, seem to ha ve inspired a s elf-perpetuating s ubculture
of martyrdom.23 Children who grow up in such settings may b e s ubtly indoctrinated
in a culture glorifying ultimate sacrifice in the service of the Palestinian cause and
agai nst t he Is rael i p eopl e. There are soci al , cul t u ral , rel i gi ous, and m at eri al i n cent i v es
pres ented i n s uch a contex t, sometimes i ncluding spiritual rewards i n t he after life,
vast celebrity, cash bonuses, free apartments and/or the guarantee of a p lace with God
for t he attackers’ families.
Other attackers seem to be driven ap p a rently by a sense of humiliation or
injustice, a worrisom e d e velopment t hat h as appeared for ex ample among young
Egyptians.24 Some argue, for ex ample, t hat perceptions regarding t he plight of t h e
Palestinian p eo ple m ay have had an i nfluence upon the willingness of young
Egyptians to participat e i n s uici de attacks, espec i ally among those who are
19J errold Post, “T he M ind of t he T errorist: In d i vidual and Group Psychology of T errorist
Behavi or,” testimony prepared for t he Subcommittee on Emerging T hreats and Capabilities,
Senate Armed Service Committee, 15 November 2001; and Ehud Sprinzak, “Rational
Fanatics,” Foreign Policy, September/October 2000, pp. 66-73.
20See, for e xample, t he PK K , below.
22Ibid., p. 26.
23Davi d Brooks, “T he Culture of Martyr dom,” Atlantic Month l y , V o l . 289, No. 6 ( J une
24T i m Golden, “Young Egyptians Hearing Calls of ‘Martyrdom’ For Pale s t i n i a n C ause ,”
The New Y ork Times I nternational , 26 April 2002, p. A1.
unemployed and frustrated for other reasons. 25 Indeed, d esperat i o n i s o ft en
mentioned i n p ress reports: P al estinians in particular are quoted as sayi ng that suicide
attacks are the “weapon of last resort.”26
In some conflicts, i ncreas ing use of suicide attacks i s s een widely as a potential
sign that the s truggl e i s bei ng “Islamicized.” The historical connection t o t he Muslim
Assassins groups is often m e n t i o ned. Al Qaeda’s u se of suicide attacks i s well-
known, and growing links between that organiz ation and many other, m o r e l o cal
indigenous groups are s ometimes d emonstrat ed at least i n p art b y a shift i n t he local
group’s t actics.27 For ex ample, t he recent u se of suicide attacks b y C hechen militants
is seen by some as a worrisome indicator of gr o w i n g i nfl u ence of radi cal Is l am i s t
factions within Chechnya and/or links with radical groups like Al Qaeda. 28 R ecent
suicide attacks i n M orocco are likewise viewed t his way.29 The August 2003 suicide
attacks o n t he J o rdanian Embassy and t he UN Headquarters i n Iraq m ay also reflect
a s hift from l ocal nationalistic resistance to the m ore active i nvolvement of outside
So-called “martyrdom” i s not just a religious concept, however. The tradition
of heroic martyrdom, where the hero s acrifices to save t h e l ife of his community,
nation, or people, is a powerful element in many s e c u l a r t raditions. Among
Pal e s t i n ian groups non-religious nationalist m otivati ons are s ometimes dominant,
especially with respect to groups such as the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which is an
offshoot of militant elements of the essentially secular P LO’s Fatah faction. Indeed,
gl obally, an apparently larger proportion overall of the s uicide att a c k s o f t he last
t w e n t y ye a r s h as been carried out by secular groups like t he Tamil Tigers and t he
PKK, who both appeal primarily to traditi onal concepts of nationhood and s acrifice,
than by religiously-motivated groups.
Following the S eptember 11th a t t a c k s , o n e of the important developme n t s a m o n g
those who study terrorism has b een the reex a mination of t he concept of a “profile”
or t ypi cal charact eri s t i cs o f s ui ci de at t ackers.30 S o m e peopl e h ad argu ed on t h e b asi s
of research done especially on Hamas m embers, t hat s uicide terrorists were t yp ically
m al e, aged 18-27 years, unm arri ed, rel at i v el y uneducat ed, and hi gh l y suscept i b l e t o
26Daniel Williams, “Where Palestinian ‘ martyr s’ Ar e Groomed; West Bank C i t y of J enin
Emerge s a s Suicide Bomb Capital,” The Washington Post , 1 5 August 2001, p. A1.
27For more on t he evolution of Al Qaeda’s t actics a n d orga niza tion, see CRS Report
RS21529, Al Qaeda after t he Iraq Conflict .
28Reuven Paz, “Suicide T errorist Operations in Chechnya: An Escalation of t he Is lami st
Struggle,” International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism, accessed at
[ ht t p: / / www.i c t .or g.i ] l on 10 J ul y 2003; and Nabi Abdul l aev, “ Sui c i de At t acks T ake Rebel
Fight t o a Ne w Level,” The M oscow Times, 16 May 2003, p. 3; accessed at
[ h t t p : / / www.t h emoscowt i mes.com] o n 1 7 J ul y 2003.
29See CRS Report RS21579, Morocco: Current Issues .
30For a survey of previous research on terrorist profiling, see Rex A. Hudson, Who Become s
a Terrorist and Why: The 1999 Government Report on Profiling Terrori s t s ( G u ilford,
Connecticut: T he Lyons Press, ), especially pp. 67-108.
s u gge s t i o n . 31 This description p roved t o b e i nadequat e, however, especi al l y aft er t he
9/11 attacks i n which older, well-educat ed o p e ratives like M ohammed Atta
p a rticipat ed. In t he Palestinian i ntifada, as well, previous assumptions are b ei n g
reex am i n ed , w i t h s u i ci d e at t acks b ei ng carri ed out by operat i v es as di verse as a
college student, a middle-aged married men with children, and t he son of a wealthy
b u s i nessman, not to mention i ncreasing numbers of women and children. 32 Some
have argued that there i s no pattern t o t h ese “profiles” at all. 33 In any case, as we
move into the t wenty-first century, s tereotyp es about who i s l i k e l y t o carry out
terrorist suicide attacks are evaporating.
Although research indicates that individual s uicide a ttackers m ake choices and
are not t ec h n i c a l l y “ craz y,” accordi n g t o ex p ert s t h ey are o ft en m ani pul at ed by t h e
pressures and belief s tructures o f t he group.34 Because of t h i s , i t i s i m port ant t o st udy
the role of t he organiz ation i n t he phenomenon.
