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THE SOCIOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGY OF TERRORISM:
WHO BECOMES A TERRORIST AND WHY?
Report Prepared under an Interagency Agreement
Federal Research Division,
Author: Rex A. Hudson
Editor: Marilyn Majeska
Project Managers: Andrea M.
Helen C. Metz
Library of Congress
This product was prepared by the staff of the Federal Research
Division of the Library of Congress under an Interagency Agreement
with the sponsoring United States Government agency.
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E-mail: [email protected]
The purpose of this study is to focus attention on the types of
individuals and groups that are prone to terrorism (see Glossary) in an
effort to help improve U.S. counterterrorist methods and policies.
The emergence of amorphous and largely unknown terrorist individuals
and groups operating independently (freelancers) and the new recruitment
patterns of some groups, such as recruiting suicide commandos, female and
child terrorists, and scientists capable of developing weapons of mass
destruction, provide a measure of urgency to increasing our understanding
of the psychological and sociological dynamics of terrorist groups and
individuals. The approach used in this study is twofold. First, the study
examines the relevant literature and assesses the current knowledge of
the subject. Second, the study seeks to develop psychological and
sociological profiles of foreign terrorist individuals and selected
groups to use as case studies in assessing trends, motivations, likely
behavior, and actions that might deter such behavior, as well as reveal
vulnerabilities that would aid in combating terrorist groups and
Because this survey is concerned not only with assessing the extensive
literature on sociopsychological aspects of terrorism but also providing
case studies of about a dozen terrorist groups, it is limited by time
constraints and data availability in the amount of attention that it can
give to the individual groups, let alone individual leaders or other
members. Thus, analysis of the groups and leaders will necessarily be
incomplete. A longer study, for example, would allow for the collection
and study of the literature produced by each group in the form of
autobiographies of former members, group communiqués and manifestos, news
media interviews, and other resources. Much information about the
terrorist mindset (see Glossary) and decision-making process can be
gleaned from such sources. Moreover, there is a language barrier to an
examination of the untranslated literature of most of the groups included
as case studies herein.
Terrorism databases that profile groups and leaders quickly become
outdated, and this report is no exception to that rule. In order to
remain current, a terrorism database ideally should be updated
periodically. New groups or terrorist leaders may suddenly emerge, and if
an established group perpetrates a major terrorist incident, new
information on the group is likely to be reported in news media. Even if
a group appears to be quiescent, new information may become available
about the group from scholarly publications.
There are many variations in the transliteration for both Arabic and
Persian. The academic versions tend to be more complex than the popular
forms used in the news media and by the Foreign Broadcast Information
Service (FBIS). Thus, the latter usages are used in this study. For
example, although Ussamah bin Ladin is the proper transliteration, the
more commonly used Osama bin Laden is used in this study.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: MINDSETS OF MASS DESTRUCTION 1
New Types of Post-Cold War Terrorists 1
New Forms of Terrorist-Threat Scenarios 4
TERMS OF ANALYSIS 10
Defining Terrorism and Terrorists 10
Terrorist Group Typologies 12
APPROACHES TO TERRORISM ANALYSIS 13
The Multicausal Approach 13
The Political Approach 13
The Organizational Approach 14
The Physiological Approach 15
The Psychological Approach 16
GENERAL HYPOTHESES OF TERRORISM 16
Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis 17
Negative Identity Hypothesis 17
Narcissistic Rage Hypothesis 17
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TERRORIST 19
Terrorist Motivation 19
The Process of Joining a Terrorist Group 20
The Terrorist as Mentally Ill 23
The Terrorist as Suicidal Fanatic 27
Suicide Terrorists 28
Terrorist Group Dynamics 29
Pressures to Conform 31
Pressures to Commit Acts of Violence 32
Terrorist Rationalization of Violence 33
The Terrorist's Ideological or Religious Perception 35
TERRORIST PROFILING 37
Hazards of Terrorist Profiling 37
Sociological Characteristics of Terrorists in the Cold War Period 39
A Basic Profile 39
Educational, Occupational, and Socioeconomic Background 41
General Traits 43
Marital Status 44
Physical Appearance 44
Origin: Rural or Urban 44
Characteristics of Female Terrorists 47
Practicality, Coolness 47
Dedication, Inner Strength, Ruthlessness 48
Female Motivation for Terrorism 50
Terrorist Profiling 51
Terrorist Group Mindset Profiling 54
Promoting Terrorist Group Schisms 56
How Guerrilla and Terrorist Groups End 57
SOCIOPSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILES: CASE STUDIES 61
Exemplars of International Terrorism in the Early 1970s 61
Renato Curcio 61
Leila Khaled 62
Kozo Okamoto 64
Exemplars of International Terrorism in the Early 1990s 65
Mahmud Abouhalima 65
Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman 66
Mohammed A. Salameh 67
Ahmed Ramzi Yousef 68
Ethnic Separatist Groups 70
Irish Terrorists 70
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Abdullah Ocalan 71
Group/Leader Profile 71
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) 76
Group Profile 76
Membership Profile 77
LTTE Suicide Commandos 79
Leader Profile 80
Velupillai Prabhakaran 80
Social Revolutionary Groups 81
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) 81
Group Profile 81
Leader Profile 83
Abu Nidal 83
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command
Group Profile 86
Leader Profile 87
Ahmad Jibril 87
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) 88
Group Profile 88
Leader Profiles 90
Pedro Antonio Marín/Manuel Marulanda Vélez 90
Jorge Briceño Suárez ("Mono Jojoy") 91
Germán Briceño Suárez ("Grannobles") 92
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) 94
Group Profile 94
Religious Fundamentalist Groups 96
Group Profile 96
Leader Profiles 97
Osama bin Laden 97
Ayman al-Zawahiri 101
Subhi Muhammad Abu-Sunnah ("Abu-Hafs al-Masri") 101
Hizballah (Party of God) 101
Group Profile 101
Leader Profile 102
Imad Fa'iz Mughniyah 102
Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) 103
Group Profile 103
The Suicide Bombing Strategy 105
Selection of Suicide Bombers 105
Leader Profiles 107
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin 107
Mohammed Mousa ("Abu Marzook") 108
Emad al-Alami 109
Mohammed Dief 109
Al-Jihad Group 109
Group Profile 109
New Religious Groups 111
Aum Shinrikyo 111
Group/Leader Profile 111
Key Leader Profiles 117
Yoshinobu Aoyama 117
Seiichi Endo 118
Kiyohide Hayakawa 118
Dr. Ikuo Hayashi 119
Yoshihiro Inoue 120
Hisako Ishii 120
Fumihiro Joyu 121
Takeshi Matsumoto 122
Hideo Murai 122
Kiyohide Nakada 123
Tomomasa Nakagawa 123
Tomomitsu Niimi 124
Toshihiro Ouchi 124
Masami Tsuchiya 125
Table 1. Educational Level and Occupational Background of Right-Wing
Terrorists in West Germany, 1980 126
Table 2. Ideological Profile of Italian Female Terrorists, January
1970-June 1984 127
Table 3. Prior Occupational Profile of Italian Female Terrorists,
January 1970-June 1984 128
Table 4. Geographical Profile of Italian Female Terrorists, January
1970-June 1984 129
Table 5. Age and Relationships Profile of Italian Female Terrorists,
January 1970-June 1984 131
Table 6. Patterns of Weapons Use by the Revolutionary Organization 17
November, 1975-97 133
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: MINDSETS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
New Types of Post-Cold War Terrorists
In the 1970s and 1980s, it was commonly assumed that terrorist use of
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would be counterproductive because such
an act would be widely condemned. "Terrorists want a lot of people
watching, not a lot of people dead," Brian Jenkins (1975:15) opined.
Jenkins's premise was based on the assumption that terrorist behavior is
normative, and that if they exceeded certain constraints and employed WMD
they would completely alienate themselves from the public and possibly
provoke swift and harsh retaliation. This assumption does seem to apply
to certain secular terrorist groups. If a separatist organization such as
the Provisional Irish Republic Army (PIRA) or the Basque Fatherland and Liberty
(Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna--ETA), for example, were to use WMD, these groups
would likely isolate their constituency and undermine sources of funding
and political support. When the assumptions about terrorist groups not
using WMD were made in the 1970s and 1980s, most of the terrorist groups
making headlines were groups with political or nationalist-separatist
agenda. Those groups, with some exceptions, such as the Japanese Red Army
(JRA--Rengo Sekigun), had reason not to sabotage their ethnic bases of
popular support or other domestic or foreign sympathizers of their cause
by using WMD.
Trends in terrorism over the past three decades, however, have
contradicted the conventional thinking that terrorists are averse to
using WMD. It has become increasingly evident that the assumption does
not apply to religious terrorist groups or millenarian cults (see
Glossary). Indeed, since at least the early 1970s analysts, including
(somewhat contradictorily) Jenkins, have predicted that the first groups
to employ a weapon of mass destruction would be religious sects with a
millenarian, messianic, or apocalyptic mindset.
When the conventional terrorist groups and individuals of the early
1970s are compared with terrorists of the early 1990s, a trend can be
seen: the emergence of religious fundamentalist and new religious groups
espousing the rhetoric of mass-destruction terrorism. In the 1990s,
groups motivated by religious imperatives, such as Aum Shinrikyo,
Hizballah, and al-Qaida, have grown and proliferated. These groups have a
different attitude toward violence--one that is extranormative and seeks
to maximize violence against the perceived enemy, essentially anyone who
is not a fundamentalist Muslim or an Aum Shinrikyo member. Their outlook
is one that divides the world simplistically into "them" and
"us." With its sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system on March
20, 1995, the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo turned the prediction of
terrorists using WMD into reality.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Aum Shinrikyo engaged in a systematic
program to develop and use WMD. It used chemical or biological WMD in
about a dozen largely unreported instances in the first half of the
1990s, although they proved to be no more effective--actually less
effective--than conventional weapons because of the terrorists'
ineptitude. Nevertheless, it was Aum Shinrikyo's sarin attack on the
Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, that showed the world how dangerous the
mindset of a religious terrorist group could be. The attack provided
convincing evidence that Aum Shinrikyo probably would not hesitate to use
WMD in a U.S. city, if it had an opportunity to do so. These religiously
motivated groups would have no reason to take "credit" for such
an act of mass destruction, just as Aum Shinrikyo did not take credit for
its attack on the Tokyo subway, and just as Osama bin Laden did not take
credit for various acts of high-casualty terrorism against U.S. targets
in the 1990s. Taking credit means asking for retaliation. Instead, it is
enough for these groups to simply take private satisfaction in knowing
that they have dealt a harsh blow to what they perceive to be the
"Great Satan." Groups unlikely to be deterred by fear of public
disapproval, such as Aum Shinrikyo, are the ones who seek chaos as an end
The contrast between key members of religious extremist groups such as
Hizballah, al-Qaida, and Aum Shinrikyo and conventional terrorists
reveals some general trends relating to the personal attributes of
terrorists likely to use WMD in coming years. According to psychologist
Jerrold M. Post (1997), the most dangerous terrorist is likely to be the
religious terrorist. Post has explained that, unlike the average
political or social terrorist, who has a defined mission that is somewhat
measurable in terms of media attention or government reaction, the
religious terrorist can justify the most heinous acts "in the name
of Allah," for example. One could add, "in the name of Aum
Shinrikyo's Shoko Asahara."
Psychologist B.J. Berkowitz (1972) describes six psychological types
who would be most likely to threaten or try to use WMD: paranoids,
paranoid schizophrenics, borderline mental defectives, schizophrenic
types, passive-aggressive personality (see Glossary) types, and sociopath
(see Glossary) personalities. He considers sociopaths the most likely
actually to use WMD. Nuclear terrorism expert Jessica Stern (1999: 77)
disagrees. She believes that "Schizophrenics and sociopaths, for
example, may want to commit acts of mass destruction, but they
are less likely than others to succeed." She points out that
large-scale dissemination of chemical, biological, or radiological agents
requires a group effort, but that "Schizophrenics, in particular,
often have difficulty functioning in groups...."
Stern's understanding of the WMD terrorist appears to be much more
relevant than Berkowitz's earlier stereotype of the insane terrorist. It
is clear from the appended case study of Shoko Asahara that he is a
paranoid. Whether he is schizophrenic or sociopathic is best left to psychologists
to determine. The appended case study of Ahmed Ramzi Yousef, mastermind
of the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing on February 26, 1993, reported
here does not suggest that he is schizophrenic or sociopathic. On the
contrary, he appears to be a well-educated, highly intelligent Islamic
terrorist. In 1972 Berkowitz could not have been expected to foresee that
religiously motivated terrorists would be prone to using WMD as a way of
emulating God or for millenarian reasons. This examination of about a
dozen groups that have engaged in significant acts of terrorism suggests
that the groups most likely to use WMD are indeed religious groups,
whether they be wealthy cults like Aum Shinrikyo or well-funded Islamic
terrorist groups like al-Qaida or Hizballah.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991 fundamentally changed the operating structures of European
terrorist groups. Whereas groups like the Red Army Faction (Rote Armee
Faktion--RAF; see Glossary) were able to use East Germany as a refuge and
a source of logistical and financial resources during the Cold War
decades, terrorist groups in the post Cold War period no longer enjoy the
support of communist countries. Moreover, state sponsors of international
terrorism (see Glossary) toned down their support of terrorist groups. In
this new environment where terrorist groups can no longer depend on state
support or any significant popular support, they have been restructuring
in order to learn how to operate independently.
New breeds of increasingly dangerous religious terrorists emerged in
the 1990s. The most dangerous type is the Islamic fundamentalist. A case
in point is Ramzi Yousef, who brought together a loosely organized, ad
hoc group, the so-called Liberation Army, apparently for the sole purpose
of carrying out the WTC operation on February 26, 1993. Moreover, by
acting independently the small self-contained cell led by Yousef
prevented authorities from linking it to an established terrorist
organization, such as its suspected coordinating group,Osama bin Laden's
al-Qaida, or a possible state sponsor.
World Trade Center
Aum Shinrikyo is representative of the other type of religious
terrorist group, in this case a cult. Shoko Asahara adopted a different
approach to terrorism by modeling his organization on the structure of
the Japanese government rather than an ad hoc terrorist group.
Accordingly, Aum Shinrikyo "ministers" undertook a program to
develop WMD by bringing together a core group of bright scientists
skilled in the modern technologies of the computer, telecommunications
equipment, information databases, and financial networks. They proved
themselves capable of developing rudimentary WMD in a relatively short
time and demonstrated a willingness to use them in the most lethal ways
possible. Aum Shinrikyo's sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system in
1995 marked the official debut of terrorism involving WMD. Had a more
lethal batch of sarin been used, or had the dissemination procedure been
improved slightly, the attack might have killed thousands of people,
instead of only a few. Both of these incidents--the WTC bombing and the
Tokyo subway sarin attack--had similar casualty totals but could have had
massive casualties. Ramzi Yousef's plot to blow up the WTC might have
killed an estimated 50,000 people had his team not made a minor error in
the placement of the bomb. In any case, these two acts in Manhattan and
Tokyo seem an ominous foretaste of the WMD terrorism to come in the first
decade of the new millennium.
Increasingly, terrorist groups are recruiting members with expertise
in fields such as communications, computer programming, engineering,
finance, and the sciences. Ramzi Yousef graduated from Britain's Swansea
University with a degree in engineering. Aum Shinrikyo's Shoko Asahara
recruited a scientific team with all the expertise needed to develop WMD.
Osama bin Laden also recruits highly skilled professionals in the fields
of engineering, medicine, chemistry, physics, computer programming,
communications, and so forth. Whereas the skills of the elite terrorist
commandos of the 1960s and 1970s were often limited to what they learned
in training camp, the terrorists of the 1990s who have carried out major
operations have included biologists, chemists, computer specialists,
engineers, and physicists.
New Forms of Terrorist-Threat Scenarios
The number of international terrorist incidents has declined in the
1990s, but the potential threat posed by terrorists has increased. The
increased threat level, in the form of terrorist actions aimed at
achieving a larger scale of destruction than the conventional attacks of
the previous three decades of terrorism, was dramatically demonstrated
with the bombing of the WTC. The WTC bombing illustrated how terrorists
with technological sophistication are increasingly being recruited to
carry out lethal terrorist bombing attacks. The WTC bombing may also have
been a harbinger of more destructive attacks of international terrorism
in the United States.
Although there are not too many examples, if any, of guerrilla (see
Glossary) groups dispatching commandos to carry out a terrorist operation
in the United States, the mindsets of four groups discussed herein--two
guerrilla/terrorist groups, a terrorist group, and a terrorist cult--are
such that these groups pose particularly dangerous actual or potential
terrorist threats to U.S. security interests. The two guerrilla/terrorist
groups are the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and Hizballah, the
terrorist group is al-Qaida, and the terrorist cult is Aum Shinrikyo.
The LTTE is not known to have engaged in anti-U.S. terrorism to date,
but its suicide commandos have already assassinated a prime minister of India,
a president of Sri Lanka, and a former prime minister of Sri Lanka. In
August 1999, the LTTE reportedly deployed a 10-member suicide squad in
Colombo to assassinate Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga and others.
It cannot be safely assumed, however, that the LTTE will restrict its
terrorism to the South Asian subcontinent. Prabhakaran has repeatedly
warned the Western nations providing military support to Sri Lanka that
they are exposing their citizens to possible attacks. The LTTE, which has
an extensive international network, should not be underestimated in the
terrorist threat that it could potentially pose to the United States,
should it perceive this country as actively aiding the Sri Lankan
government's counterinsurgency campaign. Prabhakaran is a megalomaniac
whose record of ordering the assassinations of heads of state or former
presidents, his meticulous planning of such actions, his compulsion to
have the acts photographed and chronicled by LTTE members, and the
limitless supply of female suicide commandos at his disposal add a
dangerous new dimension to potential assassination threats. His highly
trained and disciplined Black Tiger commandos are far more deadly than
Aum Shinrikyo's inept cultists. There is little protection against the
LTTE's trademark weapon: a belt-bomb suicide commando.
Hizballah is likewise quite dangerous. Except for its ongoing
terrorist war against Israel, however, it appears to be reactive, often
carrying out terrorist attacks for what it perceives to be Western military,
cultural, or political threats to the establishment of an Iranian-style
Islamic republic in Lebanon.
The threat to U.S. interests posed by Islamic fundamentalist
terrorists in particular was underscored by al-Qaida's bombings of the
U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. With those two
devastating bombings, Osama bin Laden resurfaced as a potent terrorist
threat to U.S. interests worldwide. Bin Laden is the prototype of a new
breed of terrorist--the private entrepreneur who puts modern enterprise
at the service of a global terrorist network.
With its sarin attack against the Tokyo subway system in March 1995,
Aum Shinrikyo has already used WMD, and very likely has not abandoned its
quest to use such weapons to greater effect. The activities of Aum's
large membership in Russia should be of particular concern because Aum
Shinrikyo has used its Russian organization to try to obtain WMD, or at
least WMD technologies.
The leaders of any of these groups--Prabhakaran, bin Laden, and
Asahara--could become paranoid, desperate, or simply vengeful enough to
order their suicide devotees to employ the belt-bomb technique against
the leader of the Western World. Iranian intelligence leaders could order
Hizballah to attack the U.S. leadership in retaliation for some future
U.S. or Israeli action, although Iran may now be distancing itself from
Hizballah. Whether or not a U.S. president would be a logical target of
Asahara, Prabhakaran, or bin Laden is not a particularly useful guideline
to assess the probability of such an attack. Indian Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi was not a logical target for the LTTE, and his assassination had
very negative consequences for the LTTE. In Prabhakaran's
"psycho-logic," to use Post's term, he may conclude that his cause
needs greater international attention, and targeting a country's top
leaders is his way of getting attention. Nor does bin Laden need a
logical reason, for he believes that he has a mandate from Allah to
punish the "Great Satan." Instead of thinking logically, Asahara
thinks in terms of a megalomaniac with an apocalyptic outlook. Aum
Shinrikyo is a group whose delusional leader is genuinely paranoid about
the United States and is known to have plotted to assassinate Japan's
emperor. Shoko Asahara's cult is already on record for having made an
assassination threat against President Clinton.
If Iran's mullahs or Iraq's Saddam Hussein decide to use terrorists to
attack the continental United States, they would likely turn to bin
Laden's al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is among the Islamic groups recruiting
increasingly skilled professionals, such as computer and communications
technicians, engineers, pharmacists, and physicists, as well as Ukrainian
chemists and biologists, Iraqi chemical weapons experts, and others
capable of helping to develop WMD. Al-Qaida poses the most serious
terrorist threat to U.S. security interests, for al-Qaida's well-trained
terrorists are actively engaged in a terrorist jihad against U.S.
