Suicide Attacks


As of the middle of 2003, there have been well over 300 suicide attacks carried out in 14 countries by 17 terror organisations.

Modern suicide bombings was introduced by the Shi’ite terrorist organisation Hezbollah in 1983 in Lebanon, and it was in Lebanon that this modus operandi was refined throughout the 1980s. Altogether, 50 suicide bombings were carried out in Lebanon....The Hezbollah’s success in this sphere was mostly in achieving respect; the group became a symbol of sacrifice and a source of inspiration for terrorist organisations worldwide.

The most prominent of these organisations was the LTTE, "The Tamil Tigers." This organisation, currently fighting for an independent Tamil state, began carrying out suicide bombings in 1987 and has since perpetrated over 200 such attacks. These bombings were particularly lethal and caused hundreds of casualties....This organisation is the only one in the world to succeed in assassinating two heads of state by suicide bombings. A suicide attack killed former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, while he was on an election campaign tour in Madras on 21 May 1991. Then, in May of 1993, President Premadassa of Sri Lanka was killed by a suicide attacker, along with 22 other people. On 17 December 1999, the organisation attempted to assassinate Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka, using a female suicide bomber. The President was wounded but survived....

The Egyptian organisations, "Gama’a al-Islamiyya" and "Egyptian Jihad," carried out two suicide attacks-one in Croatia in October ’95, and the other at the Egyptian embassy in Karachi, Pakistan in November ’95. Osama bin Laden’s organisation "al-Qaida," was responsible for two simultaneous suicide bombings against the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, in which 224 people were killed and about five thousand wounded....Another suicide attack carried out apparently by al-Qaida, or at least in collaboration with it, was perpetrated by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in a boat in Aden harbour next to the USS Cole, killing 17 U.S. sailors.

In June and July 2000 Chechnyan militants fighting against the Russian army joined the circle of suicide bombers. To date, Chechnyan suicide bombers have carried out at least 7 attacks, in which scores were wounded and over one hundred Russian soldiers and police officers were killed.

Between September 2000 and mid-June 2003, 95 suicide bombings were carried out by Palestinians, killing 366 people and wounding hundreds. Hamas, along with Islamic Jihad, have carried out most of the bombings. Among Palestinians, only a minority supported suicide attacks before the current uprising began last September. However, later polls have shown that a majority support such attacks.

For most of the organisations who have used these tactics, the common denominator is their success in causing large-scale casualties and negatively influencing public morale, while at the same time entirely failing to change regimes or to force their governments to surrender to their strategic demands.


Sources: Excerpted from Gal Luft, "Yasser's Army," The Review, (September 2001); Ha'aretz, (September 28, 2001); Jerusalem Post, (June 12, 2003)