Organizational M otivations for S uicide Attacks
The o rgani z at i o n i s cruci al i n t h e ex ecut i o n o f m ost s ui ci de at t acks, i n pl anni ng,35
acquiring weaponry, choosing operatives , t argeting, and carrying t hem out. Indeed,
most terrorism ex perts argue t hat the role of t he organization i s a much more
powerful factor than is the n ature o f t he individu al, s ince the i ndividual h as often
yi elded his or her i dentity to the group.36 W ith very few ex ceptions, s uicide attacks
in the m odern era h ave i nvolved a fairly well developed o rganiz ation, and h istorically
they have been employed by terrorist gr oups when they are both s trong and weak. 37
There i s a chilling l ogic in the choice of suicide operations by terrorist organizations.
From an organi z at i onal p erspect i v e, t h ere are argu abl y num erous advant ages i n using
such at t acks as p art o f a t errori st cam pai gn.
31See, for example, Boaz Ganor, Executive Director, International Policy Institute for
C o u nter-T errorism, “Suicide T errorism: an Overview,”“Who i s t he shahid?”p. 3, 15
February 2000, [http:// www.ict.org.il/articles/articledet.cfrm? articleid=128] acce s sed on
32Rebecca T r ounson and T racy Wilkinson, “Analysts Rethink Image of Suicide Bombers,”
The Los Angeles Times , 20 September 2001; accessed at [http:// www.l a t i me s .c om] o n 2 2
33J ames Bennet, “R a s h of New Suicide Bombers Exhibit No Patterns or T ies,” The New
York Times, 2 1 J une 2002, p. A1.
34Post testimony, Subcommittee on Emerging T hreats and Capabilities, Senate Ar med
Service Committee, 15 Nove mber 2001.
35Atran, p. 1537; and Ehud Sprinzak, “ Rational Fanatics , ” Fo r eign Policy, Issue 120,
September/October 2000, pp. 66-74.
36Shankar V edantam, “Peer Pressure Spurs T errorists, Psychologists Say,” The Washington
Post , 16 October 2001, p. A16.
37“Suicide T errorism: A Gl obal T hreat,” J ane’s Intelligence Revi ew, 20 October 2000;
accessed at [ http://www.j a nes.com] on 22 April 2003.
Fi rst, suicide attacks generally result in a l arger number of cas ualties on average
than do other t yp es of terrorist attacks. From 1980 to 2001, suicide attacks reportedly
represented only 3 % o f all terrorist attacks but accounted for 48% of total d eaths due
to terrorism.38 Looking j u s t at Palestinian attacks b etween 2000 and 2002, suicide
attacks represented only 1 % o f t he total number o f attacks but they caused about 44%
of the Israel i cas ualties.39 The l arger number of cas ualties causes m ore physical and
psychological damage to the t argeted state or community and, es p eci ally in a
democracy, arguably i ncreases the likeli hood that the government will be compelled
W h ether t hat response t akes the form o f concessions or r e t a l i a tions, i t can
potentially serve t he interests of t he terrorist campaign. Concessions may advance
the t er r o rist organiz ation’s goals and i ncrease its psychological leverage against a
militarily stronger foe; re taliations may draw i n t er n a tional condemnation and
increase t he pool of recruits from which the o rganiz at i o n m ay draw. If an
organization i s at a significant military disadvantage, this may be a cal culation i t i s
willing t o m ake. Or the o rganiz ation m ay engender a more specific reaction s uch as
di srupt i n g n egot i at i ons i n t h e Israel i -P al est i n i an p eace process, for ex am p l e.
Second, suicide attacks u sually a t t r a c t more publicity than do other t yp es of
attacks. The fate o f t he bomber h im- or herself i s p art o f t he sto ry, and t he large
number of victims, again, e n s u r es public attention. Sometimes t he go al of an
organization i s sim ply t o draw attention t o itsel f and to its cause: i n an age of
ubiquitous media, suicide attacks are more likel y t o be noticed. S ince the m ai n effect
of the v iolence i s i ntended t o b e impressed upon an audience, the s hocking nature of
the attack is part of the cal culation. Fr o m t h e p erspective of t he victims and t heir
sympathiz ers, o n t he other h and, the m ed ia coverage that is a nat u r al part of the
terrible t ragedy does h elp t o publiciz e t he terrorists’ cause.
A rel at ed aspect i s t h e s ym bol i c val u e o f m art yrdom for a cause , n o t o n l y i n
Is lamic cultures but in other cultures as well. Even in secular groups, t he death o f
a m em ber contributes to the sense of legitimacy and dramatic community investment
in a cause. The message is that there i s n o going back. S ome groups engage in
gl orification o f t he act , d el i b erat el y h yp i n g a “cul t u re of m art yrdom ”t hat m ay i n cl ude
posters, s ongs, legends, etc., lioniz i ng the attacker.40 Thi s cel ebri t y can be powerful l y
at t ract i v e t o pot ent i al recrui t s , and w i t h t h e s ui ci de oft en com es great er general
attention as wel l t o t he motivation for the act . 41
38Robert A. Pape, “ T he Strategic Logic of Suicide T e rrorism,” unpublished manuscript dated
February 18, 2003, p. 13. Pape’s calculations are drawn from data published i n U.S.
Departme nt of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1983-2001.
39Assaf Moghadam, “Palestinian Suicide Terrorism in the Second Intifada: Motivations and
Organizational Aspects,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, V ol. 26, No. 2 (March-April
40Brooks, pp. 18-20; and Crenshaw, p . 28.
41“T he Maki ng of a M artyr: When Death M eans M ore T han Life,” ABCNews.com: Inside
the M ind of a Suicide Bomber, 6 December 2001; accessed a t [ http://abcnews .go.com/]
Third, suicide attackers are sometimes s een by sponsoring o rganizations as
asset s whose l oss generat es a n et gai n . 42 The gai ns can be political or monetary. As
for political gain, i n s ituations where groups are competi n g f o r power, t here is
evi d ence t h at sui ci d e at t acks are seen as a m eans o f gai ni ng rel at i v e advant age v i s -a-
vis rival groups; according t o one report, this may h ave b een the case for P alestinian
groups such as Hamas and the Islamic J i had. 43 The o rganiz ation’s role i n t he attack
is made obvious in the s tyle and content of t he videotapes that attackers u sually make
on the eve of thei r operation: typically, t he so-called “living m artyr” is standing in
front of the t errorist group’s flag, holding an assault rifle and p erhaps also a copy of
the Koran, as he or s he ex plai ns the m otivation behind his or her attack. 44 The image
of t h e now-deceased becom es a powerful t ool for wi nni ng adherent s. S u i ci d e at t acks
are also u sed t o boo s t m o rale, engendering greater cohesion among members o f a
group; the P KK and t he Tamil Tigers apparently used suicide att a c k s i n t his way.
