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Terrorism: Suicide Attacks

Modern suicide bombings were introduced by Hezbollah in 1983 in Lebanon. As the group gained international notoriety for its “achievements,” the tactic spread widely among terrorist groups. The LTTE, “Tamil Tigers,” began carrying out suicide bombings in Sri Lanka in 1987 and perpetrated over 300 such attacks.

In 2000, Chechnyan militants fighting the Russian army joined the cadre of suicide bombers. Al-Qaeda, founded by Osama bin Laden, was responsible for two suicide bombings against U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the organization scored the largest terrorist attack in history on September 11, 2001, when 3,000 people were killed in simultaneous attacks with hijacked airplanes in Washington D.C., New York and Pennsylvania.

Between 1981 and 2006, terrorists carried out more than 1,200 suicide attacks around the world, constituting only 4% of all attacks but 32% of all terrorism-related deaths. Approximately 1,000 of these attacks occurred in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.

The common denominator for most of the organizations that have used suicide attack tactics is their success in causing large-scale casualties and negatively influencing public morale, while at the same time failing to change regimes or forcing their governments to surrender to their demands.

In 1993, Hamas carried out its first suicide attack against Israel. Between September 2000 and March 2008, Palestinian terror groups – including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP and others – carried out 108 suicide attacks killing 557 Israelis and injuring hundreds more.

The last suicide bombing in Israel occurred at a shopping center in Dimona on February 4, 2008, in which one woman was killed and 38 wounded (on July 18, 2012, a suicide bomber in Bulgaria killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver and wounded 30 people).

In 2019, the Shin Bet foiled 10 suicide bombings.

According to The Institute for National Security Studies:

The gradual decline in the number of suicide bombings [worldwide] in 2018 and 2019 continued in 2020, with a 14.5 percent drop from the previous year. Most of the suicide bombings were concentrated in three countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria. There was also a steep drop in the number of victims. Salafi-jihadist organizations again accounted for a decisive majority of the world's suicide bombings, and were directly or indirectly responsible for 95 percent of all such attacks.

Sources: Avi Issacharoff, “Israel foiled 17 suicide attacks so far this year, Shin Bet says,” Times of Israel, (August 12, 2015);
The Review, (September 2001);
Ha'aretz, (September 28, 2001);
Israeli Foreign Ministry;
Judah Ari Gross, “Shin Bet foiled 10 suicide bombings, 4 kidnappings in 2019, chief says,” Times of Israel, January 20, 2020);
Yoram Schweitzer, Aviad Mendelboim, Arella Hendler-Bloom, “Suicide Bombings Worldwide in 2020,” INSS Insight No. 1424, (January 11, 2021).