These four groups in particular are each capable of perpetrating a
horrific act of terrorism in the United States, particularly on the
occasion of the new millennium. Aum Shinrikyo has already threatened to
use WMD in downtown Manhattan or in Washington, D.C., where it could
attack the Congress, the Pentagon's Concourse, the White House, or
President Clinton. The cult has threatened New York City with WMD,
threatened to assassinate President Clinton, unsuccessfully attacked a
U.S. naval base in Japan with biological weapons, and plotted in 1994 to
attack the White House and the Pentagon with sarin and VX. If the LTTE's
serial assassin of heads of state were to become angered by President
Clinton, Prabhakaran could react by dispatching a Tamil "belt-bomb
girl" to detonate a powerful semtex bomb after approaching the
President in a crowd with a garland of flowers or after jumping next to
Al-Qaida's expected retaliation for the U.S. cruise missile attack
against al-Qaida's training facilities in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998,
could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation's capital.
Al-Qaida could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal
building. Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's Martyrdom
Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4
and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House. Ramzi Yousef had
planned to do this against the CIA headquarters. In addition, both
al-Qaida and Yousef were linked to a plot to assassinate President
Clinton during his visit to the Philippines in early 1995. Following the
August 1998 cruise missile attack, at least one Islamic religious leader
called for Clinton's assassination, and another stated that "the
time is not far off" for when the White House will be destroyed by a
nuclear bomb. A horrendous scenario consonant with al-Qaida's mindset
would be its use of a nuclear suitcase bomb against any number of targets
in the nation's capital. Bin Laden allegedly has already purchased a
number of nuclear suitcase bombs from the Chechen Mafia. Al-Qaida's
retaliation, however, is more likely to take the lower-risk form of
bombing one or more U.S. airliners with time-bombs. Yousef was planning
simultaneous bombings of 11 U.S. airliners prior to his capture. Whatever
form an attack may take, bin Laden will most likely retaliate in a
spectacular way for the cruise missile attack against his Afghan camp in
While nothing is easier than to
denounce the evildoer,
nothing is more difficult than
to understand him.
- Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
Why do some individuals decide to break with society and embark on a
career in terrorism? Do terrorists share common traits or
characteristics? Is there a terrorist personality or profile? Can a
terrorist profile be developed that could reliably help security
personnel to identify potential terrorists, whether they be would-be
airplane hijackers, assassins, or suicide bombers? Do some terrorists
have a psychotic (see Glossary) personality? Psychological factors
relating to terrorism are of particular interest to psychologists,
political scientists, and government officials, who would like to be able
to predict and prevent the emergence of terrorist groups or to thwart the
realization of terrorist actions. This study focuses on individual
psychological and sociological characteristics of terrorists of different
generations as well as their groups in an effort to determine how the
terrorist profile may have changed in recent decades, or whether they
share any common sociological attributes.
The assumption underlying much of the terrorist-profile research in
recent decades has been that most terrorists have some common
characteristics that can be determined through psychometric analysis of
large quantities of biographical data on terrorists. One of the earliest
attempts to single out a terrorist personality was done by Charles A.
Russell and Bowman H. Miller (1977) (see Attributes of Terrorists).
Ideally, a researcher attempting to profile terrorists in the 1990s
would have access to extensive biographical data on several hundred
terrorists arrested in various parts of the world and to data on
terrorists operating in a specific country. If such data were at hand,
the researcher could prepare a psychometric study analyzing attributes of
the terrorist: educational, occupational, and socioeconomic background;
general traits; ideology; marital status; method and place of
recruitment; physical appearance; and sex. Researchers have used this
approach to study West German and Italian terrorist groups (see Females).
Such detailed information would provide more accurate sociological
profiles of terrorist groups. Although there appears to be no single
terrorist personality, members of a terrorist group(s) may share numerous
common sociological traits.
Practically speaking, however, biographical databases on large numbers
of terrorists are not readily available. Indeed, such data would be quite
difficult to obtain unless one had special access to police files on terrorists
around the world. Furthermore, developing an open-source biographical
database on enough terrorists to have some scientific validity would
require a substantial investment of time. The small number of profiles
contained in this study is hardly sufficient to qualify as scientifically
representative of terrorists in general, or even of a particular category
of terrorists, such as religious fundamentalists or ethnic separatists.
Published terrorism databases, such as Edward F. Mickolus's series of chronologies
of incidents of international terrorism and the Rand-St. Andrews
University Chronology of International Terrorism, are highly informative
and contain some useful biographical information on terrorists involved
in major incidents, but are largely incident-oriented.
This study is not about terrorism per se. Rather, it is concerned with
the perpetrators of terrorism. Prepared from a social sciences
perspective, it attempts to synthesize the results of psychological and
sociological findings of studies on terrorists published in recent
decades and provide a general assessment of what is presently known about
the terrorist mind and mindset.
Because of time constraints and a lack of terrorism-related
biographical databases, the methodology, but not the scope, of this
research has necessarily been modified. In the absence of a database of
terrorist biographies, this study is based on the broader database of
knowledge contained in academic studies on the psychology and sociology
of terrorism published over the past three decades. Using this extensive
database of open-source literature available in the Library of Congress
and other information drawn from Websites, such as the Foreign Broadcast
Information Service (FBIS), this paper assesses the level of current
knowledge of the subject and presents case studies that include
sociopsychological profiles of about a dozen selected terrorist groups
and more than two dozen terrorist leaders or other individuals implicated
in acts of terrorism. Three profiles of noteworthy terrorists of the
early 1970s who belonged to other groups are included in order to provide
a better basis of contrast with terrorists of the late 1990s. This paper
does not presume to have any scientific validity in terms of general
sampling representation of terrorists, but it does provide a preliminary
theoretical, analytical, and biographical framework for further research
on the general subject or on particular groups or individuals.
By examining the relatively overlooked behaviorist literature on
sociopsychological aspects of terrorism, this study attempts to gain
psychological and sociological insights into international terrorist
groups and individuals. Of particular interest is whether members of at
least a dozen terrorist organizations in diverse regions of the world
have any psychological or sociological characteristics in common that
might be useful in profiling terrorists, if profiling is at all feasible,
and in understanding somewhat better the motivations of individuals who
Because this study includes profiles of diverse groups from Western
Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, care has been taken
when making cross-national, cross-cultural, and cross-ideological
comparisons. This paper examines such topics as the age, economic and
social background, education and occupation, gender, geographical origin,
marital status, motivation, recruitment, and religion or ideology of the
members of these designated groups as well as others on which relevant
data are available.
It is hoped that an examination of the extensive body of behaviorist
literature on political and religious terrorism authored by psychologists
and sociologists as well as political scientists and other social
scientists will provide some answers to questions such as: Who are
terrorists? How do individuals become terrorists? Do political or
religious terrorists have anything in common in their sociopsychological
development? How are they recruited? Is there a terrorist mindset, or are
terrorist groups too diverse to have a single mindset or common
psychological traits? Are there instead different terrorist mindsets?
TERMS OF ANALYSIS
Defining Terrorism and Terrorists
Unable to achieve their unrealistic goals by conventional means,
international terrorists attempt to send an ideological or religious
message by terrorizing the general public. Through the choice of their
targets, which are often symbolic or representative of the targeted
nation, terrorists attempt to create a high-profile impact on the public
of their targeted enemy or enemies with their act of violence, despite
the limited material resources that are usually at their disposal. In
doing so, they hope to demonstrate various points, such as that the
targeted government(s) cannot protect its (their) own citizens, or that
by assassinating a specific victim they can teach the general public a
lesson about espousing viewpoints or policies antithetical to their own.
For example, by assassinating Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on October
6, 1981, a year after his historic trip to Jerusalem, the al-Jihad
terrorists hoped to convey to the world, and especially to Muslims, the
error that he represented.
This tactic is not new. Beginning in 48 A.D., a Jewish sect called the
Zealots carried out terrorist campaigns to force insurrection against the
Romans in Judea. These campaigns included the use of assassins (sicarii,
or dagger-men), who would infiltrate Roman-controlled cities and stab
Jewish collaborators or Roman legionnaires with a sica (dagger),
kidnap members of the Staff of the Temple Guard to hold for ransom, or
use poison on a large scale. The Zealots' justification for their killing
of other Jews was that these killings demonstrated the consequences of
the immorality of collaborating with the Roman invaders, and that the
Romans could not protect their Jewish collaborators.
Definitions of terrorism vary widely and are usually inadequate. Even
terrorism researchers often neglect to define the term other than by
citing the basic U.S. Department of State (1998) definition of terrorism
as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against
noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually
intended to influence an audience." Although an act of violence that
is generally regarded in the United States as an act of terrorism may not
be viewed so in another country, the type of violence that distinguishes
terrorism from other types of violence, such as ordinary crime or a
wartime military action, can still be defined in terms that might qualify
as reasonably objective.
This social sciences researcher defines a terrorist action as
the calculated use of unexpected, shocking, and unlawful violence against
noncombatants (including, in addition to civilians, off-duty military and
security personnel in peaceful situations) and other symbolic targets
perpetrated by a clandestine member(s) of a subnational group or a
clandestine agent(s) for the psychological purpose of publicizing a
political or religious cause and/or intimidating or coercing a
government(s) or civilian population into accepting demands on behalf of
In this study, the nouns "terrorist" or
"terrorists" do not necessarily refer to everyone within a
terrorist organization. Large organizations, such as the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Irish Republic Army (IRA), or the
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), have many members--for example,
accountants, cooks, fund-raisers, logistics specialists, medical doctors,
or recruiters--who may play only a passive support role. We are not
particularly concerned here with the passive support membership of
Rather, we are primarily concerned in this study with the leader(s) of
terrorist groups and the activists or operators who personally carry out
a group's terrorism strategy. The top leaders are of particular interest
because there may be significant differences between them and terrorist
activists or operatives. In contrast to the top leader(s), the
individuals who carry out orders to perpetrate an act of political
violence (which they would not necessarily regard as a terrorist act)
have generally been recruited into the organization. Thus, their motives
for joining may be different. New recruits are often isolated and
alienated young people who want to join not only because they identify
with the cause and idolize the group's leader, but also because they want
to belong to a group for a sense of self-importance and companionship.
The top leaders of several of the groups profiled in this report can
be subdivided into contractors or freelancers. The distinction actually
highlights an important difference between the old generation of
terrorist leaders and the new breed of international terrorists.
Contractors are those terrorist leaders whose services are hired by rogue
states, or a particular government entity of a rogue regime, such as an
intelligence agency. Notable examples of terrorist contractors include
Abu Nidal, George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (PFLP), and Abu Abbas of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF).
Freelancers are terrorist leaders who are completely independent of a
state, but who may collude with a rogue regime on a short-term basis.
Prominent examples of freelancers include Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, Ahmed
Ramzi Yousef, and Osama bin Laden. Contractors like Abu Nidal, George
Habash, and Abu Abbas are representative of the old style of high-risk
international terrorism. In the 1990s, rogue states, more mindful of the
consequences of Western diplomatic, economic, military, and political
retaliation were less inclined to risk contracting terrorist
organizations. Instead, freelancers operating independently of any state
carried out many of the most significant acts of terrorism in the decade.
This study discusses groups that have been officially designated as
terrorist groups by the U.S. Department of State. A few of the groups on
the official list, however, are guerrilla organizations. These include
the FARC, the LTTE, and the PKK. To be sure, the FARC, the LTTE, and the
PKK engage in terrorism as well as guerrilla warfare, but categorizing
them as terrorist groups and formulating policies to combat them on that
basis would be simplistic and a prescription for failure. The FARC, for
example, has the official status in Colombia of a political insurgent
movement, as a result of a May 1999 accord between the FARC and the
Colombian government. To dismiss a guerrilla group, especially one like
the FARC which has been fighting for four decades, as only a terrorist
group is to misunderstand its political and sociological context.
It is also important to keep in mind that perceptions of what
constitutes terrorism will differ from country to country, as well as
among various sectors of a country's population. For example, the
Nicaraguan elite regarded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)
as a terrorist group, while much of the rest of the country regarded the
FSLN as freedom fighters. A foreign extremist group labeled as terrorist
by the Department of State may be regarded in heroic terms by some
sectors of the population in another country. Likewise, an action that
would be regarded as indisputably terrorist in the United States might
not be regarded as a terrorist act in another country's law courts. For
example, India's Supreme Court ruled in May 1999 that the assassination
of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE "belt-bomb girl" was
not an act of terrorism because there was no evidence that the four
co-conspirators (who received the death penalty) had any desire to strike
terror in the country. In addition, the Department of State's labeling of
a guerrilla group as a terrorist group may be viewed by the particular
group as a hostile act. For example, the LTTE has disputed,
unsuccessfully, its designation on October 8, 1997, by the Department of
State as a terrorist organization. By labeling the LTTE a terrorist
group, the United States compromises its potential role as neutral
mediator in Sri Lanka's civil war and waves a red flag at one of the
world's deadliest groups, whose leader appears to be a psychopathic (see
Glossary) serial killer of heads of state. To be sure, some terrorists
are so committed to their cause that they freely acknowledge being
terrorists. On hearing that he had been sentenced to 240 years in prison,
Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the WTC bombing, defiantly proclaimed,
"I am a terrorist, and I am proud of it."
Terrorist Group Typologies
This study categorizes foreign terrorist groups under one of the
following four designated, somewhat arbitrary typologies:
nationalist-separatist, religious fundamentalist, new religious, and
social revolutionary. This group classification is based on the
assumption that terrorist groups can be categorized by their political
background or ideology. The social revolutionary category has also been
labeled "idealist." Idealistic terrorists fight for a radical
cause, a religious belief, or a political ideology, including anarchism.
Although some groups do not fit neatly into any one category, the general
typologies are important because all terrorist campaigns are different,
and the mindsets of groups within the same general category tend to have
more in common than those in different categories. For example, the Irish
Republic Army (IRA), Basque Fatherland and Freedom (Euzkadi Ta
Askatasuna--ETA), the Palestinian terrorist groups, and the LTTE all have
strong nationalistic motivations, whereas the Islamic fundamentalist and
the Aum Shinrikyo groups are motivated by religious beliefs. To be at all
effective, counterterrorist policies necessarily would vary depending on
the typology of the group.
A fifth typology, for right-wing terrorists, is not listed because
right-wing terrorists were not specifically designated as being a subject
of this study. In any case, there does not appear to be any significant
right-wing group on the U.S. Department of State's list of foreign
terrorist organizations. Right-wing terrorists are discussed only briefly
in this paper (see Attributes of Terrorists). This is not to minimize the
threat of right-wing extremists in the United States, who clearly pose a
significant terrorist threat to U.S. security, as demonstrated by the
Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.
APPROACHES TO TERRORISM ANALYSIS
The Multicausal Approach
Terrorism usually results from multiple causal factors--not only
psychological but also economic, political, religious, and sociological
factors, among others. There is even an hypothesis that it is caused by
physiological factors, as discussed below. Because terrorism is a
multicausal phenomenon, it would be simplistic and erroneous to explain
an act of terrorism by a single cause, such as the psychological need of
the terrorist to perpetrate an act of violence.
For Paul Wilkinson (1977), the causes of revolution and political
violence in general are also the causes of terrorism. These include
ethnic conflicts, religious and ideological conflicts, poverty,
modernization stresses, political inequities, lack of peaceful
communications channels, traditions of violence, the existence of a
revolutionary group, governmental weakness and ineptness, erosions of
confidence in a regime, and deep divisions within governing elites and
The Political Approach
The alternative to the hypothesis that a terrorist is born with
certain personality traits that destine him or her to become a terrorist
is that the root causes of terrorism can be found in influences emanating
from environmental factors. Environments conducive to the rise of
terrorism include international and national environments, as well as
subnational ones such as universities, where many terrorists first become
familiar with Marxist-Leninist ideology or other revolutionary ideas and
get involved with radical groups. Russell and Miller identify universities
as the major recruiting ground for terrorists.
Having identified one or more of these or other environments, analysts
may distinguish between precipitants that started the outbreak of
violence, on the one hand, and preconditions that allowed the
precipitants to instigate the action, on the other hand. Political
scientists Chalmers Johnson (1978) and Martha Crenshaw (1981) have
further subdivided preconditions into permissive factors, which engender
a terrorist strategy and make it attractive to political dissidents, and
direct situational factors, which motivate terrorists. Permissive causes
include urbanization, the transportation system (for example, by allowing
a terrorist to quickly escape to another country by taking a flight),
communications media, weapons availability, and the absence of security
measures. An example of a situational factor for Palestinians would be
the loss of their homeland of Palestine.
Various examples of international and national or subnational theories
of terrorism can be cited. An example of an international environment
hypothesis is the view proposed by Brian M. Jenkins (1979) that the
failure of rural guerrilla movements in Latin America pushed the rebels
into the cities. (This hypothesis, however, overlooks the national causes
of Latin American terrorism and fails to explain why rural guerrilla
movements continue to thrive in Colombia.) Jenkins also notes that the
defeat of Arab armies in the 1967 Six-Day War caused the Palestinians to
abandon hope for a conventional military solution to their problem and to
turn to terrorist attacks.
The Organizational Approach
Some analysts, such as Crenshaw (1990: 250), take an organization
approach to terrorism and see terrorism as a rational strategic course of
action decided on by a group. In her view, terrorism is not committed by
an individual. Rather, she contends that "Acts of terrorism are
committed by groups who reach collective decisions based on commonly held
beliefs, although the level of individual commitment to the group and its
Crenshaw has not actually substantiated her contention with case
studies that show how decisions are supposedly reached collectively in
terrorist groups. That kind of inside information, to be sure, would be
quite difficult to obtain without a former decision-maker within a
terrorist group providing it in the form of a published autobiography or
an interview, or even as a paid police informer. Crenshaw may be partly
right, but her organizational approach would seem to be more relevant to
guerrilla organizations that are organized along traditional
Marxist-Leninist lines, with a general secretariat headed by a secretary
general, than to terrorist groups per se. The FARC, for example, is a
guerrilla organization, albeit one that is not averse to using terrorism
as a tactic. The six members of the FARC's General Secretariat
participate in its decision-making under the overall leadership of
Secretary General Manuel Marulanda Vélez. The hard-line military leaders,
however, often exert disproportionate influence over decision-making.
Bona fide terrorist groups, like cults, are often totally dominated by
a single individual leader, be it Abu Nidal, Ahmed Jibril, Osama bin
Laden, or Shoko Asahara. It seems quite improbable that the terrorist
groups of such dominating leaders make their decisions collectively. By
most accounts, the established terrorist leaders give instructions to
their lieutenants to hijack a jetliner, assassinate a particular person,
bomb a U.S. Embassy, and so forth, while leaving operational details to
their lieutenants to work out. The top leader may listen to his
lieutenants' advice, but the top leader makes the final decision and
gives the orders.
The Physiological Approach
The physiological approach to terrorism suggests that the role of the
media in promoting the spread of terrorism cannot be ignored in any
discussion of the causes of terrorism. Thanks to media coverage, the
methods, demands, and goals of terrorists are quickly made known to
potential terrorists, who may be inspired to imitate them upon becoming
stimulated by media accounts of terrorist acts.
The diffusion of terrorism from one place to another received
scholarly attention in the early 1980s. David G. Hubbard (1983) takes a
physiological approach to analyzing the causes of terrorism. He discusses
three substances produced in the body under stress: norepinephrine, a
compound produced by the adrenal gland and sympathetic nerve endings and
associated with the "fight or flight" (see Glossary) physiological
response of individuals in stressful situations; acetylcholine, which is
produced by the parasympathetic nerve endings and acts to dampen the
accelerated norepinephrine response; and endorphins, which develop in the
brain as a response to stress and "narcotize" the brain, being
100 times more powerful than morphine. Because these substances occur in
the terrorist, Hubbard concludes that much terrorist violence is rooted
not in the psychology but in the physiology of the terrorist, partly the
result of "stereotyped, agitated tissue response" to stress.
Hubbard's conclusion suggests a possible explanation for the spread of
terrorism, the so-called contagion effect.