Indeed, t he Tam i l T i gers have even filmed some of t he suicide attacks t hemsel ves
and used t hem for recruitment and m otivation.45
In cost / b enefi t t erm s, sui ci d e at t acks are fi nanci al l y i n ex pensi v e: accordi n g t o
one ex pert , t he price of m at erials used in a suici de attack in Israel i s a bout $150. 46
Monetary rewards for terrorist organiz ations, o n t he other h and, can be large. Suicide
at t ackers s om et i m e s d raw s ym pat h y from s ources di st ant from t he l o cat i o n o f t he
attacks, especially donors who are willing t o enable others to die i n t he service o f a
cause. For ex am pl e, fol l o wi ng a s uperm arket bombing by an 18-year-old Palestinian
gi rl, a Saudi telethon reportedly raised m ore t han $100 million for the P alestinians. 47
Support from t he diaspora i s also common: th e T a m i l Tigers have been funded b y
800,000 Tamils living abroad, in Canada, Australia, a nd elsewhere, who h ave s ent
back as much as $150 million annually, according t o one estimate. 48 P aym ent s and
other benefits are given to the i ndividual families of t he dead Palestinian attackers.49
In cold co s t/benefit terms, the organizational i ncentives seem to be far m ore
compelling t han t he personal ones.
sections/primetime on 14 J uly 2003.
42Atran, p. 1537.
43Mia M . Bloom, “Palestinian Suicide Bombing: Public Support, Market Sha r e a n d
Outbidding,” unpublished paper.
44Rory McCarthy, “War in the Gulf: Fi ve K illed by Car Bomb at US Checkpoint,” The
Guardian, 5 April 2003, p. 3.
45Amy Waldman, “Masters of Suicide Bombing: Tami l Guerrillas of Sri Lanka,” The New
York Times, 14 J anuary 2003, p. A1.
46Br uce Hoffman, “The Logic of Suicide T errorism, The Atlantic Monthly, J une 2003.
48Laqueur, p. 80.
49“Palestinians ge t Saddam f unds,” BBC Ne ws , 13 M arch 2003, accessed a t
http://news.bbc.co.uk on 21 August 2003; and J oshua Kurlantzick, “Pales tinians Lame nt
Lack of Ir aqi Cash f or T e rrorist Ac ts,” The Washington Times , 21 M ay 2003.
Fourth, t he use o f s uicide operatives helps t o control t he timing and placement
of at t a c k s . If t h ere i s n o n eed t o provi de an escape rout e for t h e at t acker, t he
com p l ex i t y of t h e p l an i s great l y reduced. S ui ci de at t ackers can oft en get cl oser t o
the t arget at t he desired time than can other t errorist methods. The human being i s
in control until the m oment of detonation. The human being i s t he delivery s ys tem,
and t he attacker together with his weapon is the ultimate “s mart bomb.” The s uici de
attack may be l es s dangerous to an organization’s viability, as t here is no risk that
intelligence will be leaked. Likewise, for his or her part, the attacker does not need
t o fear capt u re, i nt errogat i on, t ri al , i m p ri sonm ent and t h e accom p anyi ng
humiliation–fates that, i n s ome s ettings and s ome cultures, may s eem worse t h a n
Fi nally, s uicide attacks can be especially intimidating for the t arget population.
There i s a perception t hat s uicide attacks are unstoppable, an impression perpetuated
not only b y t he logi stical challenges of detecting and repulsing the t hreat but also by
the impression that the attacker is driven by a des perate determination. While many
suicide attackers m ay be normal p sychologi cally, t here is benefit t o b e gained o n t he
part of the t errorist organization i n perpetuating t he stereotype that they are fanatics.
Li kewise, t he message (true or not) t hat t here are dozens m ore recruits waiting t o t ake
t h e d ead at t acker’s pl ace serves t h e o rgani z at i on’s i nt erest s and i s o ft en di ffi cul t t o
verify, one way o r another.
There i s o ften a s ense of desperatio n o r almost inhuman determination o n t he
part of a s ui ci de at t acker. T he ri t u al s i n w hi ch t h e p rospect i v e at t a c k e r t yp i cal l y
engages are design ed to make it virtually impossible t o b ack out of an attack without
losing honor and a place in society. Sometimes p rospective attackers are encouraged
t o l i e down i n g r a v e s t o h ave t he feel i n g o f p eace t h at t h ey are t ol d t hey w i l l
ex peri ence aft er d eat h. 50 The relationship with other recruits can be very close, with
the “living dead” competing t o be t he first t o be s ent on a mission. They often write
letters or make video t apes for rel ativ es left behind. Secular groups use s uch
techniques as well. Members of t he LTTE typically enjoy a meal with thei r l eader
a n d a re photographed o n t heir last nigh t before t he attack. W ith nowhere to tur n ,
capt u red operat i v es who h ave fa i l e d t o carry out their mission have consigned
them selves to ignominy as “half martyrs” and m ay consider them selves as good as
dead. A f t e r s u c h el aborat e p sychol ogi cal preparat i on, t h e at t ack i s m eant t o s eem
almost an afterthought. 51
Another aspect to the i ntimidating nat ure of s uici de attacks, particularly am ong
Palestinian groups, i s t he deliberate effo rt to max imize human suffering not only i n
50Neil MacFarquhar, “Portrait of a Suicide Bomber: Devout, Apolit i cal and Angry,” The
New Y ork Times, 18 March 1996, p. A1; a nd Boaz Ganor, “ S u i c i d e A t t acks i n Israel,”
chapter 12 of Countering Suicide T e rrorism, pp.140-141.
51All of t hese rituals are described i n numerous sources, i ncluding Ibid.; Countering Suicide
Terrorism (passim) ;Shankar V edantam, “Peer Pressure Spurs T errorists, Psychologists Say;
Attackers Unlike Usual Suicide Bombers,” The Washington Post , 16 October 2001, p. A16;
“Mind o f t he S u i c ide Bomber,” CBSNews .com, 26 M ay 2003;.Waldman, “ Masters of
Suicide Bombin g, ” ; C h a ru Lata J oshi, “Sri Lanka: Suicide Bombers,” Far East e rn
Economic Review, 1 J une 2000; and others.
the immediat e ex plosion but al so in the minutes, days, and even years following it.
P l anners of sui ci d e at t acks i n Israel have of t en p acked ex pl osi v es wi t h forei gn
objects. Long after t he attack, v ictims can have imbedded i n t heir bodies pieces of
shrapnel, nails, bolts, s crews, ball bearings and other projectiles t hat were built into
the bombs. Another recent i nnovation i s t he addition o f chemicals s uch as rat poison,
w h i ch i s an ant i coagu l ant and m akes i t m u ch m o re di ffi cul t for rescue worke r s t o
stem the bleeding from i njured victims.52 Over time, s uici de attacks t hat i ncorporat e
such elements can be psychologically more punishing, not only t o t he victims but to
the population at l arge.
Fi nally, t rying t o s top a suicide attack can result in a premature detonation of t he
ex plosive t hat kills the defen d e rs an d t he attacker. This can lead to increased
wariness on the part of police or soldiers, who then may be more inclined to shoot
otherwise i nnocent-looking civilians who could conceivably b e carrying ex p losives.
