Theories of Suicide Terrorists Motivations
A number of theories about what motivates suicide terrorists have been posed. Most of these explanations are applications of theories about terrorism behavior more generally. Explanations include religious, psychological and sociological explanations.
Some groups make consistent use of terrorism, such as the Tamil Tigers, while others use it selectively as one tactic among others, such as Al Qaeda.
- Al Qaeda: The intentionally spectacular suicide attacks of 9/11 by Al Qaeda raised the issue of suicide terrorism anew.
- Hamas: Hamas became infamous for its suicide bombings in Israel in the 1990s.
- Hezbollah: The Lebanese Shiite group is credited by many with a 1983 suicide attack on U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 service men and women.
- Tamil Tigers: The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka invented the use of vests to strap bombs to a suicide attackers body. Other groups, such as Hamas, and Iraq based organizations, followed suit.
Suicide Attacks Outside the Scope of Terrorism
In order to understand better the phenomenon of suicide terrorism, scholars and analysts also turn to the military or political uses of suicide that cannot be strictly considered terrorism. There are, for example, those who have immolated themselves to protest government actions and wars. A most recent example is that of Malachi Ritscher, a Chicago musician who immolated himself on November 3, 2006 to protest the war in Iraq.
Another frequently examined precedent is that of Japanese Kamikaze pilots in World War II:
- Kamikaze Pilots: Japanese World War II pilots carried out suicide attacks against American planes. Unlike suicide terrorists, these actors acted on behalf of a state within the context of a declared war.