Kent Layne Oots and Thomas C. Wiegele (1985) have also proposed a
model of terrorist contagion based on physiology. Their model
demonstrates that the psychological state of the potential terrorist has
important implications for the stability of society. In their analysis,
because potential terrorists become aroused in a violence-accepting way by
media presentations of terrorism, "Terrorists must, by the nature of
their actions, have an attitude which allows violence." One of these
attitudes, they suspect, may be Machiavellianism because terrorists are
disposed to manipulating their victims as well as the press, the public,
and the authorities. They note that the potential terrorist "need
only see that terrorism has worked for others in order to become
According to Oots and Wiegele, an individual moves from being a
potential terrorist to being an actual terrorist through a process that
is psychological, physiological, and political. "If the
neurophysiological model of aggression is realistic," Oots and
Wiegele assert, "there is no basis for the argument that terrorism
could be eliminated if its sociopolitical causes were eliminated."
They characterize the potential terrorist as "a frustrated
individual who has become aroused and has repeatedly experienced the
fight or flight syndrome. Moreover, after these repeated arousals, the
potential terrorist seeks relief through an aggressive act and also
seeks, in part, to remove the initial cause of his frustration by
achieving the political goal which he has hitherto been denied."
D. Guttman (1979) also sees terrorist actions as being aimed more at
the audience than at the immediate victims. It is, after all, the
audience that may have to meet the terrorist's demands. Moreover, in
Guttman's analysis, the terrorist requires a liberal rather than a
right-wing audience for success. Liberals make the terrorist respectable
by accepting the ideology that the terrorist alleges informs his or her
acts. The terrorist also requires liberal control of the media for the
transmission of his or her ideology.
The Psychological Approach
In contrast with political scientists and sociologists, who are
interested in the political and social contexts of terrorist groups, the
relatively few psychologists who study terrorism are primarily interested
in the micro-level of the individual terrorist or terrorist group. The
psychological approach is concerned with the study of terrorists per se,
their recruitment and induction into terrorist groups, their
personalities, beliefs, attitudes, motivations, and careers as
GENERAL HYPOTHESES OF TERRORISM
If one accepts the proposition that political terrorists are made, not
born, then the question is what makes a terrorist. Although the scholarly
literature on the psychology of terrorism is lacking in full-scale,
quantitative studies from which to ascertain trends and develop general
theories of terrorism, it does appear to focus on several theories. One,
the Olson hypothesis, suggests that participants in revolutionary
violence predicate their behavior on a rational cost-benefit calculus and
the conclusion that violence is the best available course of action given
the social conditions. The notion that a group rationally chooses a
terrorism strategy is questionable, however. Indeed, a group's decision
to resort to terrorism is often divisive, sometimes resulting in
factionalization of the group.
The frustration-aggression hypothesis (see Glossary) of violence is
prominent in the literature. This hypothesis is based mostly on the
relative-deprivation hypothesis (see Glossary), as proposed by Ted Robert
Gurr (1970), an expert on violent behaviors and movements, and
reformulated by J.C. Davies (1973) to include a gap between rising
expectations and need satisfaction. Another proponent of this hypothesis,
Joseph Margolin (1977: 273-4), argues that "much terrorist behavior
is a response to the frustration of various political, economic, and
personal needs or objectives." Other scholars, however have
dismissed the frustration-aggression hypothesis as simplistic, based as
it is on the erroneous assumption that aggression is always a consequence
According to Franco Ferracuti (1982), a University of Rome professor,
a better approach than these and other hypotheses, including the Marxist
theory, would be a subcultural theory, which takes into account that
terrorists live in their own subculture, with their own value systems.
Similarly, political scientist Paul Wilkinson (1974: 127) faults the
frustration-aggression hypothesis for having "very little to say
about the social psychology of prejudice and hatred..." and
fanaticisms that "play a major role in encouraging extreme
violence." He believes that "Political terrorism cannot be
understood outside the context of the development of terroristic, or
potentially terroristic, ideologies, beliefs and life-styles (133)."
Negative Identity Hypothesis
Using Erikson's theory of identity formation, particularly his concept
of negative identity, the late political psychologist Jeanne N. Knutson
(1981) suggests that the political terrorist consciously assumes a
negative identity. One of her examples is a Croatian terrorist who, as a
member of an oppressed ethnic minority, was disappointed by the failure
of his aspiration to attain a university education, and as a result
assumed a negative identity by becoming a terrorist. Negative identity
involves a vindictive rejection of the role regarded as desirable and
proper by an individual's family and community. In Knutson's view,
terrorists engage in terrorism as a result of feelings of rage and helplessness
over the lack of alternatives. Her political science-oriented viewpoint
seems to coincide with the frustration-aggression hypothesis.
Narcissistic Rage Hypothesis
The advocates of the narcissism-aggression hypothesis include
psychologists Jerrold M. Post, John W. Crayton, and Richard M.
Pearlstein. Taking the-terrorists-as-mentally-ill approach, this
hypothesis concerns the early development of the terrorist. Basically, if
primary narcissism in the form of the "grandiose self" is not
neutralized by reality testing, the grandiose self produces individuals
who are sociopathic, arrogant, and lacking in regard for others.
Similarly, if the psychological form of the "idealized parental
ego" is not neutralized by reality testing, it can produce a condition
of helpless defeatism, and narcissistic defeat can lead to reactions of
rage and a wish to destroy the source of narcissistic injury. "As a
specific manifestation of narcissistic rage, terrorism occurs in the
context of narcissistic injury," writes Crayton (1983:37-8). For
Crayton, terrorism is an attempt to acquire or maintain power or control
by intimidation. He suggests that the "meaningful high ideals"
of the political terrorist group "protect the group members from
In Post's view, a particularly striking personality trait of people
who are drawn to terrorism "is the reliance placed on the
psychological mechanisms of "externalization" and
'splitting'." These are psychological mechanisms, he explains, that are
found in "individuals with narcissistic and borderline personality
disturbances." "Splitting," he explains, is a mechanism
characteristic of people whose personality development is shaped by a
particular type of psychological damage (narcissistic injury) during
childhood. Those individuals with a damaged self-concept have failed to
integrate the good and bad parts of the self, which are instead split
into the "me" and the "not me." These individuals,
who have included Hitler, need an outside enemy to blame for their own
inadequacies and weaknesses. The data examined by Post, including a 1982
West German study, indicate that many terrorists have not been successful
in their personal, educational, and vocational lives. Thus, they are
drawn to terrorist groups, which have an us-versus-them outlook. This
hypothesis, however, appears to be contradicted by the increasing number
of terrorists who are well-educated professionals, such as chemists,
engineers, and physicists.
The psychology of the self is clearly very important in understanding
and dealing with terrorist behavior, as in incidents of hostage-barricade
terrorism (see Glossary). Crayton points out that humiliating the
terrorists in such situations by withholding food, for example, would be
counterproductive because "the very basis for their activity stems
from their sense of low self-esteem and humiliation."
Using a Freudian analysis of the self and the narcissistic
personality, Pearlstein (1991) eruditely applies the psychological
concept of narcissism to terrorists. He observes that the political
terrorist circumvents the psychopolitical liabilities of accepting
himself or herself as a terrorist with a negative identity through a
process of rhetorical self-justification that is reinforced by the
group's group-think. His hypothesis, however, seems too speculative a
construct to be used to analyze terrorist motivation independently of
numerous other factors. For example, politically motivated hijackers have
rarely acted for self-centered reasons, but rather in the name of the political
goals of their groups. It also seems questionable that terrorist
suicide-bombers, who deliberately sacrificed themselves in the act, had a
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TERRORIST
In addition to drawing on political science and sociology, this study
draws on the discipline of psychology, in an attempt to explain terrorist
motivation and to answer questions such as who become terrorists and what
kind of individuals join terrorist groups and commit public acts of
shocking violence. Although there have been numerous attempts to explain
terrorism from a psychiatric or psychological perspective, Wilkinson
notes that the psychology and beliefs of terrorists have been
inadequately explored. Most psychological analyses of terrorists and
terrorism, according to psychologist Maxwell Taylor (1988), have
attempted to address what motivates terrorists or to describe personal
characteristics of terrorists, on the assumption that terrorists can be
identified by these attributes. However, although an understanding of the
terrorist mindset would be the key to understanding how and why an
individual becomes a terrorist, numerous psychologists have been unable
to adequately define it. Indeed, there appears to be a general agreement
among psychologists who have studied the subject that there is no one
terrorist mindset. This view, however, itself needs to be clarified.
The topic of the terrorist mindset was discussed at a Rand conference
on terrorism coordinated by Brian M. Jenkins in September 1980. The
observations made about terrorist mindsets at that conference considered
individuals, groups, and individuals as part of a group. The discussion
revealed how little was known about the nature of terrorist mindsets,
their causes and consequences, and their significance for recruitment,
ideology, leader-follower relations, organization, decision making about
targets and tactics, escalation of violence, and attempts made by
disillusioned terrorists to exit from the terrorist group. Although the
current study has examined these aspects of the terrorist mindset, it has
done so within the framework of a more general tasking requirement.
Additional research and analysis would be needed to focus more closely on
the concept of the terrorist mindset and to develop it into a more useful
method for profiling terrorist groups and leaders on a more systematic
and accurate basis.
Within this field of psychology, the personality dynamics of
individual terrorists, including the causes and motivations behind the
decision to join a terrorist group and to commit violent acts, have also
received attention. Other small-group dynamics that have been of
particular interest to researchers include the terrorists'
decision-making patterns, problems of leadership and authority, target
selection, and group mindset as a pressure tool on the individual.
Attempts to explain terrorism in purely psychological terms ignore the
very real economic, political, and social factors that have always
motivated radical activists, as well as the possibility that biological
or physiological variables may play a role in bringing an individual to
the point of perpetrating terrorism. Although this study provides some
interdisciplinary context to the study of terrorists and terrorism, it is
concerned primarily with the sociopsychological approach. Knutson (1984),
Executive Director of the International Society of Political Psychology
until her death in 1982, carried out an extensive international research
project on the psychology of political terrorism. The basic premise of
terrorists whom she evaluated in depth was "that their violent acts
stem from feelings of rage and hopelessness engendered by the belief that
society permits no other access to information-dissemination and policy-formation
The social psychology of political terrorism has received extensive
analysis in studies of terrorism, but the individual psychology of
political and religious terrorism has been largely ignored. Relatively
little is known about the terrorist as an individual, and the psychology
of terrorists remains poorly understood, despite the fact that there have
been a number of individual biographical accounts, as well as sweeping
sociopolitical or psychiatric generalizations.
A lack of data and an apparent ambivalence among many academic
researchers about the academic value of terrorism research have
contributed to the relatively little systematic social and psychological
research on terrorism. This is unfortunate because psychology, concerned
as it is with behavior and the factors that influence and control
behavior, can provide practical as opposed to conceptual knowledge of
terrorists and terrorism.
A principal reason for the lack of psychometric studies of terrorism
is that researchers have little, if any, direct access to terrorists,
even imprisoned ones. Occasionally, a researcher has gained special
access to a terrorist group, but usually at the cost of compromising the
credibility of her/her research. Even if a researcher obtains permission
to interview an incarcerated terrorist, such an interview would be of
limited value and reliability for the purpose of making generalizations.
Most terrorists, including imprisoned ones, would be loath to reveal
their group's operational secrets to their interrogators, let alone to
journalists or academic researchers, whom the terrorists are likely to
view as representatives of the "system" or perhaps even as
intelligence agents in disguise. Even if terrorists agree to be
interviewed in such circumstances, they may be less than candid in
answering questions. For example, most imprisoned Red Army Faction
members reportedly declined to be interviewed by West German social
scientists. Few researchers or former terrorists write exposés of
terrorist groups. Those who do could face retaliation. For example, the
LTTE shot to death an anti-LTTE activist, Sabaratnam Sabalingam, in Paris
on May 1, 1994, to prevent him from publishing an anti-LTTE book. The
LTTE also murdered Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, a Tamil, and one of the four
Sri Lankan authors of The Broken Palmyrah, which sought to
examine the "martyr" cult.
The Process of Joining a Terrorist Group
Individuals who become terrorists often are unemployed, socially
alienated individuals who have dropped out of society. Those with little
education, such as youths in Algerian ghettos or the Gaza Strip, may try
to join a terrorist group out of boredom and a desire to have an
action-packed adventure in pursuit of a cause they regard as just. Some
individuals may be motivated mainly by a desire to use their special
skills, such as bomb-making. The more educated youths may be motivated
more by genuine political or religious convictions. The person who
becomes a terrorist in Western countries is generally both intellectual
and idealistic. Usually, these disenchanted youths, both educated or
uneducated, engage in occasional protest and dissidence. Potential
terrorist group members often start out as sympathizers of the group.
Recruits often come from support organizations, such as prisoner support
groups or student activist groups. From sympathizer, one moves to passive
supporter. Often, violent encounters with police or other security forces
motivate an already socially alienated individual to join a terrorist
group. Although the circumstances vary, the end result of this gradual
process is that the individual, often with the help of a family member or
friend with terrorist contacts, turns to terrorism. Membership in a
terrorist group, however, is highly selective. Over a period as long as a
year or more, a recruit generally moves in a slow, gradual fashion toward
full membership in a terrorist group.
An individual who drops out of society can just as well become a monk
or a hermit instead of a terrorist. For an individual to choose to become
a terrorist, he or she would have to be motivated to do so. Having the
proper motivation, however, is still not enough. The would-be terrorist
would need to have the opportunity to join a terrorist group. And like
most job seekers, he or she would have to be acceptable to the terrorist
group, which is a highly exclusive group. Thus, recruits would not only
need to have a personality that would allow them to fit into the group,
but ideally a certain skill needed by the group, such as weapons or communications
The psychology of joining a terrorist group differs depending on the
typology of the group. Someone joining an anarchistic or a
Marxist-Leninist terrorist group would not likely be able to count on any
social support, only social opprobrium, whereas someone joining an ethnic
separatist group like ETA or the IRA would enjoy considerable social
support and even respect within ethnic enclaves.
Psychologist Eric D. Shaw (1986:365) provides a strong case for what
he calls "The Personal Pathway Model," by which terrorists
enter their new profession. The components of this pathway include early
socialization processes; narcissistic injuries; escalatory events,
particularly confrontation with police; and personal connections to
terrorist group members, as follows:
The personal pathway model suggests that terrorists came from a
selected, at risk population, who have suffered from early damage to
their self-esteem. Their subsequent political activities may be
consistent with the liberal social philosophies of their families, but go
beyond their perception of the contradiction in their family's beliefs
and lack of social action. Family political philosophies may also serve
to sensitize these persons to the economic and political tensions
inherent throughout modern society. As a group, they appear to have been
unsuccessful in obtaining a desired traditional place in society, which
has contributed to their frustration. The underlying need to belong to a
terrorist group is symptomatic of an incomplete or fragmented
psychosocial identity. (In Kohut's terms--a defective or fragmented
"group self"). Interestingly, the acts of security forces or
police are cited as provoking more violent political activity by these
individuals and it is often a personal connection to other terrorists
which leads to membership in a violent group (shared external targets?).
Increasingly, terrorist organizations in the developing world are
recruiting younger members. The only role models for these young people
to identify with are often terrorists and guerrillas. Abu Nidal, for
example, was able to recruit alienated, poor, and uneducated youths
thrilled to be able to identify themselves with a group led by a
well-known but mysterious figure.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, thousands of foreign Muslim
volunteers (14,000, according to Jane's Intelligence Review)--angry,
young, and zealous and from many countries, including the United
States--flocked to training camps in Afghanistan or the Pakistan-Afghan
border region to learn the art of combat. They ranged in age from 17 to
35. Some had university educations, but most were uneducated, unemployed
youths without any prospects.
Deborah M. Galvin (1983) notes that a common route of entry into
terrorism for female terrorists is through political involvement and
belief in a political cause. The Intifada (see Glossary), for example,
radicalized many young Palestinians, who later joined terrorist
organizations. At least half of the Intifada protesters were young girls.
Some women are recruited into terrorist organizations by boyfriends. A
significant feature that Galvin feels may characterize the involvement of
the female terrorist is the "male or female lover/female accomplice
... scenario." The lover, a member of the terrorist group, recruits
the female into the group. One ETA female member, "Begona,"
told Eileen MacDonald (1992) that was how she joined at age 25: "I
got involved [in ETA] because a man I knew was a member."
A woman who is recruited into a terrorist organization on the basis of
her qualifications and motivation is likely to be treated more
professionally by her comrades than one who is perceived as lacking in
this regard. Two of the PFLP hijackers of Sabena Flight 517 from Brussels
to Tel Aviv on May 8, 1972, Therese Halsa, 19, and Rima Tannous, 21, had
completely different characters. Therese, the daughter of a middle-class
Arab family, was a nursing student when she was recruited into Fatah by a
fellow student and was well regarded in the organization. Rima, an orphan
of average intelligence, became the mistress of a doctor who introduced
her to drugs and recruited her into Fatah. She became totally dependent
on some Fatah members, who subjected her to physical and psychological
Various terrorist groups recruit both female and male members from
organizations that are lawful. For example, ETA personnel may be members
of Egizan ("Act Woman!"), a feminist movement affiliated with
ETA's political wing; the Henri Batasuna (Popular Unity) party; or an
amnesty group seeking release for ETA members. While working with the
amnesty group, a number of women reportedly tended to become frustrated
over mistreatment of prisoners and concluded that the only solution was
to strike back, which they did by joining the ETA. "Women seemed to
become far more emotionally involved than men with the suffering of
prisoners," an ETA member, "Txikia," who joined at age 20,
told MacDonald, "and when they made the transition from supporter to
guerrilla, appeared to carry their deeper sense of commitment with them
The Terrorist as Mentally Ill
A common stereotype is that someone who commits such abhorrent acts as
planting a bomb on an airliner, detonating a vehicle bomb on a city
street, or tossing a grenade into a crowded sidewalk café is abnormal.
The psychopathological (see Glossary) orientation has dominated the
psychological approach to the terrorist's personality. As noted by
Taylor, two basic psychological approaches to understanding terrorists
have been commonly used: the terrorist is viewed either as mentally ill
or as a fanatic. For Walter Laqueur (1977:125), "Terrorists are
fanatics and fanaticism frequently makes for cruelty and sadism."
This study is not concerned with the lone terrorist, such as the
Unabomber in the United States, who did not belong to any terrorist
group. Criminologist Franco Ferracuti has noted that there is "no
such thing as an isolated terrorist--that's a mental case." Mentally
unbalanced individuals have been especially attracted to airplane hijacking.
David G. Hubbard (1971) conducted a psychiatric study of airplane
hijackers in 1971 and concluded that skyjacking is used by
psychiatrically ill patients as an expression of illness. His study
revealed that skyjackers shared several common traits: a violent father,
often an alcoholic; a deeply religious mother, often a religious zealot;
a sexually shy, timid, and passive personality; younger sisters toward
whom the skyjackers acted protectively; and poor achievement, financial
failure, and limited earning potential.
Those traits, however, are shared by many people who do not hijack
airplanes. Thus, profiles of mentally unstable hijackers would seem to be
of little, if any, use in detecting a potential hijacker in advance. A
useful profile would probably have to identify physical or behavioral
traits that might alert authorities to a potential terrorist before a
suspect is allowed to board an aircraft, that is, if hijackers have
identifiable personality qualities. In the meantime, weapons detection,
passenger identification, and onboard security guards may be the only
preventive measures. Even then, an individual wanting to hijack an
airplane can often find a way. Japan's Haneda Airport screening
procedures failed to detect a large knife that a 28-year-old man carried
aboard an All Nippon Airways jumbo jet on July 23, 1999, and used to stab
the pilot (who died) and take the plane's controls until overpowered by
others. Although police have suggested that the man may have psychiatric
problems, the fact that he attempted to divert the plane to the U.S.
Yokota Air Base north of Tokyo, at a time when the airbase was a subject
of controversy because the newly elected governor of Tokyo had demanded
its closure, suggests that he may have had a political or religious
There have been cases of certifiably mentally ill terrorists. Klaus
Jünschke, a mental patient, was one of the most ardent members of the
Socialist Patients' Collective (SPK), a German terrorist group working
with the Baader-Meinhof Gang (see Glossary). In some instances, political
terrorists have clearly exhibited psychopathy (see Glossary). For
example, in April 1986 Nezar Hindawi, a freelance Syrian-funded Jordanian
terrorist and would-be agent of Syrian intelligence, sent his pregnant
Irish girlfriend on an El Al flight to Israel, promising to meet her
there to be married. Unknown to her, however, Hindawi had hidden a bomb
(provided by the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)) in a false bottom to her
hand luggage. His attempt to bomb the airliner in midair by duping his
pregnant girlfriend was thwarted when the bomb was discovered by Heathrow
security personnel. Taylor regards Hindawi's behavior in this incident as
psychopathic because of Hindawi's willingness to sacrifice his fiancé and
Jerrold Post (1990), a leading advocate of the terrorists-as-mentally
ill approach, has his own psychological hypothesis of terrorism. Although
he does not take issue with the proposition that terrorists reason
logically, Post argues that terrorists' reasoning process is
characterized by what he terms "terrorist psycho-logic." In his
analysis, terrorists do not willingly resort to terrorism as an
intentional choice. Rather, he argues that "political terrorists are
driven to commit acts of violence as a consequence of psychological
forces, and that their special psycho-logic is constructed to rationalize
acts they are psychologically compelled to commit"(1990:25). Post's
hypothesis that terrorists are motivated by psychological forces is not
convincing and seems to ignore the numerous factors that motivate
terrorists, including their ideological convictions.