This is a particular problem if the s uici de attackers are identifiable as m em bers of a
di fferent race or et hni ci t y t h an t h e t ar ge t p o pulation. The result can be deep
polarization and a cycle of violen ce t h at may destabilize t he target soci et y and
perpetuate the goals of the t errorist group.
Women a nd Suicide Attacks
The role o f women in carrying out suicide attacks h a s b een the focus of
i n creasi n g concern. The u se of wom en i n s ui ci de at t acks m ay poi nt t o a b roadeni n g
to incl ude member s o f s ociety not usually recrui t ed b y cont em porary t errori st
organiz ations for t his t ype of mission. Although female participation i n t errorism is
not historically unusual (notably among left-wing groups), participation i n s u i cide
at t acks i s l ess com m on. Grow i n g n u m bers of fem al e sui ci d e at t ackers m ay refl ect
a number o f d ifferent factors.
The m ost p rom i n ent ex am p l es o f fem al e s ui ci de at t ackers h ave b een am ong t h e
members o f t he Tamil Tigers (LTTE). In t he conservative s ocieties of t he Middle
East and S out h Asi a, t h ere i s m ore rel uct ance t o s earch a w oman, w hich gi ves s uch
at t ackers an advant age over m en. T hey a r e al so assum ed t o b e pot ent i al l y l ess
d a n g erous and m ay be abl e t o approach t h e t arget w i t h great er ease. Am on g t h e
Bl ack Tigers, as t he Tamil su i c i d e a t t a ck squad i s known, both m ale and female
children as young as 10 ye a r s o ld are chosen to be prepared to carry out missions.
About a t hird of the s uicide operations carried out by the LTTE have been conducted
by women.53 Most famously, a female suicide bomber killed Indian Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi i n 1991 while he was campaigning for reelection. The attacker was
wearing an ex p losive device under h er robes t hat m ade i t appear that she was
pregnant. In December 1999 another woman blew herself u p at a rally for S ri Lankan
52T r acy Wilkinson, “T he World Lives Forever Scarre d A fter Suicide Bombings i n Israel:
Survivors Labor to Recover Physically and Mentally; Some Still Have Shrapnel i n T heir
Bodies,” The Los Angeles Times , 21 J uly 2002, p. A1.
53J ane’s Intelligence Revi ew, “Suicide T errorism: A Gl obal T hreat,” 20 October 2000;
accessed at [ http://www.j a nes.com] on 16 October 2001.
President C han d r i k a Kumaratunga; th e b last killed 2 3 p eople and wounded t he
president, who l ost t he sigh t i n h er righ t eye. 54
In t h e M i ddl e E ast , i t i s oft en forgo t t en i n t he focus o n t he very recent p ast t hat
women engaged in suicide missions years earlier, during t he 1980s. In s o u t h e rn
Lebanon, women who were figh ting as p art o f t he National R esistance Front engaged
in suicide attacks against Is raelis. On 9 April 1985, for ex ample, S an Mheidleh, a
16-year-old Shi’a s chool gi rl, d rove a car packed with 450 pounds of dynamite into
an Is rael i check point, killing herself and t wo Is rael i s oldiers. J ust before the attack,
she m ade a v i d eo t ape ex pl ai n i n g h e r m i ssi on whi ch was l at er s hown o n Lebanese
television. A number o f o ther women follo wed h er ex am pl e. S i nce t hese at t acks
were technically agai nst military target s, t h ey do not fit our definition ex actly;
however, t he form of the attack and t he organi zational planning are directly reflective
of the phenomen o n o ccurring among Palestinian groups attacking Israeli civilians
The use of female suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been
seen by som e as an act of desperat i o n o n t he part of P al est i n i a n wom en. 56 Others
consider it a resu l t o f cal culated evolution i n t he terrorist organization’s t actics; as
the Israelis began t o frisk young Palestinian m en, for ex ample, reportedly o lder men
andthenwomenbegantostepforward.57 T h e f i rst confirmed use of a P al es tinian
female suicide attacker in Is rael occurred i n J anuary 2002. 58 W afa Id rees, 28-year-
ol d P al est i n i an wom an, b l ew h ersel f t o pi eces out si de a s hoe shop i n J erusal em o n
28 J anuary 2002, killing an 81-year-old Is raeli m an and i njuring m ore t han 100
people. 59 Am ong t h e i nj ured was an A m eri can l awyer f r o m N ew York who h ad
54Dilip Ganguly, “Female Fighters Used i n Sri Lanka,” Associated Press , 10 J anuary 2000.
55Ri ma Salameh, “Lebanon’s M ilitia Women f ight and Become Suicide Bomb ‘ Martyr s’,”
The Associated Press , 6 April 1986.
56Libby Brooks, “Women: ‘We j ust want t o live normally’: As the Intifada produces its first
female suicide bomber, Li bby Br ooks r eports on the daily life of Palestinian women,” The
Guardian, 29 J anuary 2002, p. 8.
57J a me s P. Pinke rton, “Suicide Bombers M ay Be Shocki ng, but Dying f or the Cause Is Not
Ne w,” The Los Angeles Times , 11 April 2002, Part 2, p. 15.
58A f emale suicide attacker may have struck an Israeli bus in August 1995, killing f ive
people ( including an American t ourist) and i nj uring more t han 100 others. Hamas claimed
responsibility for t he attack; however the i dentity of the woman and her role as the attackerth
was not confirmed. “Suicide Bombing Again Rocks Israel: Attack is 7 in Past 18 Months;
Woma n M ay have been Responsible for Blast,” The Virginian-Pilot , 22 August, 1995, p.
59Peter Beaumont, “Woma n Suicide Bomber Strike s: T wo Dead and 100 Wounded i n New
Twist t o Midd l e E ast conflict,” The Guardian, 28 J anuary 2002, p. 1; Peter Beaumont,
“From a n Angel of Mercy t o Angel of Death,” The Guardian, 31 J anuary 2002, p. 11. One
early account gi ve s t he name of the bomber a s Shahanaz Al Amouri, which s eems t o be a
mistake. Inigo Gilmore, “Woman suicide bomber shakes Israelis,” news.telegraph.co.uk,
filed 28 J anuary 2002.
survived the S eptember 11th at t acks.60 Following that i n ci dent, other attacks by
wom en h ave o ccurred, i n cl udi n g b y Dari a Abu Aysha, a P al est i n i an s t udent who
killed herself and wounded t hree soldiers at a W est Bank checkpoint in February
2002; and 18-year-old Ayat Akhras, who killed herself and t wo Israelis near a
J erusalem s upermarket i n M arch 2002. 61 A l l o f t hese women were p repared and
arm ed b y t he al -Aqsa M art yrs’ Bri gades, whi ch, accordi n g t o one source, has s et up
a s pecial unit for female suicide bombers. 62
Another group w i t h a h istory of using w om en for s ui ci de at t acks i s t he P KK,
whose campaign o f s uicide attacks b egan on 30 J une 1995 and ended o n 5 J uly 1999.
