Suicide Terrorism: Assessing Vulnerabilities and Developing Efficient Strategies Against a Growing International Threat

Cecile Van de Voorde, University of South Florida

The unprecedented escalation of suicide terrorist attacks over the past decade has made governments and the public glaringly aware of their vulnerability to this extremely violent, adaptive form of terrorism. It has become imperative to devise efficient strategies in order to prvent, combat, and ultimately eliminate the scourge of suicide terrorism and its devasting outcomes. Suicide terrorism is neither a sui generis phenomenon, nor an innovative form of oppositional terrorism. Rather, it is characterized by tactics, goals, and motives inherent in more conventional terrorism. Moreover, as a result of centuries of opposition between various terror organizations and their actual or perceived enemies, suicide terrorism is rooted in the historical, social, political, religious, and psychological dimensions of terrorism. Today, about fifteen religious or secular groups have the human and financial resources to use suicide terrorism against their own or foreign governments. This research paper examines the history, contemporary trends, and etiology of suicide terrorism. It also considers policy implications and recommendations by analyzing useful and reliable strategies designed for law enforcement agencies and emergency responders (both civilian and military) to better prepare for and respond to suicide terror attacks: intelligence gathering, operational/counter-terrorist measures, preventive/antiterrorist strategies, as well as psychological measures.

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Updated 05/20/2006