Post (1997) believes that the most potent form of terrorism stems from
those individuals who are bred to hate, from generation to generation, as
in Northern Ireland and the Basque country. For these terrorists, in his
view, rehabilitation in nearly impossible because ethnic animosity or
hatred is "in their blood" and passed from father to son. Post
also draws an interesting distinction between "anarchic-ideologues"such
as the Italian Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse) and the German RAF (aka the
Baader-Meinhof Gang), and the "nationalist-separatist" groups
such as the ETA, or the IRA, stating that:
There would seem to be a profound difference between terrorists bent
on destroying their own society, the "world of their fathers,"
and those whose terrorist activities carry on the mission of their
fathers. To put it in other words, for some, becoming terrorists is an
act of retaliation for real and imagined hurts against the society of
their parents; for others, it is an act of retaliation against
society for the hurt done to their parents.... This would
suggest more conflict, more psychopathology, among those committed to
anarchy and destruction of society.... (1984:243)
Indeed, author Julian Becker (1984) describes the German terrorists of
the Baader-Meinhof Gang as "children without fathers." They
were sons and daughters of fathers who had either been killed by Nazis or
survived Nazism. Their children despised and rebelled against them
because of the shame of Nazism and a defeated Germany. One former RAF
female member told MacDonald: "We hated our parents because they
were former Nazis, who had never come clean about their past."
Similarly, Gunther Wagenlehner (1978:201) concludes that the motives of
RAF terrorists were unpolitical and belonged "more to the area of
psychopathological disturbances." Wagenlehner found that German
terrorists blamed the government for failing to solve their personal
problems. Not only was becoming a terrorist "an individual form of
liberation" for radical young people with personal problems, but
"These students became terrorists because they suffered from acute
fear and from aggression and the masochistic desire to be pursued."
In short, according to Wagenlehner, the West German anarchists stand out
as a major exception to the generally nonpathological characteristics of
most terrorists. Psychologist Konrad Kellen (1990:43) arrives at a
similar conclusion, noting that most of the West German terrorists "suffer
from a deep psychological trauma" that "makes them see the
world, including their own actions and the expected effects of those
actions, in a grossly unrealistic light" and that motivates them to
kill people. Sociologist J. Bowyer Bell (1985) also has noted that
European anarchists, unlike other terrorists, belong more to the
"province of psychologists than political analysts...."
Post's distinction between anarchic-ideologues and ethnic separatists
appears to be supported by Rona M. Fields's (1978) psychometric
assessment of children in Northern Ireland. Fields found that exposure to
terrorism as a child can lead to a proclivity for terrorism as an adult.
Thus, a child growing up in violence-plagued West Belfast is more likely
to develop into a terrorist as an adult than is a child growing up in
peaceful Oslo, Norway, for example. Maxwell Taylor, noting correctly that
there are numerous other factors in the development of a terrorist,
faults Fields's conclusions for, among other things, a lack of validation
with adults. Maxwell Taylor overlooks, however, that Field's study was
conducted over an eight-year period. Taylor's point is that Field's
conclusions do not take into account that relatively very few children
exposed to violence, even in Northern Ireland, grow up to become
A number of other psychologists would take issue with another of
Post's contentions--that the West German anarchists were more
pathological than Irish terrorists. For example, psychiatrist W. Rasch
(1979), who interviewed a number of West German terrorists, determined
that "no conclusive evidence has been found for the assumption that
a significant number of them are disturbed or abnormal." For Rasch
the argument that terrorism is pathological behavior only serves to minimize
the political or social issues that motivated the terrorists into action.
And psychologist Ken Heskin (1984), who has studied the psychology of
terrorism in Northern Ireland, notes that "In fact, there is no
psychological evidence that terrorists are diagnosably psychopathic or
otherwise clinically disturbed."
Although there may have been instances in which a mentally ill
individual led a terrorist group, this has generally not been the case in
international terrorism. Some specialists point out, in fact, that there
is little reliable evidence to support the notion that terrorists in
general are psychologically disturbed individuals. The careful, detailed
planning and well-timed execution that have characterized many terrorist
operations are hardly typical of mentally disturbed individuals.
There is considerable evidence, on the contrary, that international
terrorists are generally quite sane. Crenshaw (1981) has concluded from
her studies that "the outstanding common characteristic of
terrorists is their normality." This view is shared by a number of
psychologists. For example, C.R. McCauley and M.E. Segal (1987) conclude
in a review of the social psychology of terrorist groups that "the
best documented generalization is negative; terrorists do not show any
striking psychopathology." Heskin (1984) did not find members of the
IRA to be emotionally disturbed. It seems clear that terrorists are
extremely alienated from society, but alienation does not necessarily
mean being mentally ill.
Maxwell Taylor (1984) found that the notion of mental illness has
little utility with respect to most terrorist actions. Placing the
terrorist within the ranks of the mentally ill, he points out, makes
assumptions about terrorist motivations and places terrorist behavior outside
the realms of both the normal rules of behavior and the normal process of
law. He points out several differences that separate the psychopath from
the political terrorist, although the two may not be mutually exclusive,
as in the case of Hindawi. One difference is the psychopath's inability
to profit from experience. Another important difference is that, in
contrast to the terrorist, the purposefulness, if any, of a psychopath's
actions is personal. In addition, psychopaths are too unreliable and incapable
of being controlled to be of use to terrorist groups. Taylor notes that
terrorist groups need discreet activists who do not draw attention to
themselves and who can merge back into the crowd after executing an
operation. For these reasons, he believes that "it may be
inappropriate to think of the terrorist as mentally ill in conventional
terms" (1994:92). Taylor and Ethel Quayle (1994:197) conclude that
"the active terrorist is not discernibly different in psychological
terms from the non-terrorist." In other words, terrorists are
recruited from a population that describes most of us. Taylor and Quayle
also assert that "in psychological terms, there are no special
qualities that characterize the terrorist." Just as there is no
necessary reason why people sharing the same career in normal life
necessarily have psychological characteristics in common, the fact that
terrorists have the same career does not necessarily mean that they have
anything in common psychologically.
The selectivity with which terrorist groups recruit new members helps
to explain why so few pathologically ill individuals are found within
their ranks. Candidates who appear to be potentially dangerous to the
terrorist group's survival are screened out. Candidates with
unpredictable or uncontrolled behavior lack the personal attributes that
the terrorist recruiter is looking for.
Many observers have noted that the personality of the terrorist has a
depressive aspect to it, as reflected in the terrorist's death-seeking or
death-confronting behavior. The terrorist has often been described by
psychologists as incapable of enjoying anything (anhedonic) or forming
meaningful interpersonal relationships on a reciprocal level. According
to psychologist Risto Fried, the terrorist's interpersonal world is
characterized by three categories of people: the terrorist's idealized
heroes; the terrorist's enemies; and people one encounters in everyday
life, whom the terrorist regards as shadow figures of no consequence.
However, Fried (1982:123) notes that some psychologists with extensive
experience with some of the most dangerous terrorists "emphasize
that the terrorist may be perfectly normal from a clinical point of view,
that he may have a psychopathology of a different order, or that his
personality may be only a minor factor in his becoming a terrorist if he
was recruited into a terrorist group rather than having volunteered for
The Terrorist as Suicidal Fanatic
The other of the two approaches that have predominated, the terrorist
emphasizes the terrorist's rational qualities and views the terrorist
as a cool, logical planning individual whose rewards are ideological and
political, rather than financial. This approach takes into account that
terrorists are often well educated and capable of sophisticated, albeit
highly biased, rhetoric and political analysis.
Notwithstanding the religious origins of the word, the term
"fanaticism" in modern usage, has broadened out of the
religious context to refer to more generally held extreme beliefs. The
terrorist is often labeled as a fanatic, especially in actions that lead
to self-destruction. Although fanaticism is not unique to terrorism, it
is, like "terrorism," a pejorative term. In psychological
terms, the concept of fanaticism carries some implications of mental
illness, but, Taylor (1988:97) points out, it "is not a diagnostic
category in mental illness." Thus, he believes that "Commonly
held assumptions about the relationship between fanaticism and mental
illness...seem to be inappropriate." The fanatic often seems to view
the world from a particular perspective lying at the extreme of a
Two related processes, Taylor points out, are prejudice and
authoritarianism, with which fanaticism has a number of cognitive
processes in common, such as an unwillingness to compromise, a disdain
for other alternative views, the tendency to see things in
black-and-white, a rigidity of belief, and a perception of the world that
reflects a closed mind. Understanding the nature of fanaticism, he
explains, requires recognizing the role of the cultural (religious and
social) context. Fanaticism, in Taylor's view, may indeed "...be
part of the cluster of attributes of the terrorist." However, Taylor
emphasizes that the particular cultural context in which the terrorist is
operating needs to be taken into account in understanding whether the
term might be appropriate.
Deliberate self-destruction, when the terrorist's death is necessary
in order to detonate a bomb or avoid capture, is not a common feature of
terrorism in most countries, although it happens occasionally with
Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the Middle East and Tamil terrorists
in Sri Lanka and southern India. It is also a feature of North Korean
terrorism. The two North Korean agents who blew up Korean Air Flight 858
on November 28, 1987, popped cyanide capsules when confronted by police
investigators. Only one of the terrorists succeeded in killing himself,
Prior to mid-1985, there were 11 suicide attacks against international
targets in the Middle East using vehicle bombs. Three well-known cases
were the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983, which
killed 63 people, and the separate bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks
and the French military headquarters in Lebanon on October 23, 1983,
which killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers, respectively.
The first instance, however, was the bombing of Israel's military
headquarters in Tyre, in which 141 people were killed. Inspired by these
suicide attacks in Lebanon and his closer ties with Iran and Hizballah,
Abu Nidal launched "suicide squads" in his attacks against the
Rome and Vienna airports in late December 1985, in which an escape route
was not planned.
The world leaders in terrorist suicide attacks are not the Islamic
fundamentalists, but the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The LTTE's track record for
suicide attacks is unrivaled. Its suicide commandos have blown up the
prime ministers of two countries (India and Sri Lanka), celebrities, at
least one naval battleship, and have regularly used suicide to avoid
capture as well as simply a means of protest. LTTE terrorists do not dare
not to carry out their irrevocable orders to use their cyanide capsules
if captured. No fewer than 35 LTTE operatives committed suicide to simply
avoid being questioned by investigators in the wake of the Gandhi
assassination. Attempting to be circumspect, investigators disguised
themselves as doctors in order to question LTTE patients undergoing
medical treatment, but, Vijay Karan (1997:46) writes about the LTTE
patients, "Their reflexes indoctrinated to react even to the
slightest suspicion, all of them instantly popped cyanide capsules."
Two were saved only because the investigators forcibly removed the capsules
from their mouths, but one investigator suffered a severe bite wound on
his hand and had to be hospitalized for some time.
To Western observers, the acts of suicide terrorism by adherents of
Islam and Hinduism may be attributable to fanaticism or mental illness or
both. From the perspective of the Islamic movement, however, such acts of
self-destruction have a cultural and religious context, the historical
origins of which can be seen in the behavior of religious sects
associated with the Shi'ite movement, notably the Assassins (see
Glossary). Similarly, the suicide campaign of the Islamic Resistance
Movement (Hamas) in the 1993-94 period involved young Palestinian
terrorists, who, acting on individual initiative, attacked Israelis in
crowded places, using home-made improvised weapons such as knives and
axes. Such attacks were suicidal because escape was not part of the
attacker's plan. These attacks were, at least in part, motivated by
According to scholars of Muslim culture, so-called suicide bombings,
however, are seen by Islamists and Tamils alike as instances of
martyrdom, and should be understood as such. The Arabic term used is istishad,
a religious term meaning to give one's life in the name of Allah, as
opposed to intihar, which refers to suicide resulting from
personal distress. The latter form of suicide is not condoned in Islamic
There is a clear correlation between suicide attacks and concurrent
events and developments in the Middle Eastern area. For example, suicide
attacks increased in frequency after the October 1990 clashes between
Israeli security forces and Muslim worshipers on Temple Mount, in the Old
City of Jerusalem, in which 18 Muslims were killed. The suicide attacks
carried out by Hamas in Afula and Hadera in April 1994 coincided with the
talks that preceded the signing by Israel and the PLO of the Cairo
agreement. They were also claimed to revenge the massacre of 39 and the
wounding of 200 Muslim worshipers in a Hebron mosque by an Israeli
settler on February 25, 1994. Attacks perpetrated in Ramat-Gan and in
Jerusalem in July and August 1995, respectively, coincided with the
discussions concerning the conduct of elections in the Territories, which
were concluded in the Oslo II agreement. The primary reason for Hamas's
suicide attacks was that they exacted a heavy price in Israeli
casualties. Most of the suicide attackers came from the Gaza Strip. Most
were bachelors aged 18 to 25, with high school education, and some with
university education. Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives sent the
attackers on their missions believing they would enter eternal Paradise.
Terrorist Group Dynamics
Unable to study terrorist group dynamics first-hand, social scientists
have applied their understanding of small-group behavior to terrorist
groups. Some features of terrorist groups, such as pressures toward
conformity and consensus, are characteristic of all small groups. For
whatever reason individuals assume the role of terrorists, their
transformation into terrorists with a political or religious agenda takes
places within the structure of the terrorist group. This group provides a
sense of belonging, a feeling of self-importance, and a new belief system
that defines the terrorist act as morally acceptable and the group's
goals as of paramount importance. As Shaw (1988:366) explains:
Apparently membership in a terrorist group often provides a solution
to the pressing personal needs of which the inability to achieve a
desired niche in traditional society is the coup de grace. The terrorist
identity offers the individual a role in society, albeit a negative one,
which is commensurate with his or her prior expectations and sufficient
to compensate for past losses. Group membership provides a sense of
potency, an intense and close interpersonal environment, social status,
potential access to wealth and a share in what may be a grandiose but
noble social design. The powerful psychological forces of conversion in
the group are sufficient to offset traditional social sanctions against
violence....To the terrorists their acts may have the moral status of
religious warfare or political liberation.
Terrorist groups are similar to religious sects or cults. They require
total commitment by members; they often prohibit relations with
outsiders, although this may not be the case with ethnic or separatist
terrorist groups whose members are well integrated into the community;
they regulate and sometimes ban sexual relations; they impose conformity;
they seek cohesiveness through interdependence and mutual trust; and they
attempt to brainwash individual members with their particular ideology.
According to Harry C. Holloway, M.D., and Ann E. Norwood, M.D.
(1997:417), the joining process for taking on the beliefs, codes, and
cult of the terrorist group "involves an interaction between the
psychological structure of the terrorist's personality and the
ideological factors, group process, structural organization of the
terrorist group and cell, and the sociocultural milieu of the
Citing Knutson, Ehud Sprinzak (1990:79), an American-educated Israeli
political scientist, notes: "It appears that, as radicalization
deepens, the collective group identity takes over much of the individual
identity of the members; and, at the terrorist stage, the group identity reaches
its peak." This group identity becomes of paramount importance. As
Post (1990:38) explains: "Terrorists whose only sense of
significance comes from being terrorists cannot be forced to give up
terrorism, for to do so would be to lose their very reason for
being." The terrorist group displays the characteristics of
Groupthink (see Glossary), as described by I. Janis (1972). Among the
characteristics that Janis ascribes to groups demonstrating Groupthink
are illusions of invulnerability leading to excessive optimism and
excessive risk taking, presumptions of the group's morality,
one-dimensional perceptions of the enemy as evil, and intolerance of
challenges by a group member to shared key beliefs.
Some important principles of group dynamics among legally operating
groups can also be usefully applied to the analysis of terrorist group
dynamics. One generally accepted principle, as demonstrated by W. Bion
(1961), is that individual judgment and behavior are strongly influenced
by the powerful forces of group dynamics. Every group, according to Bion,
has two opposing forces--a rare tendency to act in a fully cooperative,
goal-directed, conflict-free manner to accomplish its stated purposes,
and a stronger tendency to sabotage the stated goals. The latter tendency
results in a group that defines itself in relation to the outside world
and acts as if the only way it can survive is by fighting against or
fleeing from the perceived enemy; a group that looks for direction to an
omnipotent leader, to whom they subordinate their own independent
judgment and act as if they do not have minds of their own; and a group
that acts as if the group will bring forth a messiah who will rescue them
and create a better world. Post believes that the terrorist group is the
apotheosis of the sabotage tendency, regularly exhibiting all three of
Both structure and social origin need to be examined in any assessment
of terrorist group dynamics. In Post's (1987) view, structural analysis
in particular requires identification of the locus of power. In the
autonomous terrorist action cell, the cell leader is within the cell, a
situation that tends to promote tension. In contrast, the action cells of
a terrorist group with a well-differentiated structure are organized within
columns, thereby allowing policy decisions to be developed outside the
Post found that group psychology provides more insights into the ways
of terrorists than individual psychology does. After concluding,
unconvincingly, that there is no terrorist mindset, he turned his
attention to studying the family backgrounds of terrorists. He found that
the group dynamics of nationalist-separatist groups and
anarchic-ideological groups differ significantly. Members of
nationalist-separatist groups are often known in their communities and
maintain relationships with friends and family outside the terrorist
group, moving into and out of the community with relative ease. In
contrast, members of anarchic-ideological groups have irrevocably severed
ties with family and community and lack their support. As a result, the
terrorist group is the only source of information and security, a
situation that produces pressure to conform and to commit acts of
Pressures to Conform
Peer pressure, group solidarity, and the psychology of group dynamics
help to pressure an individual member to remain in the terrorist group.
According to Post (1986), terrorists tend to submerge their own
identities into the group, resulting in a kind of "group mind"
and group moral code that requires unquestioned obedience to the group.
As Crenshaw (1985) has observed, "The group, as selector and
interpreter of ideology, is central." Group cohesion increases or
decreases depending on the degree of outside danger facing the group.
The need to belong to a group motivates most terrorists who are
followers to join a terrorist group. Behavior among terrorists is
similar, in Post's analysis, because of this need by alienated
individuals to belong. For the new recruit, the terrorist group becomes a
substitute family, and the group's leaders become substitute parents. An
implied corollary of Post's observation that a key motivation for
membership in a terrorist group is the sense of belonging and the
fraternity of like-minded individuals is the assumption that there must
be considerable apprehension among members that the group could be
disbanded. As the group comes under attack from security forces, the
tendency would be for the group to become more cohesive.
A member with wavering commitment who attempts to question group
decisions or ideology or to quit under outside pressure against the group
would likely face very serious sanctions. Terrorist groups are known to
retaliate violently against members who seek to drop out. In 1972, when
half of the 30-member Rengo Sekigun (Red Army) terrorist group, which
became known as the JRA, objected to the group's strategy, the
dissenters, who included a pregnant woman who was thought to be "too
bourgeois," were tied to stakes in the northern mountains of Japan,
whipped with wires, and left to die of exposure. By most accounts, the
decision to join a terrorist group or, for that matter, a terrorist cult
like Aum Shinrikyo, is often an irrevocable one.
Pressures to Commit Acts of Violence
Post (1990:35) argues that "individuals become terrorists in
order to join terrorist groups and commit acts of terrorism."
Joining a terrorist group gives them a sense of "revolutionary
heroism" and self-importance that they previously lacked as
individuals. Consequently, a leader who is action-oriented is likely to
have a stronger position within the group than one who advocates prudence
and moderation. Thomas Strentz (1981:89) has pointed out that terrorist
groups that operate against democracies often have a field commander who
he calls an "opportunist," that is, an activist, usually a
male, whose criminal activity predates his political involvement. Strentz
applies the psychological classification of the antisocial personality,
also known as a sociopath or psychopath, to the life-style of this type
of action-oriented individual. His examples of this personality type
include Andreas Baader and Hans Joachim Klein of the Baader-Meinhof Gang
and Akira Nihei of the JRA. Although the opportunist is not mentally ill,
Strentz explains, he "is oblivious to the needs of others and
unencumbered by the capacity to feel guilt or empathy." By most
accounts, Baader was unpleasant, constantly abusive toward other members
of the group, ill-read, and an action-oriented individual with a criminal
past. Often recruited by the group's leader, the opportunist may
eventually seek to take over the group, giving rise to increasing
tensions between him and the leader. Often the leader will manipulate the
opportunist by allowing him the fantasy of leading the group.