A b out two-thirds of the attacks--eleven o f fourteen--were undertaken by women. 63
The l arge majority of attackers did not volunteer but were chosen by the l eadership
for t heir mis s i ons, a distinguishing feat ure o f t he P KK. Much coerci on was
reportedly u sed i n f o r c i ng PKK m embers to part i ci p at e: one of t hose s el ect ed who
then refus e d t h e ‘h o nor’ was said to have been killed i n front of another who had
been chosen; a different person who t ri ed to escape w as turned over to the police.
Accordi n g t o i nt ervi ews, t h e P KK’ s p r e f e rence for usi n g fem al e s ui ci de at t ackers
refl ect ed a num ber o f causes, i n cl udi ng t h e b el i ef am ong t h e l ead e rshi p t h at t h e
presence of the women was burdening the m en in their h it-and-run operations, and
the general perception i n t he group that the women were more ex pendable t han t he
Although t he act of committi n g suicide and the p articipation o f women in
com b at are bot h cont rary t o C h echen soci al t radi t i on, i n creasi n g num bers of C h echen
wom en are part i ci p at i n g i n s ui ci de at t acks agai n st R u ssi an t arget s. There h ave b een
numerous attacks i nvolving women p erpetrators, including two apparently Chechen
female suicide attackers who detonated t hemselves outside a rock concert i n J uly
2003 on the outskirts of Moscow, k illing m ore t h an a dozen young people. 65 The
motivations for fem al e C hechen suicide attackers are reported t o be often related t o
the d eaths of husba n d s , b r o t h ers, fathers and sons at the h ands of Russian forces;
indeed, t he Kremlin calls th em “black widows.”66 Some argu e t hat t he traditional
nat u re of C h echen soci et y pushes wom en i n t o sui ci d e m i ssi ons because t h e y a re
60J ames Bennet, “A September 11 Survi vor i s Hurt as M an Dies in J erusalem Attack,” The
Ne w Y or k T i me s , 28 J anuary 2002, p. A1.
61Cameron W. Barr, “Why a Palestinian Girl Now Wants to be a Suicide Bomber , ” The
Christian Science Monitor , 1 April 2002.
62 Gr a h a m Us her, “At 18, Bomber Became M artyr and Murderer: Warning of a ‘ Million
More’ after suicide attack kills two at Supermarket,” The Guardian, 30 M arch 2002, p. 5.
63Dogu Er gil, “Suicid e Terrorism in Turkey; T he Workers’ Party of K urdistan,” in
Countering Suicide Terrorism, p. 105-128.
65Si nce previ ous such attacks had been directed mainly at Russian military or government
targets, this attack is seen as a worrisome sign of a possible s hift in Chechen strategy toward
targeting strictly civilians.
66Fred Weir, “Chechen women j oin t error’s ranks: T hree r ecent s uicide b o mb i n gs ma r k a
desperately violent trend,” The Christian Science Monitor, 12 J une 2003.
ex cl uded from j oining regular guerrilla units.67 The unprecedent ed p rom i n ence of
wom en s ui ci de at t ackers am ong C h echen fi gh t ers i s al so seen as a s i gn o f d esperat i o n
in the struggl e, and a transition t o a “P al estinization” o f t h e so-called war of
independence from R ussia. 68
Over the l ong term, t errorist organiz ations would not use women or children i f
the popul at i o n at large did not activel y or at l eas t passively support it. There i s
polling d ata t hat clearly indicat e s s upport on t he part of most Palestinians for t he
terrorist organiz ations carrying o u t these operations, s upport t hat s eemed to grow
immediat el y after t h e i ncreas e i n s uici de attacks using both m al e and female
perpetrators, although enthusiasm fo r t he violence then later d eclined. 69 Longer term
acquiescence of the b r o a d er population, particularly in Chechnya and among the
Palestinians, would b e m ost concerning and could b e i ndicative o f t he staying power
of this phenomenon.
The Threat to the U nited S tates
Until very recently, m ost o f t he groups engagi ng in suicide attacks h a v e b een
interested in pursuing a cause that is geographically distant from t he United S tates,
usually limited t o t erritory that is connect ed somehow to the o rigi n o f t he group. The
groups that were most likely t o u se suicide attacks, including Hamas, Is lamic J i had,
t h e P KK, t h e T am i l Ti gers and o t h ers d escri b ed here, h ad no i n t e r e s t i n di rect l y
targeting a suicide attack agai nst U.S. citizens or i nterests at home or abroad.
Bu t s uicide attacks are no longer primarily a l ocal phenomenon. Looking at the
evolution o f t he use o f s uicide attacks globally, t he geographical distribution o f t he
phenom enon seem s t o b e wi d eni n g, as i s t h e t arget i n g o f t he at t acks. In recent years,
sui ci d e at t acks h ave b een perpet uat ed ac r o s s b orders and even cont i n ent s , for
ex am ple i n C roatia, Argentina, Algeria, Panama, and now the United S tates.
The m ost effective globalized network of t errori st organi z at i ons i s associ at ed
with Al Qaeda--t h e o n l y organization t hat has successfully used suicide attacks on
U.S. soil. Indeed, t he most likel y future use of suicide attacks a gai n s t A m ericans
would come fr o m Al Qaeda and its many associated groups. Al Qaeda’s global
networking of militant Is lamic groups derives from its genesis i n t he struggl e against
67Ibid. Al t hough not technically engaged i n a suicide attack, Chechen women dressed i n
black veils with Ar abic wr iting, carrying gun s a n d with explosives strapped around their
waists helped to carry out the s iege of the M oscow t heatre in October 2002 ; t he 1 8 o r so
wome n were s hot point-blank by Russian special forces when they gassed and then stormed
the t heatre. See Christina Lamb and Ben Aris, Russians probe al-Qa’eda Link as M oscow
Siege Ends with 150 Dead,” The Daily Telegraph (London), 27 October 2002.
69Mark Lavi e, “After Top Palestinian Leader Cr iticizes Violence, Poll Shows Palestinians
Favor Crackdown on Militants,” Associated Press , 2 8 N o ve mber 2002. See a lso K halil
Shikaki, Special Policy Forum Report: Palestinian Attitudes During t he Bush/Sharon Era,
Number 319, 20 April 2001, p. 2.
the S oviet Union i n Afghanistan and t he s ubsequent development under t he Taliban
regime there o f numerous training camps,whereattendees wereschooledinmany
different techniques o f fighting, including t h e u se of ex pl osi v es and s ui ci de at t acks.
