The Suicide Terrorist

Terrorism is nothing new to the world. American citizens have been the targets and victims of several acts of terrorism. I use the term suicide terrorist because the people involved in such an act do not use only bombs. Their weaponry selection is broad. Self-sacrifice is not a recent choice of weapon. Singh (2012) describes this as terrorcide. It is the end goal of a person to create as many victims as possible, to impose as much carnage as possible, and to kill themselves in the process. Victoroff (2005) states that two common elements are found in contemporary definitions: (1) that terrorism involves aggression against non-combatants and (2) that the terrorist action is not expected by its perpetrator to accomplish a political goal but instead to influence a target audience and change that audience’s behavior in a way that will serve the interests of the terrorist. There are several factors that can turn an individual that is willing and prepared to commit suicide for their cause. In America, it is difficult to understand anyone manipulating a child to the ways of jihad and willing to install the teachings to a child of radicalism. The most popular explanations of terrorism are psychological.

These individuals are in their religious beliefs that they are not only willing to die for it, but commit suicide for it in the conviction that martyrdom awaits them. Their misguided faith has lead them to the point of murder of innocent people to convey their agenda. Any individual would have to develop motives for their actions. If the actions by that individual are terroristic in nature, then research would have to develop theories as to why. There would need to be motivation for these behaviors. Borum (2007) states that there are four categories of motivations among terrorists: (1) the opportunity for action, (2) the need to belong, (3) the desire for social status, and (4) the acquisition of material reward. These categories fail to mention are the aspect of religion.

Insanity is not part of the individual and they are completely stable. The individual is not irrational and no mental illness can be attributed to their choices. Organizational elites seek to recruit those most capable of undertaking assigned tasks. Most tasks require an element of secrecy, calibrated violence, and technological know-how. Educated, psychologically healthy, and normal volunteers tend to be preferred for this reason (Corner & Gill, 2015). Recently the focus has been on Islam and the Muslim extremist individuals. Mostly young men that are isolated and they turn to extremism in search for identity, acceptance, and purpose. The radicalization process begins when they are teenagers looking for a cause and stronger Muslim identity and increasingly finding the answer in the ideology of radical Islam (Bizina & Gray, 2014, p. 74).

These are not mentally ill or drug addicted people to commit such acts. The profile of these individuals is early to mid-twenties and male. They have been taught and brainwashed in the religion since birth and follow their leaders to the end. The person is not induced or forced into such action, most are volunteers. Many have some form of training devoted to the suicide itself, such as the 9/11 pilots. A person of this nature may also be highly educated to perform actions in certain environments.

Terrorcide has become more destructive and violent. The predictability makes the suicide terrorist effective. Law enforcement and security have a much more difficult time being able to find a suicide terrorist. As mentioned previously, on 9/11 these terrorists used airplanes to kill thousands of Americans. In the process, they knew they would also die. The planning and goal setting for such an event took massive amounts of time and execution. Not only did one or a few terrorists commit this act, but 13 individuals had to obtain the proper paperwork, training, and internal logistics to execute such a massive terrorist event.

In recent years, the ‘lone wolf’ terrorist has become more prevalent. An event of this type requires less planning and execution. The targets are chosen more quickly and the logistics require less people. A ‘lone wolf’ terrorist choice of weaponry varies; an automobile, an airplane, guns (including military grade weapons), and the suicide bomb vest. Targets are chosen where there many victims so timing, location, and media coverage are important for the mission to be completed. The use of a vehicle of some type has become more frequent. Driving into crowds of people seems to be the choice of suicide terrorists recently.

At least one objective has been accomplished with terrorcide; societal fear. Members of society are mindful of terrorism and have become more cognizant of their surroundings. They take precautions against being a victim. Yet with people being alert and mindful, there is now way of knowing when a strike will be attempted. This element of surprise often keeps citizens from achieving the feeling of safety within their environments. They take personal protection and some believe that the government will protect them. From the standpoint of a single citizen, there is no real protections from a suicide terrorist. If they have the element of surprise, the objective of their mission is likely to succeed. Populations will need to show resilience in the aftermath of a terrorcide event. An event as such not only disrupts people, but countries. Their infrastructure may be damaged. Law enforcement and investigators are placed in even more danger and exposure to violence. Security at high-profile events and places where there are thousands of people, such as airports, are under extreme pressure to notice people and property that are out-of-place and possibly dangerous.


Bizina, M., & Gray, D. H. (2014). Radicalization of youth as a growing concern for counter-terrorism policy. Global Security Studies, 5(1), 72-79.

Borum, R. (2004). Psychology of terrorism. Tampa: University of South Florida.

Corner, E., & Gill, P. (2015). A false dichotomy? Mental illness and lone-actor terrorism. Law and Human Behavior, 39(1), 23-24.

Singh, R. N. (2012). Terrorism: Its global overview, explanations and prevention. New Delhi:


Victoroff, J. (2005). The mind of the terrorist: A review and critique of psychological approaches. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49(1), 3-42.


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