On the basis of his observation of underground resistance groups
during World War II, J.K. Zawodny (1978) concluded that the primary
determinant of underground group decision making is not the external
reality but the psychological climate within the group. For
action-oriented terrorists, inaction is extremely stressful. For
action-oriented members, if the group is not taking action then there is
no justification for the group. Action relieves stress by reaffirming to
these members that they have a purpose. Thus, in Zawodny's analysis, a
terrorist group needs to commit acts of terrorism in order to justify its
Other terrorists may feel that their personal honor depends on the
degree of violence that they carry out against the enemy. In 1970 Black
September's Salah Khalef ("Abu Iyad") was captured by the
Jordanians and then released after he appealed to his comrades to stop
fighting and to lay down their arms. Dobson (1975:52) reports that,
according to the Jordanians, Abu Iyad "was subjected to such
ridicule by the guerrillas who had fought on that he reacted by turning
from moderation to the utmost violence."
Pearlstein points out that other examples of the political terrorist's
self-justification of his or her terrorist actions include the
terrorist's taking credit for a given terrorist act and forewarning of
terrorist acts to come. By taking credit for an act of terrorism, the
terrorist or terrorist group not only advertises the group's cause but
also communicates a rhetorical self-justification of the terrorist act
and the cause for which it was perpetrated. By threatening future
terrorism, the terrorist or terrorist group in effect absolves itself of
responsibility for any casualties that may result.
Terrorist Rationalization of Violence
Living underground, terrorists gradually become divorced from reality,
engaging in what Ferracuti (1982) has described as a "fantasy
war." The stresses that accompany their underground, covert lives as
terrorists may also have adverse social and psychological consequences
for them. Thus, as Taylor (1988:93) points out, although "mental
illness may not be a particularly helpful way of conceptualizing
terrorism, the acts of terrorism and membership in a terrorist
organization may well have implications for the terrorist's mental
Albert Bandura (1990) has described four techniques of moral
disengagement that a terrorist group can use to insulate itself from the
human consequences of its actions. First, by using moral justification
terrorists may imagine themselves as the saviors of a constituency
threatened by a great evil. For example, Donatella della Porta
(1992:286), who interviewed members of left-wing militant groups in Italy
and Germany, observed that the militants "began to perceive themselves
as members of a heroic community of generous people fighting a war
Second, through the technique of displacement of responsibility onto
the leader or other members of the group, terrorists portray themselves
as functionaries who are merely following their leader's orders.
Conversely, the terrorist may blame other members of the group. Groups
that are organized into cells and columns may be more capable of carrying
out ruthless operations because of the potential for displacement of
responsibility. Della Porta's interviews with left-wing militants suggest
that the more compartmentalized a group is the more it begins to lose
touch with reality, including the actual impact of its own actions. Other
manifestations of this displacement technique include accusations made by
Asahara, the leader of Aum Shinrikyo, that the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) used chemical agents against him and the Japanese
A third technique is to minimize or ignore the actual suffering of the
victims. As Bonnie Cordes (1987) points out, terrorists are able to
insulate themselves from moral anxieties provoked by the results of their
hit-and-run attacks, such as the use of time bombs, by usually not having
to witness first-hand the carnage resulting from them, and by concerning
themselves with the reactions of the authorities rather than with
civilian casualties. Nevertheless, she notes that "Debates over the
justification of violence, the types of targets, and the issue of
indiscriminate versus discriminate killing are endemic to a terrorist
group." Often, these internal debates result in schisms.
The fourth technique of moral disengagement described by Bandura is to
dehumanize victims or, in the case of Islamist groups, to refer to them
as "the infidel." Italian and German militants justified
violence by depersonalizing their victims as "tools of the
system," "pigs," or "watch dogs." Psychologist
Frederick Hacker (1996:162) points out that terrorists transform their
victims into mere objects, for "terroristic thinking and practices
reduce individuals to the status of puppets." Cordes, too, notes the
role reversal played by terrorists in characterizing the enemy as the
conspirator and oppressor and accusing it of state terrorism, while
referring to themselves as "freedom fighters" or
"revolutionaries." As Cordes explains, "Renaming
themselves, their actions, their victims and their enemies accords the
By using semantics to rationalize their terrorist violence, however,
terrorists may create their own self-destructive psychological tensions.
As David C. Rapoport (1971:42) explains:
All terrorists must deny the relevance of guilt and innocence, but in
doing so they create an unbearable tension in their own souls, for they
are in effect saying that a person is not a person. It is no accident
that left-wing terrorists constantly speak of a "pig-society,"
by convincing themselves that they are confronting animals they
hope to stay the remorse which the slaughter of the innocent necessarily
Expanding on this rationalization of guilt, D. Guttman (1979:525)
argues that "The terrorist asserts that he loves only the socially
redeeming qualities of his murderous act, not the act itself." By
this logic, the conscience of the terrorist is turned against those who
oppose his violent ways, not against himself. Thus, in Guttman's
analysis, the terrorist has projected his guilt outward. In order to
absolve his own guilt, the terrorist must claim that under the
circumstances he has no choice but to do what he must do. Although other
options actually are open to the terrorist, Guttman believes that the
liberal audience legitimizes the terrorist by accepting this
rationalization of murder.
Some terrorists, however, have been trained or brainwashed enough not
to feel any remorse, until confronted with the consequences of their
actions. When journalist Eileen MacDonald asked a female ETA commando,
"Amaia," how she felt when she heard that her bombs had been
successful, she replied, after first denying being responsible for
killing anyone: "Satisfaction. The bastards, they deserved it. Yes,
I planted bombs that killed people." However, MacDonald felt that
Amaia, who had joined the military wing at age 18, had never before
questioned the consequences of her actions, and MacDonald's intuition was
confirmed as Amaia's mood shifted from bravado to despondency, as she
buried her head in her arms, and then groaned: "Oh, God, this is
getting hard," and lamented that she had not prepared herself for the
When Kim Hyun Hee (1993:104), the bomber of Korean Air Flight 858,
activated the bomb, she had no moral qualms. "At that moment,"
she writes, "I felt no guilt or remorse at what I was doing; I
thought only of completing the mission and not letting my country
down." It was not until her 1988 trial, which resulted in a death
sentence--she was pardoned a year later because she had been
brainwashed--that she felt any remorse. "But being made to confront
the victims' grieving families here in this courtroom," she writes,
"I finally began to feel, deep down, the sheer horror of the
atrocity I'd committed." One related characteristic of Kim, as told
by one of her South Korean minders to McDonald, is that she had not shown
any emotion whatsoever to anyone in the two years she (the minder) had
The Terrorist's Ideological or Religious Perception
Terrorists do not perceive the world as members of governments or
civil society do. Their belief systems help to determine their strategies
and how they react to government policies. As Martha Crenshaw (1988:12)
has observed, "The actions of terrorist organizations are based on a
subjective interpretation of the world rather than objective
reality."The variables from which their belief systems are formed
include their political and social environments, cultural traditions, and
the internal dynamics of their clandestine groups. Their convictions may
seem irrational or delusional to society in general, but the terrorists
may nevertheless act rationally in their commitment to acting on their
According to cognitive theory, an individual's mental activities
(perception, memory, and reasoning) are important determinants of
behavior. Cognition is an important concept in psychology, for it is the
general process by which individuals come to know about and make sense of
the world. Terrorists view the world within the narrow lens of their own
ideology, whether it be Marxism-Leninism, anarchism, nationalism, Islamic
fundamentalism (see Glossary), or some other ideology. Most researchers
agree that terrorists generally do not regard themselves as terrorists
but rather as soldiers, liberators, martyrs, and legitimate fighters for
noble social causes. Those terrorists who recognize that their actions
are terroristic are so committed to their cause that they do not really
care how they are viewed in the outside world. Others may be just as
committed, but loathe to be identified as terrorists as opposed to
freedom fighters or national liberators.
Kristen Renwick Monroe and Lina Haddad Kreidie (1997) have found perspective--the
idea that we all have a view of the world, a view of ourselves, a view of
others, and a view of ourselves in relation to others--to be a very
useful tool in understanding fundamentalism, for example. Their
underlying hypothesis is that the perspectives of fundamentalists
resemble one another and that they differ in significant and consistent
ways from the perspectives of nonfundamentalists. Monroe and Kreidie
conclude that "fundamentalists see themselves not as individuals but
rather as symbols of Islam." They argue that it is a mistake for
Western policymakers to treat Islamic fundamentalists as rational actors
and dismiss them as irrational when they do not act as predicted by
traditional cost/benefit models. "Islamic fundamentalism should not
be dealt with simply as another set of political values that can be
compromised or negotiated, or even as a system of beliefs or
ideology--such as socialism or communism--in which traditional liberal
democratic modes of political discourse and interaction are
recognized." They point out that "Islamic fundamentalism taps
into a quite different political consciousness, one in which religious
identity sets and determines the range of options open to the fundamentalist.
It extends to all areas of life and respects no separation between the
private and the political."
Existing works that attempt to explain religious fundamentalism often
rely on modernization theory and point to a crisis of identity,
explaining religious fundamentalism as an antidote to the dislocations
resulting from rapid change, or modernization. Islamic fundamentalism in
particular is often explained as a defense against threats posed by
modernization to a religious group's traditional identity. Rejecting the
idea of fundamentalism as pathology, rational choice theorists point to
unequal socioeconomic development as the basic reason for the discontent
and alienation these individuals experience. Caught between an Islamic
culture that provides moral values and spiritual satisfaction and a
modernizing Western culture that provides access to material improvement,
many Muslims find an answer to resulting anxiety, alienation, and
disorientation through an absolute dedication to an Islamic way of life.
Accordingly, the Islamic fundamentalist is commonly depicted as an
acutely alienated individual, with dogmatic and rigid beliefs and an
inferiority complex, and as idealistic and devoted to an austere
lifestyle filled with struggle and sacrifice.
In the 1990s, however, empirical studies of Islamic groups have
questioned this view. V. J. Hoffman-Ladd, for example, suggests that
fundamentalists are not necessarily ignorant and downtrodden, according
to the stereotype, but frequently students and university graduates in
the physical sciences, although often students with rural or
traditionally religious backgrounds. In his view, fundamentalism is more
of a revolt of young people caught between a traditional past and a
secular Western education. R. Euben and Bernard Lewis argue separately
that there is a cognitive collision between Western and fundamentalist
worldviews. Focusing on Sunni fundamentalists, Euben argues that their
goals are perceived not as self-interests but rather as moral
imperatives, and that their worldviews differ in critical ways from
By having moral imperatives as their goals, the fundamentalist groups
perceive the world through the distorting lens of their religious
beliefs. Although the perceptions of the secular Arab terrorist groups
are not so clouded by religious beliefs, these groups have their own
ideological imperatives that distort their ability to see the world with
a reasonable amount of objectivity. As a result, their perception of the
world is as distorted as that of the fundamentalists. Consequently, the
secular groups are just as likely to misjudge political, economic, and
social realities as are the fundamentalist groups. For example, Harold M.
Cubert argues that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),
guided by Marxist economic ideology, has misjudged the reasons for
popular hostility in the Middle East against the West, "for such
hostility, where it exists, is generally in response to the threat which
Western culture is said to pose to Islamic values in the region rather
than the alleged economic exploitation of the region's inhabitants."
This trend has made the PFLP's appeals for class warfare irrelevant,
whereas calls by Islamist groups for preserving the region's cultural and
religious identity have been well received, at least among the nonsecular
sectors of the population.
Hazards of Terrorist Profiling
The isolation of attributes or traits shared by terrorists is a
formidable task because there are probably as many variations among
terrorists as there may be similarities. Efforts by scholars to create a
profile of a "typical" terrorist have had mixed success, if
any, and the assumption that there is such a profile has not been proven.
Post (1985:103) note that "behavioral scientists attempting to
understand the psychology of individuals drawn to this violent political
behavior have not succeeded in identifying a unique "terrorist
mindset." People who have joined terrorist groups have come from a
wide range of cultures, nationalities, and ideological causes, all strata
of society, and diverse professions. Their personalities and
characteristics are as diverse as those of people in the general
population. There seems to be general agreement among psychologists that
there is no particular psychological attribute that can be used to
describe the terrorist or any "personality" that is distinctive
Some terrorism experts are skeptical about terrorist profiling. For
example, Laqueur (1997:129) holds that the search for a "terrorist
personality" is a fruitless one. Paul Wilkinson (1997:193) maintains
that "We already know enough about terrorist behavior to discount
the crude hypothesis of a 'terrorist personality' or 'phenotype.'
The U.S. Secret Service once watched for people who fit the popular
profile of dangerousness--the lunatic, the loner, the threatener, the
hater. That profile, however, was shattered by the assassins themselves.
In interviews with assassins in prisons, hospitals, and homes, the Secret
Service learned an important lesson--to discard stereotypes. Killers are
not necessarily mentally ill, socially isolated, or even male. Now the
Secret Service looks for patterns of motive and behavior in potential
presidential assassins. The same research methodology applies to
potential terrorists. Assassins, like terrorists in general, use common
techniques. For example, the terrorist would not necessarily threaten to
assassinate a politician in advance, for to do so would make it more
difficult to carry out the deed. In its detailed study of 83 people who
tried to kill a public official or a celebrity in the United States in
the past 50 years, the Secret Service found that not one assassin had
made a threat. Imprisoned assassins told the Secret Service that a threat
would keep them from succeeding, so why would they threaten? This was the
second important lesson learned from the study.
The diversity of terrorist groups, each with members of widely
divergent national and sociocultural backgrounds, contexts, and goals, underscores
the hazards of making generalizations and developing a profile of members
of individual groups or of terrorists in general. Post cautions that
efforts to provide an overall "terrorist profile" are
misleading: "There are nearly as many variants of personality who
become involved in terrorist pursuits as there are variants of
Many theories are based on the assumption that the terrorist has an
"abnormal" personality with clearly identifiable character
traits that can be explained adequately with insights from psychology and
psychiatry. Based on his work with various West German terrorists, one
German psychologist, L. Sullwold (1981), divided terrorist leaders into
two broad classes of personality traits: the extrovert and the hostile neurotic,
or one having the syndrome of neurotic hostility. Extroverts are
unstable, uninhibited, inconsiderate, self-interested, and
unemotional--thrill seekers with little regard for the consequences of
their actions. Hostile neurotics share many features of the paranoid
personality--they are intolerant of criticism, suspicious, aggressive,
and defensive, as well as extremely sensitive to external hostility.
Sullwold also distinguishes between leaders and followers, in that
leaders are more likely to be people who combine a lack of scruples with
extreme self-assurance; they often lead by frightening or pressuring
Some researchers have created psychological profiles of terrorists by
using data provided by former terrorists who became informants, changed
their political allegiance, or were captured. Franco Ferracuti conducted
one such study of the Red Brigade terrorists in Italy. He analyzed the
career and personalities of arrested terrorists by collecting information
on demographic variables and by applying psychological tests to construct
a typology of terrorists. Like Post, Ferracuti also found, for the most
part, the absence of psychopathology (see Glossary), and he observed
similar personality characteristics, that is, a basic division between
extroverts and hostile neurotics. By reading and studying terrorist
literature, such as group communiqués, news media interviews, and memoirs
of former members, it would also be possible to ascertain certain
vulnerabilities within the group by pinpointing its sensitivities,
internal disagreements, and moral weaknesses. This kind of information
would assist in developing a psychological profile of the group.
Post points out that the social dynamics of the
"anarchic-ideologues," such as the RAF, differ strikingly from
the "nationalist-separatists," such as ETA or the Armenian
Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA). From studies of
terrorists, Post (1990) has observed indications that terrorists, such as
those of the ETA, who pursue a conservative goal, such as freedom for the
Basque people, have been reared in more traditional, intact, conservative
families, whereas anarchistic and left-wing terrorists (such as members
of the Meinhof Gang/RAF) come from less conventional, nonintact families.
In developing this dichotomy between separatists and anarchists, Post
draws on Robert Clark's studies of the social backgrounds of the
separatist terrorists of the ETA. Clark also found that ETA terrorists
are not alienated and psychologically distressed. Rather, they are
psychologically healthy people who are strongly supported by their
families and ethnic community.
Post bases his observations of anarchists on a broad-cased
investigation of the social background and psychology of 250 terrorists
(227 left-wing and 23 right-wing) conducted by a consortium of West
German social scientists under the sponsorship of the Ministry of
Interior and published in four volumes in 1981-84. According to these
West German analyses of RAF and June Second Movement terrorists, some 25
percent of the leftist terrorists had lost one or both parents by the age
of fourteen and 79 percent reported severe conflict with other people,
especially with parents (33 percent). The German authors conclude in
general that the 250 terrorist lives demonstrated a pattern of failure
both educationally and vocationally. Post concludes that
"nationalist-separatist" terrorists such as the ETA are loyal
to parents who are disloyal to their regime, whereas
"anarchic-ideologues" are disloyal to their parents'
generation, which is identified with the establishment.
Sociological Characteristics of Terrorists in the Cold War
A Basic Profile
Profiles of terrorists have included a profile constructed by Charles
A. Russell and Bowman H. Miller (1977), which has been widely mentioned
in terrorism-related studies, despite its limitations, and another study
that involved systematically analyzing biographical and social data on
about 250 German terrorists, both left-wing and right-right. Russell and
Bowman attempt to draw a sociological portrait or profile of the modern
urban terrorist based on a compilation and analysis of more than 350
individual terrorist cadres and leaders from Argentinian, Brazilian,
German, Iranian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Palestinian, Spanish, Turkish,
and Uruguayan terrorist groups active during the 1966-76 period, the
first decade of the contemporary terrorist era. Russell and Bowman
In summation, one can draw a general composite picture into which fit
the great majority of those terrorists from the eighteen urban guerrilla
groups examined here. To this point, they have been largely single males
aged 22 to 24...who have some university education, if not a college
degree. The female terrorists, except for the West German groups and an
occasional leading figure in the JRA and PFLP, are preoccupied with
support rather than operational roles....Whether having turned to
terrorism as a university student or only later, most were provided an
anarchist or Marxist world view, as well as recruited into terrorist
operations while in the university.
Russell and Miller's profile tends to substantiate some widely
reported sociological characteristics of terrorists in the 1970s, such as
the youth of most terrorists. Of particular interest is their finding
that urban terrorists have largely urban origins and that many terrorist
cadres have predominantly middle-class or even upper-class backgrounds
and are well educated, with many having university degrees. However, like
most such profiles that are based largely on secondary sources, such as
newspaper articles and academic studies, the Russell and Miller profile
cannot be regarded as definitive. Furthermore, their methodological
approach lacks validity. It is fallacious to assume that one can compare
characteristics of members of numerous terrorist groups in various
regions of the world and then make generalizations about these traits.
For example, the authors' conclusion that terrorists are largely single
young males from urban, middle-class or upper-middle-class backgrounds
with some university education would not accurately describe many members
of terrorist groups operating in the 1990s. The rank and file of Latin
American groups such as the FARC and Shining Path, Middle Eastern groups
such as the Armed Islamic Group (Group Islamique Armé--GIA), Hamas, and
Hizballah, Asian groups such as the LTTE, and Irish groups such as the
IRA are poorly educated. Although the Russell and Miller profile is
dated, it can still be used as a basic guide for making some
generalizations about typical personal attributes of terrorists, in
combination with other information.
Edgar O'Ballance (1979) suggests the following essential
characteristics of the "successful" terrorist: dedication,
including absolute obedience to the leader of the movement; personal
bravery; a lack of feelings of pity or remorse even though victims are
likely to include innocent men, women, and children; a fairly high
standard of intelligence, for a terrorist must collect and analyze information,
devise and implement complex plans, and evade police and security forces;
a fairly high degree of sophistication, in order to be able to blend into
the first-class section on airliners, stay at first-class hotels, and mix
inconspicuously with the international executive set; and be a reasonably
good educational background and possession of a fair share of general
knowledge (a university degree is almost mandatory), including being able
to speak English as well as one other major language.