Al Q a eda h as relied upon suicide attacks frequently, especially as the
organiz ation h as evolved from a primary fo cus o n s upporting Islamist i nsurgencies
throughout the world to an increasingl y widespread and d i r e c t r o le in attacking
Am eri can and o t h er W est ern t arget s t h rough any avai l abl e m eans. Not abl e s ui ci de
attacks i nclude the 1998 truck bombings o f t h e U . S . Embassies in Dar es S alaam,
Tanz ania, and Nairobi, Kenya. (Twelve Americans d i ed and 7 were wounded i n
those attacks, while 291 Africans were k illed and about 5100 wounded.70)The
October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. C ole i n Yemen was a suicide o p e r a t i o n , albeit
cl early direct ed agai nst a military not ci vilian t arget. (S ev en t e en American sailors
died and t hirty- n i n e w e re wounded.) And finally, t he September 1 1 th at t acks, i n
which m o r e t han 3,000 people were k illed, were carried out by nineteen Al Qaeda
suicide operatives. T here have been numer ous other p lanned but thwarted apparent
suicide attacks directly or indirectly attributable to Al Qaeda. And s uici de assaults
in Saudi Arabia and M o r o c c o in May 2003 also appear to have had ties t o Al
Qaeda. 71 Suicide t actics seem to be gaining importance i n t he organization’s arsenal .
At this point there i s n o evidence t hat P alestinian groups like Hamas and Islamic
J i had h ave d evel oped t i es w i t h Al Qaeda. There i s cl ear evi d ence, h o w e v e r , o f A l
Qaeda connections with Chechen milit an t groups, and, as mentioned above, t he
i n creasi n g u se of sui ci d e at t acks i n R ussi a and C h echnya i s s een as a worri som e si gn
of potentially growing i nfluence on the part of radical Islamist elements among the
Chechens. Al Qaeda h as also provided s upport for Pakistani groups like Lashkar-e-
taiba of P akistan/Kashmir. And there are worrisome indications of outside fighters
possibly being responsible for m ajor suicide attacks i n Iraq, including the J ordanian
Embassy and t he UN Headquarters i n Baghdad.
While a t ransition t o t he use of s uicide techniques among groups with Muslim
members i s often seen as a reflection of Islamist militancy, the role of Al Qaeda i n
these attacks i s b ecoming b lurred b y t heir increasing globaliz ation. The knowledge
needed to carry them out is increas ingl y a v a ilable and being disseminat ed
internationally through m eans s uch as t he Internet . Al Qaeda’s Jihad Manual and its
thirteen volume Encyclopedia o f Jihad, for ex ample, are both available o n t he world
wide web and can be downloaded easily to discs, sent as attachments via e-mail, and
transferredtoCD-Rom.72 The i ncreas ing globalization of t errorism al so means
70T hrough our Enemies’ Eyes, p. 200. T he e xact figures a re not ge nerally agreed. T he U.S.
State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 cites “at least 301" killed and “more
than 5,000" inj ured, p. 119.
71For more i nforma tion on t his s ee CRS Report RS21529, Al Qaeda after t he Iraq Conflict .
72Br uce Hoffman, “Al Qaeda, Trends in Terrorism and F u t u r e Potentialities: An
Assessment,” paper presented at t he RAND Center for M iddle East Public Policy andrd
Geneva Center for Security Policy 3 Annual Conference, 5 M ay 2003 (Santa Monica, CA:
RAND, 2003) , pp. 16-17.
i n creasi n g gl obal i z at i o n o f s ui ci de t act i cs, because, for al l t he reasons descri bed
above, t hey are sometimes p erceived as b eing uniquely effective.73
There h as been no speci fic evidence i n open literature thus far t hat Al Qaed a i s
prepari n g t o u se wom en t o engage i n s ui ci de at t acks. Gi ven Al Qaeda’s i deol ogy,
some might argue t hat t he organiz ation would consider it difficult to use women in
its so-called “jihad.” However, a number of fact ors hav e l ed t he FBI to warn that
female suicide attackers could be used by Al Qaeda against the United S tates i n t he
future. First, an i nterview published i n an A rabic-language newspaper i n mid-March
2003 quotes a wom an w h o c l a i m s t hat Al Qaeda i s s etting u p t raining camps to
prepare women for “martyrdom operations,” and s peci fi cal l y ci t es t he successful use
of female suicide attackers by P al estinian and Chechen organizations.74 Apparently
as a res ult, the FBI has i ssued notices to law enforcem ent agencies t o be alert to the
possibility of a growing role for women in Al Qaeda.75 Second, at least i n t heory, it
is possible t hat t he capture of senior lead ers and other m embers of Al Qaeda could
increase t he likelihood of women operatives being u sed t o carry out missions. Other
terrorist organiz ations have innovated i n t his way when advances in counterterrorism
have forced t h em t o adapt .
Suicide Attacks in Iraq
There are t w o t yp es of sui ci d e at t acks t hat h ave b een i n evi d ence i n Iraq: t hose
speci fically direct ed agai nst U.S. military forces , and those s peci fical l y d i rect ed
against noncombatant targets. These will be dealt with in turn.
Technically suicide operations agai nst military target s s uch as U.S. s oldiers i n
Iraq do not qualify as “terrorist” operati ons because the v ictims are not civilians or
noncombatants.76 Nonetheless, some of the t echniques t hat h ave b een descri bed h ere
have appeared in both wartime and postwar Iraq, i ncluding suicide attacks carried out
by Iraqi women. 77
Techniques for suicide attacks are regu larly copied between groups, and this can
make it difficult to distingu ish b etween perpetrators, e specially in the early hours
73On the globalization of i nternational t errori s m, s ee Audrey K urth Cronin, “Behind t he
Curve: Gl obalization and International T errorism,” International Security, V ol. 27, No. 3
(Winter 2002/2003), pp. 30-58.
74J ohn Solomon, “FBI wary al-Qaida may begin using women in attacks,” The Associated
Press , 1 April 2003. T here i s s ome r eason for s kepticism about the accuracy of the claim,
since t he interview was carried out largely over t he Internet and t hen distributed through
75Pete Yost, “FBI Warns of Female al-Qaida Operatives,” Associated Press , 24 April 2003.
76On this point, s ee Fred K a plan, “ Saddam’ s Sui cide Bombers Aren’t T errorists,” M iddle
East Information Center , 6 A pril 2003, accessed at [ http://middleeastinfo.org] on 24 J uly
77Davi d J ohnston a nd J a me s Risen, “ New Signs of T e rror Not Evident,” Th e New Y ork
Ti mes , 6 April 2003.
a f t e r a n at t ack. A l Q aeda h as cal l ed for at t acks o n U .S . forces i n Iraq, and at one
point an unknown group calling itself t he Ar med Islamic Movement for Al Qaeda,
the Fallujah Branch, claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. military targets. 78 (A
connection t o Al Qaeda h as not been independently verified.) There h ave also b een
uncorroborated reports, attributed to the A r a b t elevision n etwork al-J az eera, of
training camps for Arab volunteers willing t o carry out suicide bombings against U.S.
forces. 79 In April, the British reportedly found a s tash of weapons in Basra t hat was
believed t o b e m eant for suicide bombers, 80 and Americans reportedly found a cache
of about fifty ex plosives vests in a s chool in Baghdad. Some apparently regu lar Iraqi
soldiers used suicide ex plosives vests to try t o kill more Am eri can soldiers,
particularly when the Iraqis were o stensibly s urrendering. 81
From the end of major hostilities t o August 2003, much of the postwar violence
i n Iraq seem ed t o have been carri ed out by S addam Hussein l o ya l ists, particularly
members o f t he Ba’ath party, and p erhaps al so members o f t he disbanded Iraqi army.
