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The New Suicide Bombers

The New Suicide BombersFletcher doctoral student Assaf Moghadam discusses the global spread of suicide bombings and how to stem the violence.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.13.05] Suicide bombers today have different motivations than they did a decade ago, Fletcher doctoral student Assaf Moghadam recently wrote in an op-ed in The Boston Globe. In order to put a stop to this form of violence, it’s important to understand the “fundamental shift in the causes that give rise to human bombs,” he said.

“Traditionally, suicide missions have been used by organizations seeking to establish a national homeland or ward off a foreign occupier meaning that the attacks happened close to home,” wrote Moghadam, who is also a research fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He added that most suicide bombers in the past 25 years have been local recruits.

This is no longer the case, according to Moghadam. He pointed to the recent bombings in Bali, London and Amman, to support his theory that suicide bombings are becoming increasingly global.

“Today's human bombs are more ambitious geographically and politically and are operated by cells connected to transnational movements,” wrote Moghadam, author of the book, The Roots of Terrorism, which is due out in 2006. “Modern martyrs often sacrifice themselves beyond their own borders.”

A recent letter by an Al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, drives home the point.

“He calls for the establishment of a caliphate [a territorial jurisdiction] ‘in the manner of the prophet,’ to be spread over as many countries as possible,” Moghadam wrote in the Globe.

Moghadam added that another difference between today’s suicide bombers and those of the past is their motivation.

“The new martyrdom is driven by a humiliation that differs significantly from the concrete grievances of traditional suicide bombers,” Moghadam wrote in the Globe. “Many of today's martyrs, in fact, have enjoyed a relatively comfortable upbringing. Theirs is a suffering and humiliation felt vicariously through the calamities of their brethren in Iraq and Palestine. They are humiliated partly by the guilt over living a relatively worry-free life in comparison with their brothers under occupation in the West Bank and the Sunni triangle.”

The power of the Internet has also changed the way suicide bombers operate, according to Moghadam.

“The Web plays a crucial role in the indoctrination, training and recruitment of today's martyrs. It exploits the humiliation and anger sensed by many Muslims, while offering them an opportunity to ‘make a difference,’" Moghadam wrote. “It appeals to would-be-bombers to undo their fellow Muslims' plight by sacrificing themselves for the sake of a new, transnational Muslim nation.”

It is important, Moghadam said, for nations to understand what motivates modern suicide bombers, and to act to address the problems within their own populations.

“We should be disabused of the belief that withdrawal alone will appease the new martyrs,” Moghadam wrote in the Globe. “Instead, the countries affected by suicide attacks must step up the battle for the hearts and minds of alienated young Muslims. This war of ideas should expose the hypocrisy of global jihad, but it must also consist of a more sensitive engagement with the Muslim world.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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