Increasingly, terrorist groups are recruiting members who possess a
high degree of intellectualism and idealism, are highly educated, and are
well trained in a legitimate profession. However, this may not
necessarily be the case with the younger, lower ranks of large
guerrilla/terrorist organizations in less-developed countries, such as
the FARC, the PKK, the LTTE, and Arab groups, as well as with some of the
leaders of these groups.
Russell and Miller found that the average age of an active terrorist
member (as opposed to a leader) was between 22 and 25, except for
Palestinian, German, and Japanese terrorists, who were between 20 and 25
years old. Another source explains that the first generation of RAF
terrorists went underground at approximately 22 to 23 years of age, and
that the average age shifted to 28 to 30 years for second-generation
terrorists (June Second Movement). In summarizing the literature about
international terrorists in the 1980s, Taylor (1988) characterizes their
demography as being in their early twenties and unmarried, but he notes
that there is considerable variability from group to group. Age trends
for members of many terrorist groups were dropping in the 1980s, with
various groups, such as the LTTE, having many members in the 16- to 17
year-old age level and even members who were preteens. Laqueur notes that
Arab and Iranian groups tend to use boys aged 14 to 15 for dangerous
missions, in part because they are less likely to question instructions
and in part because they are less likely to attract attention.
In many countries wracked by ethnic, political, or religious violence
in the developing world, such as Algeria, Colombia, and Sri Lanka, new
members of terrorist organizations are recruited at younger and younger
ages. Adolescents and preteens in these countries are often receptive to
terrorist recruitment because they have witnessed killings first-hand and
thus see violence as the only way to deal with grievances and problems.
In general, terrorist leaders tend to be much older. Brazil's Carlos
Marighella, considered to be the leading theoretician of urban terrorism,
was 58 at the time of his violent death on November 6, 1969. Mario
Santucho, leader of Argentina's People's Revolutionary Army (ERP), was 40
at the time of his violent death in July 1976. Raúl Sendic, leader of the
Uruguayan Tupamaros, was 42 when his group began operating in the late
1960s. Renato Curcio, leader of the Italian Red Brigades, was 35 at the
time of his arrest in early 1976. Leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang were
in their 30s or 40s. Palestinian terrorist leaders are often in their 40s
Educational, Occupational, and Socioeconomic Background
Terrorists in general have more than average education, and very few
Western terrorists are uneducated or illiterate. Russell and Miller found
that about two-thirds of terrorist group members had some form of
university training. The occupations of terrorist recruits have varied
widely, and there does not appear to be any occupation in particular that
produces terrorists, other than the ranks of the unemployed and students.
Between 50 and 70 percent of the younger members of Latin American urban
terrorist groups were students. The Free University of Berlin was a
particularly fertile recruiting ground for Germany's June Second Movement
and Baader-Meinhof Gang.
Highly educated recruits were normally given leadership positions,
whether at the cell level or national level. The occupations of terrorist
leaders have likewise varied. Older members and leaders frequently were
professionals such as doctors, bankers, lawyers, engineers, journalists,
university professors, and mid-level government executives. Marighella
was a politician and former congressman. The PFLP's George Habash was a
medical doctor. The PLO's Yasir Arafat was a graduate engineer. Mario
Santucho was an economist. Raúl Sendic and the Baader-Meinhof's Horst
Mahler were lawyers. Urika Meinhof was a journalist. The RAF and Red
Brigades were composed almost exclusively of disenchanted intellectuals.
It may be somewhat misleading to regard terrorists in general as
former professionals. Many terrorists who have been able to remain
anonymous probably continue to practice their legitimate professions and
moonlight as terrorists only when they receive instructions to carry out
a mission. This may be more true about separatist organizations, such as
the ETA and IRA, whose members are integrated into their communities,
than about members of anarchist groups, such as the former Baader-Meinhof
Gang, who are more likely to be on wanted posters, on the run, and too
stressed to be able to function in a normal day-time job. In response to
police infiltration, the ETA, for example, instituted a system of
"sleeping commandos." These passive ETA members, both men and women,
lead seemingly normal lives, with regular jobs, but after work they are
trained for specific ETA missions. Usually unaware of each others' real
identities, they receive coded instructions from an anonymous source.
After carrying out their assigned actions, they resume their normal
lives. Whereas terrorism for anarchistic groups such as the RAF and Red
Brigades was a full-time profession, young ETA members serve an average
of only three years before they are rotated back into the mainstream of
Russell and Miller found that more than two-thirds of the terrorists
surveyed came from middle-class or even upper-class backgrounds. With the
main exception of large guerrilla/terrorist organizations such as the
FARC, the PKK, the LTTE, and the Palestinian or Islamic fundamentalist
terrorist organizations, terrorists come from middle-class families.
European and Japanese terrorists are more likely the products of
affluence and higher education than of poverty. For example, the RAF and
Red Brigades were composed almost exclusively of middle-class dropouts,
and most JRA members were from middle-class families and were university
dropouts. Well-off young people, particularly in the United States, West
Europe, and Japan, have been attracted to political radicalism out of a
profound sense of guilt over the plight of the world's largely poor
population. The backgrounds of the Baader-Meinhof Gang's members
illustrate this in particular: Suzanne Albrecht, daughter of a wealthy
maritime lawyer; Baader, the son of an historian; Meinhof, the daughter
of an art historian; Horst Mahler, the son of a dentist; Holger Meins,
the son of a business executive. According to Russell and Miller, about
80 percent of the Baader-Meinhof Gang had university experience.
Major exceptions to the middle- and upper-class origins of terrorist
groups in general include three large organizations examined in this
study--the FARC, the LTTE, and the PKK--as well as the paramilitary
groups in Northern Ireland. Both the memberships of the Protestant
groups, such as the Ulster Volunteer Force, and the Catholic groups, such
as the Official IRA, the Provisional IRA, and the Irish National
Liberation Army (INLA), are almost all drawn from the working class.
These paramilitary groups are also different in that their members
normally do not have any university education. Although Latin America has
been an exception, terrorists in much of the developing world tend to be
drawn from the lower sections of society. The rank and file of Arab
terrorist organizations include substantial numbers of poor people, many
of them homeless refugees. Arab terrorist leaders are almost all from the
middle and upper classes.
Terrorists are generally people who feel alienated from society and
have a grievance or regard themselves as victims of an injustice. Many
are dropouts. They are devoted to their political or religious cause and
do not regard their violent actions as criminal. They are loyal to each
other but will deal with a disloyal member more harshly than with the enemy.
They are people with cunning, skill, and initiative, as well as
ruthlessness. In order to be initiated into the group, the new recruit
may be expected to perform an armed robbery or murder. They show no fear,
pity, or remorse. The sophistication of the terrorist will vary depending
on the significance and context of the terrorist action. The Colombian
hostage-takers who infiltrated an embassy party and the Palace of
Justice, for example, were far more sophisticated than would be, for
example, Punjab terrorists who gun down bus passengers. Terrorists have
the ability to use a variety of weapons, vehicles, and communications
equipment and are familiar with their physical environment, whether it be
a 747 jumbo jet or a national courthouse. A terrorist will rarely operate
by himself/herself or in large groups, unless the operation requires
taking over a large building, for example.
Members of Right-wing terrorist groups in France and Germany, as
elsewhere, generally tend to be young, relatively uneducated members of
the lower classes (see Table 1, Appendix). Ferracuti and F. Bruno
(1981:209) list nine psychological traits common to right-wing
terrorists: ambivalence toward authority; poor and defective insight;
adherence to conventional behavioral patterns; emotional detachment from
the consequences of their actions; disturbances in sexual identity with
role uncertainties; superstition, magic, and stereotyped thinking; etero-
and auto-destructiveness; low-level educational reference patterns; and
perception of weapons as fetishes and adherence to violent subcultural
norms. These traits make up what Ferracuti and Bruno call an
"authoritarian-extremist personality." They conclude that
right-wing terrorism may be more dangerous than left-wing terrorism
because "in right-wing terrorism, the individuals are frequently
psychopathological and the ideology is empty: ideology is outside
reality, and the terrorists are both more normal and more
In the past, most terrorists have been unmarried. Russell and Miller
found that, according to arrest statistics, more than 75 to 80 percent of
terrorists in the various regions in the late 1970s were single.
Encumbering family responsibilities are generally precluded by
requirements for mobility, flexibility, initiative, security, and total
dedication to a revolutionary cause. Roughly 20 percent of foreign
terrorist group memberships apparently consisted of married couples, if
Russell and Miller's figure on single terrorists was accurate.
Terrorists are healthy and strong but generally undistinguished in
appearance and manner. The physical fitness of some may be enhanced by
having had extensive commando training. They tend to be of medium height
and build to blend easily into crowds. They tend not to have abnormal
physiognomy and peculiar features, genetic or acquired, that would
facilitate their identification. Their dress and hair styles are
inconspicuous. In addition to their normal appearance, they talk and
behave like normal people. They may even be well dressed if, for example,
they need to be in the first-class section of an airliner targeted for
hijacking. They may resort to disguise or plastic surgery depending on
whether they are on police wanted posters.
If a terrorist's face is not known, it is doubtful that a suspected
terrorist can be singled out of a crowd only on the basis of physical
features. Unlike the yakuza (mobsters) in Japan, terrorists
generally do not have distinguishing physical features such as colorful
tatoos. For example, author Christopher Dobson (1975) describes the Black
September's Salah Khalef ("Abu Iyad") as "of medium height
and sturdy build, undistinguished in a crowd." When Dobson, hoping
for an interview, was introduced to him in Cairo in the early 1970s Abu
Iyad made "so little an impression" during the brief encounter
that Dobson did not realize until later that he had already met Israel's
most-wanted terrorist. Another example is Imad Mughniyah, head of
Hizballah's special operations, who is described by Hala Jaber
(1997:120), as "someone you would pass in the street without even
noticing or giving a second glance."
Origin: Rural or Urban
Guerrilla/terrorist organizations have tended to recruit members from
the areas where they are expected to operate because knowing the area of
operation is a basic principle of urban terrorism and guerrilla warfare.
According to Russell and Miller, about 90 percent of the Argentine ERP
and Montoneros came from the Greater Buenos Aires area. Most of
Marighella's followers came from Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, and São
Paulo. More than 70 percent of the Tupamaros were natives of Montevideo.
Most German and Italian terrorists were from urban areas: the Germans
from Hamburg and West Berlin; the Italians from Genoa, Milan, and Rome.
Most terrorists are male. Well over 80 percent of terrorist operations
in the 1966-76 period were directed, led, and executed by males. The
number of arrested female terrorists in Latin America suggested that
female membership was less than 16 percent. The role of women in Latin
American groups such as the Tupamaros was limited to intelligence
collection, serving as couriers or nurses, maintaining safehouses, and so
Various terrorism specialists have noted that the number of women
involved in terrorism has greatly exceeded the number of women involved
in crime. However, no statistics have been offered to substantiate this
assertion. Considering that the number of terrorist actions perpetrated
worldwide in any given year is probably minuscule in comparison with the
common crimes committed in the same period, it is not clear if the
assertion is correct. Nevertheless, it indeed seems as if more women are
involved in terrorism than actually are, perhaps because they tend to get
more attention than women involved in common crime.
Although Russell and Miller's profile is more of a sociological than a
psychological profile, some of their conclusions raise psychological
issues, such as why women played a more prominent role in left-wing
terrorism in the 1966-76 period than in violent crime in general. Russell
and Miller's data suggest that the terrorists examined were largely
males, but the authors also note the secondary support role played by
women in most terrorist organizations, particularly the Uruguayan
Tupamaros and several European groups. For example, they point out that
women constituted one-third of the personnel of the RAF and June Second
Movement, and that nearly 60 percent of the RAF and June Second Movement
who were at large in August 1976 were women.
Russell and Miller's contention that "urban terrorism remains a
predominantly male phenomenon," with women functioning mainly in a
secondary support role, may underestimate the active, operational role
played by women in Latin American and West European terrorist
organizations in the 1970s and 1980s. Insurgent groups in Latin America
in the 1970s and 1980s reportedly included large percentages of female
combatants: 30 percent of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)
combatants in Nicaragua by the late 1970s; one-third of the combined
forces of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El
Salvador; and one-half of the Shining Path terrorists in Peru. However,
because these percentages may have been inflated by the insurgent groups
to impress foreign feminist sympathizers, no firm conclusions can be
drawn in the absence of reliable statistical data.
Nevertheless, women have played prominent roles in numerous urban
terrorist operations in Latin America. For example, the second in command
of the Sandinista takeover of Nicaragua's National Palace in Managua,
Nicaragua, in late August 1979 was Dora María Téllez Argüello. Several
female terrorists participated in the takeover of the Dominican Embassy
in Bogotá, Colombia, by the 19th of April Movement (M-19) in
1980, and one of them played a major role in the hostage negotiations.
The late Mélida Anaya Montes ("Ana María") served as second in
command of the People's Liberation Forces (Fuerzas Populares de Liberación--FPL)
prior to her murder at age 54 by FPL rivals in 1983. Half of the 35 M-19
terrorists who raided Colombia's Palace of Justice on November 6, 1985,
were women, and they were among the fiercest fighters.
Leftist terrorist groups or operations in general have frequently been
led by women. Many women joined German terrorist groups. Germany's Red
Zora, a terrorist group active between the late 1970s and 1987, recruited
only women and perpetrated many terrorist actions. In 1985 the RAF's 22
core activists included 13 women. In 1991 women formed about 50 percent
of the RAF membership and about 80 percent of the group's supporters,
according to MacDonald. Of the eight individuals on Germany's
"Wanted Terrorists" list in 1991, five were women. Of the 22
terrorists being hunted by German police that year, 13 were women.
Infamous German female terrorist leaders have included Susanne Albrecht,
Gudrun Ensselin\Esslin, and Ulrike Meinhof of the Baader-Meinhof Gang.
There are various theories as to why German women have been so drawn to
violent groups. One is that they are more emancipated and liberated than
women in other European countries. Another, as suggested to Eileen
MacDonald by Astrid Proll, an early member of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, is
that the anger of German women is part of a national guilt complex, the
feeling that if their mothers had had a voice in Hitler's time many of
Hitler's atrocities would not have happened.
Other noted foreign female terrorists have included Fusako Shigenobu
of the JRA (Shigenobu, 53, was reported in April 1997 to be with 14 other
JRA members--two other women and 12 men--training FARC guerrillas in
terror tactics in the Urabá Region of Colombia); Norma Ester Arostito,
who cofounded the Argentine Montoneros and served as its chief ideologist
until her violent death in 1976; Margherita Cagol and Susana Ronconi of
the Red Brigades; Ellen Mary Margaret McKearney of the IRA; Norma Ester
Arostito of the Montoneros; and Geneveve Forest Tarat of the ETA, who
played a key role in the spectacular ETA-V bomb assassination of Premier
Admiral Carrero Blanco on December 20, 1973, as well as in the bombing of
the Café Rolando in Madrid in which 11 people were killed and more than
70 wounded on September 13, 1974. ETA members told journalist Eileen
MacDonald that ETA has always had female commandos and operators. Women
make up about 10 percent of imprisoned ETA members, so that may be
roughly the percentage of women in ETA ranks.
Infamous female commandos have included Leila Khaled, a beautiful PFLP
commando who hijacked a TWA passenger plane on August 29, 1969, and then
blew it up after evacuating the passengers, without causing any
casualties (see Leila Khaled, Appendix). One of the first female
terrorists of modern international terrorism, she probably inspired
hundreds of other angry young women around the world who admired the
thrilling pictures of her in newspapers and magazines worldwide showing
her cradling a weapon, with her head demurely covered. Another PFLP
female hijacker, reportedly a Christian Iraqi, was sipping champagne in
the cocktail bar of a Japan Air Lines Jumbo jet on July 20, 1973, when
the grenade that she was carrying strapped to her waist exploded, killing
Women have also played a significant role in Italian terrorist groups.
Leonard Weinberg and William Lee Eubank (1987: 248-53) have been able to
quantify that role by developing a data file containing information on
about 2,512 individuals who were arrested or wanted by police for
terrorism from January 1970 through June 1984. Of those people, 451, or
18 percent, were female. Of those females, fewer than 10 percent were
affiliated with neofascist groups (see Table 2, Appendix). The rest
belonged to leftist terrorist groups, particularly the Red Brigades
(Brigate Rosse--BR), which had 215 female members. Weinberg and Eubank
found that the Italian women surveyed were represented at all levels of
terrorist groups: 33 (7 percent) played leadership roles and 298 (66
percent) were active "regulars" who took part in terrorist
actions. (see Table 3, Appendix). Weinberg and Eubank found that before
the women became involved in terrorism they tended to move from small and
medium-sized communities to big cities (see Table 4, Appendix). The
largest group of the women (35 percent) had been students before becoming
terrorists, 20 percent had been teachers, and 23 percent had held
white-collar jobs as clerks, secretaries, technicians, and nurses (see
Table 5, Appendix). Only a few of the women belonged to political parties
or trade union organizations, whereas 80 (17 percent) belonged to leftist
extraparliamentary movements. Also noteworthy is the fact that 121 (27
percent) were related by family to other terrorists. These researchers
concluded that for many women joining a terrorist group resulted from a
small group or family decision.
Characteristics of Female Terrorists
German intelligence officials told Eileen MacDonald that
"absolute practicality...was particularly noticeable with women
revolutionaries." By this apparently was meant coolness under
pressure. However, Germany's female terrorists, such as those in the
Baader-Meinhof Gang, have been described by a former member as "all
pretty male-dominated; I mean they had male characteristics." These
included interests in technical things, such as repairing cars, driving,
accounting, and organizing. For example, the RAF's Astrid Proll was a
first-rate mechanic, Gudrun Ensslin was in charge of the RAF's finances,
and Ulrike Meinhof sought out apartments for the group.
According to Christian Lochte, the Hamburg director of the Office for
the Protection of the Constitution, the most important qualities that a
female member could bring to terrorist groups, which are fairly unstable,
were practicality and pragmatism: "In wartime women are much more
capable of keeping things together," Lochte told MacDonald.
"This is very important for a group of terrorists, for their
dynamics. Especially a group like the RAF, where there are a lot of
quarrels about strategy, about daily life. Women come to the forefront in
such a group, because they are practical."
Galvin points out the tactical value of women in a terrorist group. An
attack by a female terrorist is normally less expected than one by a man.
"A woman, trading on the impression of being a mother, nonviolent,
fragile, even victim like, can more easily pass scrutiny by security
forces...." There are numerous examples illustrating the tactical
surprise factor that can be achieved by female terrorists. A LTTE female
suicide commando was able to get close enough to Indian Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991, to garland him with flowers and then set
off her body bomb, killing him, herself, and 17 others. Nobody suspected
the attractive Miss Kim of carrying a bomb aboard a Korean Air Flight
858. And Leila Khaled, dressed in elegant clothes and strapped with
grenades, was able to pass through various El Al security checks without
arousing suspicion. Female terrorists have also been used to draw male
targets into a situation in which they could be kidnapped or
Dedication, Inner Strength, Ruthlessness
Lochte also considered female terrorists to be stronger, more
dedicated, faster, and more ruthless than male terrorists, as well as
more capable of withstanding suffering because "They have better
nerves than men, and they can be both passive and active at the same
time." The head of the German counterterrorist squad told MacDonald
that the difference between the RAF men and women who had been caught after
the fall of the Berlin Wall was that the women had been far more reticent
about giving information than the men, and when the women did talk it was
for reasons of guilt as opposed to getting a reduced prison sentence, as
in the case of their male comrades.
According to MacDonald, since the late 1960s, when women began
replacing imprisoned or interned male IRA members as active participants,
IRA women have played an increasingly important role in
"frontline" actions against British troops and Protestant paramilitary
units, as well as in terrorist actions against the British public. As a
result, in the late 1960s the IRA merged its separate women's sections
within the movement into one IRA. MacDonald cites several notorious IRA
women terrorists. They include Marion Price, 19, and her sister (dubbed
"the Sisters of Death"), who were part of the IRA's 1973
bombing campaign in London. In the early 1970s, Dr. Rose Dugdale,
daughter of a wealthy English family, hijacked a helicopter and used it
to try to bomb a police barracks. In 1983 Anna Moore was sentenced to
life imprisonment for her role in bombing a Northern Ireland pub in which
17 were killed. Ella O'Dwyer and Martina Anderson, 23, a former local
beauty queen, received life sentences in 1986 for their part in the plot
to bomb London and 16 seaside resorts. Another such terrorist was Mairead
Farrell, who was shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988. A year before
her death, Farrell, who was known for her strong feminist views, said in
an interview that she was attracted to the IRA because she was treated
the same as "the lads." As of 1992, Evelyn Glenholmes was a
fugitive for her role in a series of London bombings.