Accordin g t o U.S. military commanders, m ost attacks on U.S. forces displayed
characteristics o f t raditional guerrilla or insurgency campaigns, i nvolving weapons
such as rocket propelled grenades, remotely detonated ex p losives, and gunfire.82
There were al s o at t acks o n el em ent s o f t he Iraqi i nfrast ruct ure, i n cl udi ng t h e wat er
and power systems, ostensibly design ed to disrupt postwar rebuilding and
stabilization efforts. These t ypes o f a t t a cks h ad not generally involved s uicide
tactics, although s uch operations by quasi-military groups are not uncommon i n
situations of occupation.
Bu t t he Augu st 2003 suicide attacks o n c i v i lian s oft t argets such as the
J o rdanian E mbassy and t he U.N. Headquarters building i n Baghdad s eemed to bring
an added dimension t o t he threat . They were classic t errorist suicide a t t ack s using
a car bomb and a t ruck bomb. Many terrorism ex per t s p o i n t t o the change i n
targeting and the s tyle of attack as evidence of a possible broadening of t he strategy
from m ai nly a guerrilla insurgency agai n s t U.S. forces to incl ude a coordinated
terrorist campaign t hat could i nvolve foreign elements. How t he threat will evolve
is hard to predict.
78J ohn Hendren, “ T a pe Claims Al Qaeda Is a t W ork i n Iraq,” LosAngelesTimes,14July
79“Iraq ‘ training volunteer suicide bombers ’,” Irish Examiner Breaking News ,12March
80 “British f orces find weapons cache believed s tored f or suicide bombers,” A s s o c i ated Press ,
accessed on 18 April 2003.
81S. T horne Harper, “ Soldier Alive ‘ By the Grace of God’ Booby-trapped Iraqi Soldier
Blows up Nearby,” Columbus Ledger-Enquirer , 18 April 2003.
82T om Squitieri and Dave M oniz, “U.S. T roops in Ir aq Facing Guerilla W a r f are,” USA
Today , 16 J uly 2003.
How to C ounter the Threat
As mentioned above, i t i s d ifficult to p r e v e n t o r counter suicide attacks.
No n e t h e l ess, there are both o ffensive and defensive m easures that may reduce t he
number and/or severity of attacks. Among t h e o ffensi v e m eas ures are p reem pt i v e
st ri kes agai n st t h e o rgani z at i ons t h at orch e s t r at e s ui ci de at t acks (especi al l y t h ei r
leaders), vigorous intelligence collection, and efforts t o reduce t he ability of terrorist
organiz ations to recruit s uicide candidates.
Since t he organization i s a crucial element in orchestratin g s u i ci de attacks,
preemptive attacks are most promising i f t hey undermine t he ability of the
organization t o operate. This can mean, for ex am ple, military operations to destroy
the physical infrastructure o f t he group, e fforts t o cut off funding, and/or preemptive
st ri kes d esi gned t o capt u re or ki l l l eaders. T h e s e t yp es of m easures are o ft en
e m p l oyed by t h e Israel i D efense Forces, for ex am pl e, especi al l y t h e v er y
controversial policy of t argeted killings (also called t argeted assassin a tions).
Sometimes preem ptive attacks are em ployed in order t o i ntimidat e, harass, or disable
a group: the goal can be to keep the o rganiz ation s o worried about staying ahead of
potential military or po l i c e act i o n t hat careful l y i ndoct ri n at i n g fut ure s ui ci de at t ackers
becomes d ifficult. According t o t his s trat egy, targeting known operatives or training
cam ps disrupts imminent operations and/or reduces the ability of t h e group to
indoctrinate p eople t oward b eing prep ared to kill themselves and o thers.
Others assert that although capturi ng or killing a l ead er can undermine t he
organization, it ca n a l s o energize t he followers into acting i n t he name of the
“martyr.” Likewise, operations that enra ge the s urrounding population can result in
an increase i n recruitment and rapid reconstruction o f t he group’s capabilities. Bu t
this can also work the opposite way: when indigenous civilians ar e victimized by
terrorist attacks, the o rga n i z a t i o n can be marginaliz ed by the l ocal population. It
depends upon the group and t he political contex t.
In this regard, t he second offensive m easure, v i gorous human and t echnical
intelligence gathering, is vital. Good intelligence can provide critical information on
a t errorist group’s d yn amics. S u ccessful intelligence gathering can occur at many
points along t h e p ro cess, from t he initial contact with individuals, t o t he
indoctrination, targeting, equipping, t raining and launching of the attackers. These
terrorist group activities require such acts as purchases of equipment, reconnaissance
of possible t arget areas , and other potentially observable activities. It is important to
have international cooperation i n i ntelligence gathering, especially in regi ons of the
world where Americans are unfamiliar with the c u l t u re an d l anguage, or may not
know the l ocal population well. In telligence can be crucial t o p revent attacks b efore
t h ey occur, and t o ret al i at e effect i v el y i n t he aft erm at h, i f necessary.
Suicide attacks cannot occur i n a popula tion t hat does not provide individuals
who are willing t o die for t he cause. The last of the offen s ive m eas ures therefore
relates t o efforts t o reducing t he poten tial recruitment ability of terrorist groups.
These m easures are t he most controv e r s i a l and can be frustrating t o t hose who are
primarily concerned with preventing imminent attacks: they would i nclude policies
that alter t he political, cultural and socio- economic contex ts that perpetuate suicide
attacks, such as improving quality of life, increasing social stability, providing
opportunities for productive political ex pre ssion, employment, education, and s o on.