MacDonald interviewed a few of these and a number of other female IRA
terrorists, whom she described as all ordinary, some more friendly than
others. Most were unmarried teenagers or in their early twenties when
they became involved in IRA terrorism. None had been recruited by a
boyfriend. When asked why they joined, all responded with "How could
we not?" replies. They all shared a hatred for the British troops
(particularly their foul language and manners) and a total conviction
that violence was justified. One female IRA volunteer told MacDonald that
"Everyone is treated the same. During training, men and women are
equally taught the use of explosives and weapons."
Female terrorists can be far more dangerous than male terrorists
because of their ability to focus single-mindedly on the cause and the
goal. Lochte noted that the case of Susanne Albrecht demonstrated this
total dedication to a cause, to the exclusion of all else, even family
ties and upbringing. The RAF's Suzanne Albrecht, daughter of a wealthy
maritime lawyer, set up a close family friend, Jurgen Ponto, one of West
Germany's richest and most powerful men and chairman of the Dresden Bank,
for assassination in his home, even though she later admitted to having
experienced nothing but kindness and generosity from him. Lochte told
MacDonald that if Albrecht had been a man, she would have tried to
convince her RAF comrade to pick another target to kidnap. "Her
attitude was," Lochte explained, "to achieve the goal, to go
straight ahead without any interruptions, any faltering. This attitude is
not possible with men." (Albrecht, however, reportedly was submitted
to intense pressure by her comrades to exploit her relationship with the
banker, and the plan was only to kidnap him rather than kill him.) After
many years of observing German terrorists, Lochte concluded, in his
comments to MacDonald, that women would not hesitate to shoot at once if
they were cornered. "For anyone who loves his life," he told
MacDonald, "it is a good idea to shoot the women terrorists
first." In his view, woman terrorists feel they need to show that
they can be even more ruthless than men.
Germany's neo-Nazi groups also have included female members, who have
played major roles, according to MacDonald. For example, Sibylle
Vorderbrügge, 26, joined a notorious neo-Nazi group in 1980 after
becoming infatuated with its leader. She then became a bomb-throwing
terrorist expressly to please him. According to MacDonald, she was a good
example to Christian Lochte of how women become very dedicated to a
cause, even more than men. "One day she had never heard of the neo-Nazis,
the next she was a terrorist." Lochte commented, "One day she
had no interest in the subject; the next she was 100 percent terrorist;
she became a fighter overnight."
Female Motivation for Terrorism
What motivates women to become terrorists? Galvin suggests that women,
being more idealistic than men, may be more impelled to perpetrate
terrorist activities in response to failure to achieve change or the
experience of death or injury to a loved one. Galvin also argues that the
female terrorist enters into terrorism with different motivations and
expectations than the male terrorist. In contrast to men, who Galvin
characterizes as being enticed into terrorism by the promise of
"power and glory," females embark on terrorism "attracted
by promises of a better life for their children and the desire to meet
people's needs that are not being met by an intractable
establishment." Considering that females are less likely than males
to have early experience with guns, terrorist membership is therefore a
more active process for women than for men because women have more to
learn. In the view of Susana Ronconi, one of Italy's most notorious and
violent terrorists in the 1970s, the ability to commit violence did not
have anything to do with gender. Rather, one's personality, background,
and experience were far more important.
Companionship is another motivating factor in a woman's joining a
terrorist group. MacDonald points out that both Susanna Ronconi and
Ulrike Meinhof "craved love, comradeship, and emotional
support" from their comrades.
Feminism has also been a motivating ideology for many female
terrorists. Many of them have come from societies in which women are
repressed, such as Middle Eastern countries and North Korea, or Catholic
countries, such as in Latin America, Spain, Ireland, and Italy. Even
Germany was repressive for women when the Baader-Meinhof Gang emerged.
In profiling the terrorist, some generalizations can be made on the
basis on this examination of the literature on the psychology and
sociology of terrorism published over the past three decades. One finding
is that, unfortunately for profiling purposes, there does not appear to
be a single terrorist personality . This seems to be the consensus among
terrorism psychologists as well as political scientists and sociologists.
The personalities of terrorists may be as diverse as the personalities of
people in any lawful profession. There do not appear to be any visibly
detectable personality traits that would allow authorities to identify a
Another finding is that the terrorist is not diagnosably psychopathic
or mentally sick. Contrary to the stereotype that the terrorist is a
psychopath or otherwise mentally disturbed, the terrorist is actually
quite sane, although deluded by an ideological or religious way of
viewing the world. The only notable exceptions encountered in this study
were the German anarchist terrorists, such as the Baader-Meinhof Gang and
their affiliated groups. The German terrorists seem to be a special case,
however, because of their inability to come to terms psychologically and
emotionally with the shame of having parents who were either passive or
active supporters of Hitler.
The highly selective terrorist recruitment process explains why most terrorist
groups have only a few pathological members. Candidates who exhibit signs
of psychopathy or other mental illness are deselected in the interest of
group survival. Terrorist groups need members whose behavior appears to
be normal and who would not arouse suspicion. A member who exhibits
traits of psychopathy or any noticeable degree of mental illness would
only be a liability for the group, whatever his or her skills. That
individual could not be depended on to carry out the assigned mission. On
the contrary, such an individual would be more likely to sabotage the
group by, for example, botching an operation or revealing group secrets
if captured. Nor would a psychotic member be likely to enhance group
solidarity. A former PKK spokesman has even stated publicly that the
PKK's policy was to exclude psychopaths.
This is not to deny, however, that certain psychological types of
people may be attracted to terrorism. In his examination of
autobiographies, court records, and rare interviews, Jerrold M. Post
(1990:27) found that "people with particular personality traits and
tendencies are drawn disproportionately to terrorist careers."
Authors such as Walter Laqueur, Post notes, "have characterized
terrorists as action-oriented, aggressive people who are stimulus-hungry
and seek excitement." Even if Post and some other psychologists are
correct that individuals with narcissistic personalities and low
self-esteem are attracted to terrorism, the early psychological
development of individuals in their pre-terrorist lives does not
necessarily mean that terrorists are mentally disturbed and can be
identified by any particular traits associated with their early
psychological backgrounds. Many people in other high-risk professions,
including law enforcement, could also be described as
"action-oriented, aggressive people who are stimulus-hungry and seek
excitement." Post's views notwithstanding, there is actually
substantial evidence that terrorists are quite sane.
Although terrorist groups are highly selective in whom they recruit,
it is not inconceivable that a psychopathic individual can be a top
leader or the top leader of the terrorist group. In fact, the
actions and behavior of the ANO's Abu Nidal, the PKK's Abdullah Ocalan,
the LTTE's Velupillai Prabhakaran, the FARC's Jorge Briceño Suárez, and
Aum Shinrikyo's Shoko Asahara might lead some to believe that they all
share psychopathic or sociopathic symptoms. Nevertheless, the question of
whether any or all of these guerrilla/terrorist leaders are psychopathic
or sociopathic is best left for a qualified psychologist to determine. If
the founder of a terrorist group or cult is a psychopath, there is little
that the membership could do to remove him, without suffering
retaliation. Thus, that leader may never have to be subjected to the
group's standards of membership or leadership.
In addition to having normal personalities and not being diagnosably
mentally disturbed, a terrorist's other characteristics make him or her
practically indistinguishable from normal people, at least in terms of
outward appearance. Terrorist groups recruit members who have a normal or
average physical appearance. As a result, the terrorist's physical
appearance is unlikely to betray his or her identity as a terrorist,
except in cases where the terrorist is well known, or security personnel
already have a physical description or photo. A terrorist's physical
features and dress naturally will vary depending on race, culture, and
nationality. Both sexes are involved in a variety of roles, but men
predominate in leadership roles. Terrorists tend to be in their twenties
and to be healthy and strong; there are relatively few older terrorists,
in part because terrorism is a physically demanding occupation. Training
alone requires considerable physical fitness. Terrorist leaders are
older, ranging from being in their thirties to their sixties.
The younger terrorist who hijacks a jetliner, infiltrates a government
building, lobs a grenade into a sidewalk café, attempts to assassinate a
head of state, or detonates a body-bomb on a bus will likely be
appropriately dressed and acting normal before initiating the attack. The
terrorist needs to be inconspicuous in order to approach the target and
then to escape after carrying out the attack, if escape is part of the
plan. The suicide terrorist also needs to approach a target
inconspicuously. This need to appear like a normal citizen would also
apply to the FARC, the LTTE, the PKK, and other guerrilla organizations,
whenever they use commandos to carry out urban terrorist operations. It
should be noted that regular FARC, LTTE, and PKK members wear uniforms
and operate in rural areas. These three groups do, however, also engage
in occasional acts of urban terrorism, the LTTE more than the FARC and
PKK. On those occasions, the LTTE and PKK terrorists wear civilian
clothes. FARC guerrillas are more likely to wear uniforms when carrying
out their acts of terrorism, such as kidnappings and murders, in small
Terrorist and guerrilla groups do not seem to be identified by any
particular social background or educational level. They range from the
highly educated and literate intellectuals of the 17 November
Revolutionary Organization (17N) to the scientifically savvy
"ministers" of the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist cult, to the peasant
boys and girls forcibly inducted into the FARC, the LTTE, and the PKK
Most terrorist leaders have tended to be well educated. Examples
include Illich Ramírez Sánchez ("The Jackal") and the Shining
Path's Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, both of whom are currently in prison.
Indeed, terrorists are increasingly well educated and capable of
sophisticated, albeit highly biased, political analysis. In contrast to
Abu Nidal, for example, who is a relatively uneducated leader of the old
generation and one who appears to be motivated more by vengefulness and
greed than any ideology, the new generation of Islamic terrorists, be
they key operatives such as the imprisoned Ramzi Yousef, or leaders such
as Osama bin Laden, are well educated and motivated by their religious
ideologies. The religiously motivated terrorists are more dangerous than
the politically motivated terrorists because they are the ones most
likely to develop and use weapons of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in
pursuit of their messianic or apocalyptic visions. The level of
intelligence of a terrorist group's leaders may determine the longevity
of the group. The fact that the 17 November group has operated
successfully for a quarter century must be indicative of the intelligence
of its leaders.
In short, a terrorist will look, dress, and behave like a normal
person, such as a university student, until he or she executes the
assigned mission. Therefore, considering that this physical and
behavioral description of the terrorist could describe almost any normal
young person, terrorist profiling based on personality, physical, or
sociological traits would not appear to be particularly useful.
If terrorists cannot be detected by personality or physical traits,
are there other early warning indicators that could alert security
personnel? The most important indicator would be having intelligence
information on the individual, such as a "watch list," a
description, and a photo, or at least a threat made by a terrorist group.
Even a watch-list is not fool-proof, however, as demonstrated by the case
of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who, despite having peculiar features and
despite being on a terrorist watch-list, passed through U.S. Customs
Unanticipated stress and nervousness may be a hazard of the
profession, and a terrorist's nervousness could alert security personnel
in instances where, for example, a hijacker is boarding an aircraft, or
hostage-takers posing as visitors are infiltrating a government building.
The terrorist undoubtedly has higher levels of stress than most people in
lawful professions. However, most terrorists are trained to cope with
nervousness. Female terrorists are known to be particularly cool under
pressure. Leila Khaled and Kim Hyun Hee mention in their autobiographies
how they kept their nervousness under control by reminding themselves of,
and being totally convinced of, the importance of their missions.
Indeed, because of their coolness under pressure, their obsessive
dedication to the cause of their group, and their need to prove
themselves to their male comrades, women make formidable terrorists and
have proven to be more dangerous than male terrorists. Hizballah, the
LTTE, and PKK are among the groups that have used attractive young women
as suicide body-bombers to great effect. Suicide body-bombers are trained
to be totally at ease and confident when approaching their target,
although not all suicide terrorists are able to act normally in
approaching their target.
International terrorists generally appear to be predominately either
leftist or Islamic. A profiling system could possibly narrow the
statistical probability that an unknown individual boarding an airliner
might be a terrorist if it could be accurately determined that most
terrorists are of a certain race, culture, religion, or nationality. In
the absence of statistical data, however, it cannot be determined here
whether members of any particular race, religion, or nationality are
responsible for most acts of international terrorism. Until those figures
become available, smaller-scale terrorist group profiles might be more
useful. For example, a case could be made that U.S. Customs personnel
should give extra scrutiny to the passports of young foreigners claiming
to be "students" and meeting the following general description:
physically fit males in their early twenties of Egyptian, Jordanian,
Yemeni, Iraqi, Algerian, Syrian, or Sudanese nationality, or Arabs
bearing valid British passports, in that order. These characteristics
generally describe the core membership of Osama bin Laden's Arab
"Afghans" (see Glossary), also known as the Armed Islamic
Movement (AIM), who are being trained to attack the United States with
Terrorist Group Mindset Profiling
This review of the academic literature on terrorism suggests that the
psychological approach by itself is insufficient in understanding what
motivates terrorists, and that an interdisciplinary approach is needed to
more adequately understand terrorist motivation. Terrorists are motivated
not only by psychological factors but also very real political, social,
religious, and economic factors, among others. These factors vary widely.
Accordingly, the motivations, goals, and ideologies of ethnic separatist,
anarchist, social revolutionary, religious fundamentalist, and new
religious terrorist groups differ significantly. Therefore, each
terrorist group must be examined within its own cultural, economic,
political, and social context in order to better understand the
motivations of its individual members and leaders and their particular
Although it may not be possible to isolate a so-called terrorist
personality, each terrorist group has its own distinctive mindset. The
mindset of a terrorist group reflects the personality and ideology of its
top leader and other circumstantial traits, such as typology (religious,
social revolutionary, separatist, anarchist, and so forth), a particular
ideology or religion, culture, and nationality, as well as group
Jerrold Post dismisses the concept of a terrorist mindset on the basis
that behavioral scientists have not succeeded in identifying it. Post
confuses the issue, however, by treating the term "mindset" as
a synonym for personality. The two terms are not synonymous. One's personality
is a distinctive pattern of thought, emotion, and behavior that define
one's way of interacting with the physical and social environment,
whereas a mindset is a fixed mental attitude or a fixed state of mind.
In trying to better define mindset, the term becomes more meaningful
when considered within the context of a group. The new terrorist recruit
already has a personality when he or she joins the group, but the new
member acquires the group's mindset only after being fully indoctrinated
and familiarized with its ideology, point of view, leadership attitudes,
ways of operating, and so forth. Each group will have its own distinctive
mindset, which will be a reflection of the top leader's personality and
ideology, as well as group type. For example, the basic mindset of a
religious terrorist group, such as Hamas and Hizballah, is Islamic
fundamentalism. The basic mindset of an Irish terrorist is anti-British
sectarianism and separatism. The basic mindset of an ETA member is
anti-Spanish separatism. The basic mindset of a 17 November member is
antiestablishment, anti-US, anti-NATO, and anti-German nationalism and
Marxism-Leninism. And the basic mindset of an Aum Shinrikyo member is
worship of Shoko Asahara, paranoia against the Japanese and U.S.
governments, and millenarian, messianic apocalypticism.
Terrorist group mindsets determine how the group and its individual
members view the world and how they lash out against it. Knowing the
mindset of a group enables a terrorism analyst to better determine the
likely targets of the group and its likely behavior under varying
circumstances. It is surprising, therefore, that the concept of the
terrorist mindset has not received more attention by terrorism
specialists. It may not always be possible to profile the individual
leaders of a terrorist group, as in the case of the 17 November
Revolutionary Organization, but the group's mindset can be profiled if
adequate information is available on the group and there is an
established record of activities and pronouncements. Even though two
groups may both have an Islamic fundamentalist mindset, their individual
mindsets will vary because of their different circumstances.
One cannot assume to have a basic understanding of the mindset of a
terrorist group without having closely studied the group and its
leader(s). Because terrorist groups are clandestine and shadowy, they are
more difficult to analyze than guerrilla groups, which operate more
openly, like paramilitary organizations. A terrorist group is usually
much smaller than a guerrilla organization, but the former may pose a
more lethal potential threat to U.S. security interests than the latter
by pursuing an active policy of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests.
A guerrilla group such as the FARC may kidnap or kill an occasional U.S.
citizen or citizens as a result of unauthorized actions by a hard-line
front commander, but a terrorist group such as the 17 November
Revolutionary Organization does so as a matter of policy.
Although Aum Shinrikyo, a dangerous cult, is on U.S. lists of
terrorist groups and is widely feared in Japan, it still operates openly
and legally, even though a number of its members have been arrested, some
have received prison sentences, and others, including Shoko Asahara, have
been undergoing trial. It can probably be safely assumed that Aum
Shinrikyo will resume its terrorist activities, if not in Japan then
elsewhere. Indeed, it appears to be reorganizing, and whatever new form
in which this hydra-headed monster emerges is not likely to be any more pleasant
than its former incarnation. The question is: what is Aum Shinrikyo
planning to help bring about the apocalypse that it has been predicting
for the new millennium?
Knowing the mindset of a terrorist group would better enable the
terrorism analyst to understand that organization's behavior patterns and
the active or potential threat that it poses. Knowing the mindsets,
including methods of operation, of terrorist groups would also aid in
identifying what group likely perpetrated an unclaimed terrorist action
and in predicting the likely actions of a particular group under various
circumstances. Indeed, mindset profiling of a terrorist group is an
essential mode of analysis for assessing the threat posed by the group. A
terrorist group's mindset can be determined to a significant extent
through a database analysis of selective features of the group and
patterns in its record of terrorist attacks. A computer program could be
designed to replicate the mindset of each terrorist group for this
Promoting Terrorist Group Schisms
All terrorist and guerrillas groups may be susceptible to
psychological warfare aimed at dividing their political and military
leaders and factions. Guerrilla organizations, however, should not be
dealt with like terrorist groups. Although the FARC, the LTTE, and the
PKK engage in terrorism, they are primarily guerrilla organizations, and
therefore their insurgencies and accompanying terrorism are likely to
continue as long as there are no political solutions. In addition to addressing
the root causes of a country's terrorist and insurgency problems,
effective counterterrorist and counterinsurgency strategies should seek
not only to divide a terrorist or guerrilla group's political and
military factions but also to reduce the group's rural bases of support
through rural development programs and establishment of civil patrols in
each village or town.
Another effective counterterrorist strategy would be the
identification and capture of a top hard-line terrorist or guerrilla
leader, especially one who exhibits psychopathic characteristics.
Removing the top hard-liners of a terrorist group would allow the group
to reassess the policies pursued by its captured leader and possibly move
in a less violent direction, especially if a more politically astute
leader assumes control. This is what appears to be happening in the case
of the PKK, which has opted for making peace since the capture of its
ruthless, hard-line leader, Abdullah Ocalan. A government could
simultaneously help members of urban terrorist groups to defect from
their groups, for example through an amnesty program, as was done so
effectively in Italy. A psychologically sophisticated policy of promoting
divisions between political and military leaders as well as defections within
guerrilla and terrorist groups is likely to be more effective than a
simple military strategy based on the assumption that all members and
leaders of the group are hard-liners. A military response to terrorism
unaccompanied by political countermeasures is likely to promote cohesion
within the group. The U.S. Government's focus on bin Laden as the
nation's number one terrorist enemy has clearly raised his profile in the
Islamic world and swelled the membership ranks of al-Qaida. Although not
yet martyred, bin Laden has become the Ernesto "Che" Guevara of
Islamic fundamentalism. As Post (1990:39) has explained:
When the autonomous cell comes under external threat, the external
danger has the consequence of reducing internal divisiveness and uniting
the group against the outside enemy....Violent societal counteractions
can transform a tiny band of insignificant persons into a major opponent
of society, making their "fantasy war," to use Ferracuti's apt
term, a reality."
How Guerrilla and Terrorist Groups End
A counterterrorist policy should be tailor-made for a particular
group, taking into account its historical, cultural, political, and
social context, as well as the context of what is known about the
psychology of the group or its leaders. The motivations of a terrorist
group--both of its members and of its leaders--cannot be adequately
understood outside its cultural, economic, political, and social context.