Ot her important means of reducing recruitment incl ude met hods t o undermine t he
ideology of the i ndividual attacker, especi ally his or her dedication and faith in the
m eani n gful nat u re of h i s o r h er deat h. Hi st ori cal ex peri ence dem onst rat es t h at
terrorist organiz ations can not continue to employ methods that alienate actual o r
potential c o n stituents. The ultimate active m easure over time is to remove the
Defensi v e m easures agai nst s ui cide attacks include preventing p erpet r at ors from
physically getting at t he target . The goal is to make it much m o re d i fficult for an
organi z a t i o n t o achi eve a s uccessful at t ack, i ncreasi n g t he cost s i n rel at i o n t o t he
benefits gained through t he attackers’ death. These i nclude the full range of
m easures i n hom el and d efense, from physi cal barri ers t o s ecuri t y screeni n g t o s t ri ct
border controls. S ome also s uggest decreas ing t he quantity or profile of potentially
sym bol i c t arget s, by m easures such as rest ri ct i n g unnecessary t ravel i n dangerous
areas abroad or controlling t he availability of sensitive i nformation on t he Internet ,
for ex ample. P rep a r i n g t h e public to respond calmly in the face of an attack is
another way to reduce t he potential attract i v eness o f t he at t ack i n advance.
Such anti-terrorism means are often gr eatly underrated i n t he general d iscussion
of how to stop suicide attackers, but their role can be crucial. The purpose i s t o d eny
the t errorist organization its most attractive t argets. T h e cost/benefit cal culations
undertaken by the o rganiz ation as well as t he individuals must be manipulated to the
poi nt w h ere achi evi ng a s pect acul ar s ymbolic strike with its attendant publicity
becom es i ncreasi n gl y d i ffi cul t and unat t ract i v e.
Implications for U .S. P olicy
The question of how to reduce t he threat of sui c ide attacks against the United
Stat es and its interests at home and abroad is ex trem el y important to Congress. Most
central to Congress’s i nterests is determining t he appro p r i a t e f u ture funding levels
for homeland s ecurity, t he Department of Defense, and foreign operations, especially
t h e b al ance bet w een m easures l i k e hom el and s ecuri t y and force prot ect i on, and m ore
pro-active measures like targeted foreign aid programs, public diplomacy,
multilateral cooperation, military/law enforcement operations, and int e l l i gence for
counterterrorism. 83 The competing requirements t o s pend for t he operations in Iraq
and Afghani st an, for ex am pl e, as wel l as on dom est i c hom el and s ecuri t y, are l i k el y
t o c ontinue to be an area of concern. Additional s uicide attacks at home o r i n t h e
fi el d w i l l affect t h ese cal cul at i ons, especi al l y i f t h ey resul t i n i n creasi n g num bers of
83With respect to funding for homeland s ecurity see, f o r e xample, CRS Report RS21270,
Home land Security and Counterterrorism Research and Development: Funding,
Organization, and Oversight .
Another area of concern i s t he question of i nstituting better and more
comprehensive t hreat assessments with respect to suicide attacks on U.S. i nteres ts in
advance o f potentially painful episodes, placing such assessments within the
historical contex t o f t he considerable in ternational ex p erience with this pheno menon.
Spending on counterterrorism and antiterro rism measures to deal with the evolving
threat will be increas ingl y difficult to gauge i n t he absence of better analysis of t he
threat. This i ncludes not just concentrating upon potential imminent attacks, but also
longer-term rigorous, focused and d ispassionate ev a l u a tion o f t he terrorist
organizations and t heir constituencies, i nformed b y an i ndepth understanding of their
political, s ocial, and cultural contex t. Spending on intelligence for counterterrorism
will continue to be a s erious concern, both i n t he domestic and i nternational arenas,84
as will having a s ufficient quantity of well-qualified p eople t o fill counterterrorism
positions in the relevant U.S. agencies.
In this respect , t he number of peop l e well-trai ned t o analyze terrorist
o r ganizations in depth i s currently quite smal l i n t he United S tates, especi ally
com p ared t o ot her m aj or powers who have i n t h e p ast faced a s eri ous t errori st t h reat .
As mentioned above, s uicide attacks u s u a l l y d epend upon an organiz ation t o b e
successful. Traditional academic institutions do not, o n t he whole, support t errorism
st udi es as a d i s ci pl i n e and are wary o f d evot i n g resources t o a pol i cy-rel evant fi el d
that has i n t he past wax ed and waned with the p erception o f t he threat.85 In an age
of gl obal i z at i on, good anal ys i s com es not onl y from access t o cl assi fi ed sources, but
al so from t horough analysis of open s ource literature that is often not fully ex ploited.
This approach could i nvolve providing support for additional civilian and/or military
training programs, possibl y associated with academic institutions or government
agenci es , t o be devoted t o the s tudy of terrorist organizations, s imilar t o t hose t hat
were implemented to face the S oviet threat .
In addition t o v igorous military responses , l onger-term m easures for reducing
the constituenci es for t errorist organizations and t he number of candidates for suicide
attacks will continue to b e important. Nonmilitary measures can involve both
“carrots” and “sticks.” Funding for i nitiat i ves s uch as t he recently-created Middle
East Partnership Initiative, or other such program s d ev o t ed to promoting political ,
econom i c and educat i onal d evel opm ent i n regions where t errorist or ga n i z ations
recruit, may provide effective alternatives to those who would otherwise engage in
terrorism. 86 Efforts at b etter public diplomacy may also h elp. 87
84For more o n t h i s i ssue, see CRS Report RL31292, Intelligence to Counter Terrorism:
Issues for Congress .
85Br uce W . J entleson, “T he Need for Praxis: Br ingi ng Policy Relevance Ba c k In,”
International Security, V ol. 26, No. 4 (Spring 2002), pp. 169-183; and Cronin, “Behind t he
Curve,” pp. 54-58.
86For f urther information, see CRS Report RS21457, The M iddle East Partnership Initiative:
87For f urther information, see CRS Report RL31889, The Al-Ja z e e r a News Network:
Opportunity or Challenge for U.S. Foreign Policy i n t he Middle East? , a nd CRS Report
RS21565, The M iddle East Television Network: An Overview.
Other m easures to deter o r reduce t he attractivenes s t o i n d i viduals and t heir
families of suici de attacks might lessen t he organizations’ ability to find candidates.
Some have sugges t ed that paym ents to families of suici de attackers be speci fically
out l awed, or t h at al l s t at es from w hi ch such paym ent s em erge be hel d speci fi cal l y
accountable for s upporting t err o r i s t act ivity. Another s uggestion i s t o deny family
members of suici de attackers visas to the United S tates. Other m easures may attempt
to undercut the i deology o f t he potential recruit, for ex ample by increasing t he profile
of moderate Is lamic clerics who condemn suicide attacks.
Fi nally, C o n gressional oversight of Defense Department activities i n Iraq,
including funding of reconstruction and stability operations in future months and
years, will a l m o st inevitably b e affected by the future evolution o f t he resistance
forces there. Continued sui ci d e at t acks i n Iraq will not only victimize American
soldiers, as wel l as i nternational, U.S., and Iraqi civilians, but could potentially have
i m port ant l arger effect s o n p ercept i ons of t h e postwar effort as well. Developing the
best possible countermeasures to potential s uicide attacks i n Iraq and elsewhere m ay
be cent ral t o t h e s uccess o f U.S . pol i cy t here i n fut u re m ont hs and years.