Because terrorism is politically or religiously motivated, a
counterterrorist policy, to be effective, should be designed to take into
account political or religious factors. For example, terrorists were
active in Chile during the military regime (1973-90), but
counterterrorist operations by democratic governments in the 1990s have
reduced them to insignificance. The transition from military rule to
democratic government in Chile proved to be the most effective
In contrast to relatively insignificant political terrorist groups in
a number of countries, Islamic terrorist groups, aided by significant
worldwide support among Muslim fundamentalists, remain the most serious
terrorist threat to U.S. security interests. A U.S. counterterrorist
policy, therefore, should avoid making leaders like Osama bin Laden
heroes or martyrs for Muslims. To that end, the eye-for-an-eye Israeli
policy of striking back for each act of terrorism may be highly
counterproductive when applied by the world's only superpower against
Islamic terrorism, as in the form of cruise-missile attacks against, or bombings
of, suspected terrorist sites. Such actions, although politically popular
at home, are seen by millions of Muslims as attacks against the Islamic
religion and by people in many countries as superpower bullying and a
violation of a country's sovereignty. U.S. counterterrorist military
attacks against elusive terrorists may serve only to radicalize large
sectors of the Muslim population and damage the U.S. image worldwide.
Rather than retaliate against terrorists with bombs or cruise
missiles, legal, political, diplomatic, financial, and psychological
warfare measures may be more effective. Applying pressure to state
sponsors may be especially effective. Cuba and Libya are two examples of
terrorist state sponsors that apparently concluded that sponsoring
terrorists was not in their national interests. Iran and Syria may still
need to be convinced.
Jeanne Knutson was critical of the reactive and ad hoc nature of U.S.
counterterrorism policy, which at that time, in the early 1980s, was
considered an entirely police and security task, as opposed to "...a
politically rational, comprehensive strategy to deal with politically
motivated violence." She found this policy flawed because it dealt
with symptoms instead of root causes and instead of eradicating the causes
had increased the source of political violence. She charged that this
policy routinely radicalized, splintered, and drove underground targeted
U.S. groups, thereby only confirming the "we-they" split
worldview of these groups. Unfortunately, too many governments still
pursue purely military strategies to defeat political and religious
Abroad, Knutson argued, the United States joined military and
political alliances to support the eradication of internal dissident
groups without any clear political rationale for such a stance. She
emphasized that "terrorists are individuals who commit crimes for political
reasons," and for this reason "the political system has better
means to control and eliminate their activities and even to attack their
root causes than do the police and security forces working alone."
Thus, she considered it politically and socially unwise to give various
national security agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), the political role of choosing targets of political violence. She
advocated "a necessary stance of neutrality toward national
dissident causes--whether the causes involve the territory of historical
friend or foe." She cited the neutral U.S. stance toward the Irish
Republican Army (IRA) as a case study of how to avoid anti-U.S.
terrorism. Her views still seem quite relevant.
Goals of a long-range counterterrorism policy should also include
deterring alienated youth from joining a terrorist group in the first
place. This may seem an impractical goal, for how does one recognize a
potential terrorist, let alone deter him or her from joining a terrorist
group? Actually, this is not so impractical in the cases of guerrilla
organizations like the FARC, the LTTE, and the PKK, which conscript all the
young people in their rural areas of operation who can be rounded up. A
counter strategy could be approached within the framework of advertising
and civic-action campaigns. A U.S. government-sponsored mass media
propaganda campaign undertaken in the Colombian countryside, the Kurdish
enclaves, and the Vanni region of Sri Lanka and tailor-made to fit the
local culture and society probably could help to discredit hard-liners in
the guerrilla/terrorist groups sufficiently to have a serious negative
impact on their recruitment efforts. Not only should all young people in
the region be educated on the realities of guerrilla life, but a
counterterrorist policy should be in place to inhibit them from joining
in the first place. If they are inducted, they should be helped or
encouraged to leave the group.
The effectiveness of such a campaign would depend in part on how
sensitive the campaign is culturally, socially, politically, and
economically. It could not succeed, however, without being supplemented
by civic-action and rural security programs, especially a program to
establish armed self-defense civil patrols among the peasantry. The
Peruvian government was able to defeat terrorists operating in the
countryside only by creating armed self-defense civil patrols that became
its eyes and ears. These patrols not only provided crucial intelligence
on the movements of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru terrorists, but also
enabled the rural population to take a stand against them.
There is little evidence that direct government intervention is the
major factor in the decline of terrorist groups. Clearly, it was an
important factor in certain cases, such as the RAF and with various urban
Marxist-Leninist group in Latin America where massive governmental
repression was applied (but at unacceptably high cost in human rights
abuses). Social and psychological factors may be more important. If, for
security reasons, a terrorist group becomes too isolated from the
population, as in the case of the RAF and the Uruguayan Tupamaros, the
group is prone to losing touch with any base of support that it may have
had. Without a measure of popular support, a terrorist group cannot
survive. Moreover, if it fails to recruit new members to renew itself by
supporting or replacing an aging membership or members who have been
killed or captured, it is likely to disintegrate. The terrorist groups
that have been active for many years have a significant base of popular
support. Taylor and Qualye point out that despite its atrocious terrorist
violence, the Provisional IRA in 1994 continued to enjoy the electoral
support of between 50,000 and 70,000 people in Northern Ireland. The
FARC, the LTTE, and the PKK continue to have strong popular support
within their own traditional bases of support.
In the cases of West German and Italian terrorism, counterterrorist
operations undoubtedly had a significant impact on terrorist groups.
Allowing terrorists an exit can weaken the group. For example, amnesty
programs, such as those offered by the Italian government, can help
influence terrorists to defect. Reducing support for the group on the
local and national levels may also contribute to reducing the group's
recruitment pool. Maxwell Taylor and Ethel Quayle have pointed out that
penal policies in both countries, such as allowing convicted terrorists
reduced sentences and other concessions, even including daytime furloughs
from prison to hold a normal job, had a significant impact in affecting
the long-term reduction in terrorist violence. Referring to Italy's 1982
Penitence Law, Taylor and Quayle explain that "This law effectively
depenalized serious terrorist crime through offering incentives to
terrorists to accept their defeat, admit their guilt and inform on others
so that the dangers of terrorist violence could be diminished."
Similarly, Article 57 of the German Penal Code offers the possibility of
reduction of sentence or suspension or deferment of sentence when
convicted terrorists renounce terrorism. Former terrorists do not have to
renounce their ideological convictions, only their violent methods. To be
sure, these legal provisions have not appealed to hard-core terrorists,
as evidenced by the apparent reactivation of the Italian Red Brigades in
1999. Nevertheless, for countries with long-running insurgencies, such as
Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, amnesty programs for guerrillas are very
important tools for resolving their internal wars.
With regard to guerrilla/terrorist organizations, a major question is
how to encourage the political wing to constrain the military wing, or
how to discredit or neutralize the military branch. The PKK should serve
as an ongoing case study in this regard. Turkey, by its policy of
demonizing the PKK and repressing the Kurdish population in its efforts
to combat it instead of seeking a political solution, only raised the
PKK's status in the eyes of the public and lost the hearts and minds of
its Kurdish population. Nevertheless, by capturing Ocalan and by
refraining thus far from making him a martyr by hanging him, the Turkish
government has inadvertently allowed the PKK to move in a more political
direction as advocated by its political leaders, who now have a greater
voice in decision-making. Thus, the PKK has retreated from Turkey and
indicated an interest in pursuing a political as opposed to a military
strategy. This is how a guerrilla/terrorist organization should end, by
becoming a political party, just as the M-19 did in Colombia and the
Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN) did in El Salvador.
SOCIOPSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILES: CASE STUDIES
Exemplars of International Terrorism in the Early 1970s
Significance: Imprisoned leader of the Italian Red
Background: The background of Renato Curcio, the
imprisoned former main leader of the first-generation Red Brigades
(Brigata Rosse), provides some insight into how a university student
became Italy's most wanted terrorist. The product of an extramarital
affair between Renato Zampa (brother of film director Luigi Zampa) and
Yolanda Curcio, Renato Curcio was born near Rome on September 23, 1941.
His early years were a difficult time for him and his mother, a
housemaid, whose itinerant positions with families required long
separations. In April 1945, Curcio's beloved uncle, Armando, a Fiat auto
worker, was murdered in a Fascist ambush. A poor student, Curcio failed
several subjects in his first year of high school and had to repeat the
year. He then resumed vocational training classes until moving to Milan
to live with his mother. He enrolled in the Ferrini Institute in Albenga,
where he became a model student. On completing his degree in 1962, he won
a scholarship to study at the new and innovative Institute of Sociology
at the University of Trento, where he became absorbed in existential
philosophy. During the mid-1960s, he gravitated toward radical politics
and Marxism as a byproduct of his interest in existentialism and the
self. By the late 1960s, he had become a committed revolutionary and
Marxist theoretician. According to Alessandro Silj, three political
events transformed him from a radical to an activist and ultimately a
political terrorist: two bloody demonstrations at Trento and a massacre
by police of farm laborers in 1968. During the 1967-69 period, Curcio was
also involved in two Marxist university groups: the Movement for a
Negative University and the publication Lavoro Politico
(Political Work). Embittered by his expulsion from the radical Red Line
faction of Lavoro Politico in August 1969, Curcio decided to
drop out of Trento and forego his degree, even though he already had
passed his final examinations. Prior to transferring his bases of
activities to Milan, Curcio married, in a Catholic ceremony, Margherita
(Mara) Cagol, a Trentine sociology major, fellow radical, and daughter of
a prosperous Trento merchant. In Milan Curcio became a full-fledged
terrorist. The Red Brigades was formed in the second half of 1970 as a
result of the merger of Curcio's Proletarian Left and a radical student
and worker group. After getting arrested in February 1971 for occupying a
vacant house, the Curcios and the most militant members of the
Proletarian Left went completely underground and organized the Red
Brigades and spent the next three years, from 1972 to 1975, engaging in a
series of bombings and kidnappings of prominent figures. Curcio was
captured but freed by Margherita in a raid on the prison five months
later. Three weeks after the dramatic prison escape, Margherita was
killed in a shootout with the Carabinieri. Curcio was again captured in
January 1976, tried, and convicted, and he is still serving a 31-year
prison sentence for terrorist activities.
An insight into Curcio's (1973:72) motivation for becoming a terrorist
can be found in a letter to his mother written during his initial prison
Yolanda dearest, mother mine, years have passed since the day on which
I set out to encounter life and left you alone to deal with life. I have
worked, I have studied, I have fought....Distant memories stirred. Uncle
Armando who carried me astride his shoulders. His limpid and ever smiling
eyes that peered far into the distance towards a society of free and
equal men. And I loved him like a father. And I picked up the rifle that
only death, arriving through the murderous hand of the Nazi-fascists, had
wrested from him.... My enemies are the enemies of humanity and of
intelligence, those who have built and build their accursed fortunes on
the material and intellectual misery of the people. Theirs is the hand
that has banged shut the door of my cell. And I cannot be but proud. But
I am not merely an "idealist" and it is not enough for me to
have, as is said, "a good conscience." For this reason I will
continue to fight for communism even from the depths of a prison.
Position: First Secretary of the
PFLP's Palestinian Popular Women's Committees (PPWC).
Background: Khaled was born on April 13, 1948, in
Haifa, Palestine. She left Haifa at age four when her family fled the
Israeli occupation and lived in impoverished exile in a United Nations
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee camp in Sour, Lebanon. By age
eight, she had become politically aware of the Palestinian plight.
Inspired by a Palestinian revolutionary of the 1930s, Izz Edeen Kassam,
she decided to become a revolutionary "in order to liberate my
people and myself." The years 1956-59 were her period of political
apprenticeship as an activist of the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM). By
the summer of 1962, she was struggling to cope with national, social,
class, and sexual oppression but, thanks to her brother's financial
support, finally succeeded in attending the American University of Beirut
(AUB) in 1962-63, where she scored the second highest average on the AUB
While an AUB student, Khaled received what she refers to as her
"real education" in the lecture hall of the Arab Cultural Club
(ACC) and in the ranks of the ANM and the General Union of Palestinian
Students (GUPS). Her "intellectual companion"at AUB was her
American roommate, with whom she would have heated political arguments.
In the spring of 1963, Khaled was admitted into the ANM's first
paramilitary contingent of university students and was active in ANM
underground activities. For lack of funding, she was unable to continue
her education after passing her freshman year in the spring of 1963.
In September 1963, Khaled departed for Kuwait, where she obtained a
teaching position. After a run-in with the school's principal, who called
her to task for her political activities on behalf of the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO), she returned to Lebanon in late June 1964.
She returned to the school in Kuwait that fall but was demoted to
elementary teaching. The U.S. invasions of the Dominican Republic and
Vietnam in 1965 solidified her hatred of the U.S. Government. The death
of Ernesto "Che" Guevara on October 9, 1967, convinced her to
join the revolution.
When Fatah renewed its military operations on August 18, 1967, Khaled
attempted to work through Fatah's fund-raising activities in Kuwait to
liberate Palestine. She pleaded with Yasir Arafat's brother, Fathi
Arafat, to be allowed to join Al-Assifah, Fatah's military wing. She
found an alternative to Fatah, however, when the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked an El-Al airplane in July 1968,
an action that inspired her to seek contacts with the PFLP in Kuwait. She
succeeded when PFLP representative Abu Nidal, whom she described as
"a tall, handsome young man" who was "reserved and
courteous," met her in a Kuwaiti bookstore. After performing
fund-raising for the PFLP, she was allowed to join its Special Operations
Squad and underwent intensive training. In her first mission, she
hijacked a TWA plane on a flight from Rome to Athens on August 29, 1969,
and diverted it to Damascus, where all 113 passengers were released
unharmed. Although her identity was revealed to the world by the Syrians,
she continued her terrorist career by training to commandeer an El-Al
plane. When Jordan's King Hussein launched a military offensive against
the Palestinian resistance in Amman in February 1970, Khaled fought in
the streets alongside PFLP comrades. That March, in preparation for
another hijacking, she left Amman and underwent at least three secret
plastic surgery operations over five months by a well-known but very
reluctant plastic surgeon in Beirut.
While Khaled was discussing strategy with Dr. Wadi Haddad in his
Beirut apartment on July 11, 1970, the apartment was hit by two rockets
in the first Israeli attack inside Lebanon, injuring the man's wife and
child. On September 6, 1970, Khaled and an accomplice attempted to hijack
an El-Al flight from Amsterdam with 12 armed security guards aboard but
were overpowered. He was shot to death, but she survived and was detained
in London by British police. After 28 days in detention, she was released
in a swap for hostages from hijacked planes and escorted on a flight to
Cairo and then, on October 12, to Damascus.
Following her release, Khaled went to Beirut and joined a combat unit.
In between fighting, she would tour refugee camps and recruit women. She
married an Iraqi PFLP member, Bassim, on November 26, 1970, but the
marriage was short-lived. She returned to the same Beirut plastic surgeon
and had her former face mostly restored. She barely escaped a bed-bomb
apparently planted by the Mossad, but her sister was shot dead on
Christmas Day 1976. After fading from public view, she surfaced again in
1980, leading a PLO delegation to the United Nations Decade for Women
conference in Copenhagen. She attended university in Russia for two years
in the early 1980s, but the PFLP ordered her to return to combat in
Lebanon before she had completed her studies.
Khaled married a PFLP physician in 1982. She was elected first
secretary of the Palestinian Popular Women's Committees (PPWC) in 1986.
At the beginning of the 1990s, when she was interviewed by Eileen
MacDonald, she was living in the Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus, still
serving as PPWC first secretary and "immediately recognizable as the
Since then, Khaled has been living in Amman, Jordan, where she works
as a teacher, although still a PFLP member. She was allowed by Israel
briefly to enter Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank, or at least
the Gaza Strip, in February 1996, to vote on amending the Palestinian
charter to remove its call for Israel's destruction. She was on a list of
154 members of the Palestine National Council (PNC), an exile-based
parliament, who Israel approved for entrance into the Gaza Strip. Khaled
said she had renounced terrorism. However, she declined an invitation to
attend a meeting in Gaza with President Clinton in December 1998 at which
members of the PNC renounced portions of the PLO charter calling for the
destruction of Israel. "We are not going to change our identity or
our history," she explained to news media.
Significance: The sole surviving Rengo Sekigun
(Japanese Red Army) terrorist of the PFLP's Lod (Tel Aviv) Airport
massacre of May 30, 1972, who remains active.
Background: Kozo Okamoto was born in southwestern
Japan in 1948. He was the youngest of six children, the son of a retired
elementary school principal married to a social worker. The family was
reportedly very close when the children were young. His mother died of
cancer in 1966, and his father remarried. He is not known to have had a
disturbed or unusual childhood. On the contrary, he apparently had a
normal and happy childhood. He achieved moderate success at reputable
high schools in Kagoshima. However, he failed to qualify for admission at
Kyoto University and had to settle for the Faculty of Agriculture at
Japan's Kagoshima University, where his grades were mediocre. While a
university student, he was not known to be politically active in
extremist groups or demonstrations, although he belonged to a student
movement and a peace group and became actively concerned with
environmental issues. However, Okamoto's older brother, Takeshi, a former
student at Kyoto University, introduced him to representatives of the
newly formed JRA in Tokyo in early 1970. Soon thereafter, Takeshi
participated in the hijacking of a Japan Air Lines jet to Korea.
Takeshi's involvement in that action compelled his father to resign his
job. Although Kozo had promised his father that he would not follow in
his brother's footsteps, Kozo became increasingly involved in carrying
out minor tasks for the JRA. Kozo Okamoto was attracted to the JRA more
for its action-oriented program than for ideological reasons.
(AP Photo courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com)
Kozo Okamoto (presumably on right) with three other captured PFLP
In late February 1972, Okamoto traveled to Beirut, where the JRA said
he could meet his brother, and then underwent seven weeks of terrorist
training by PFLP personnel in Baalbek. After he and his comrades traveled
through Europe posing as tourists, they boarded a flight to Lod Airport
on May 30, 1972. Unable to commit suicide as planned following the Lod
Airport massacre, Okamoto was captured and made a full confession only
after being promised that he would be allowed to kill himself. During his
trial, he freely admitted his act and demonstrated no remorse; he viewed
himself as a soldier rather than a terrorist, and to him Lod Airport was
a military base in a war zone. Psychiatrists who examined Okamoto
certified that he was absolutely sane and rational. To be sure, Okamoto's
courtroom speech, including his justification for slaughtering innocent
people and his stated hope that he and his two dead comrades would
become, in death, "three stars of Orion," was rather bizarre.
By 1975, while in solitary confinement, Okamoto began identifying
himself to visitors as a Christian. When his sanity began to deteriorate
in 1985, he was moved to a communal cell. That May, he was released as a
result of an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for three Israeli
soldiers, under a swap conducted by the Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine--General Command (PFLP-GC) . He arrived to a hero's welcome
in Libya on May 20, and was met by JRA leader Fusako Shigenobu. He
apparently has continued to operate with the PFLP-GC. On February 15,
1997, he and five JRA comrades were arrested in Lebanon and accused of
working with the PFLP-GC and training PFLP-GC cadres in the Bekaa Valley
outside Baalbek. According to another report, they were arrested in a
Beirut apartment. That August, he and four of his comrades were sentenced
to three years in jail (minus time already served and deportation to an
undisclosed location) for entering the country with forged passports.
Exemplars of International Terrorism in the Early 1990s
Significance: World Trade Center bomber.
Background: Mahmud Abouhalima was born in a
ramshackle industrial suburb 15 miles south of Alexandria in 1959, the
first of four sons of a poor but stern millman, a powerful weight lifter.
Mahmud was known as an ordinary, well-rounded, cheerful youth who found
comfort in religion. He prayed hard and shunned alcohol. He studied
education at Alexandria University and played soccer in his spare time.
He developed a deep and growing hatred for Egypt because of his belief
that the country offered little hope for his generation's future. As a
teenager, he began to hang around with members of an outlawed Islamic
Group (al-Jama al-Islamiyya), headed by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. In 1981
Abouhalima quit school and left Egypt. He reportedly fought against the
Soviets in Afghanistan. In September 1991, now an Afghan veteran, he was
granted a tourist visa to visit Germany. In Munich he sought political
asylum, claiming that he faced persecution in Egypt because of his
membership in the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan al Muslimun). He
subsequently made his way to the United States and worked as a taxi
driver in Brooklyn, New York. He also allegedly ran a phony coupon-redemption
scam. This operation and a similar one run by Zein Isa, a member of the
ANO in St. Louis, supposedly funneled about $200 million of the annual
$400 million in fraudulent coupon losses allegedly suffered by the
industry back to the Middle East to fund terrorist activities, although
the figure seems a bit high. On February 26, 1993, the day of the WTC
bombing, he was seen by several witnesses with Mohammed A. Salameh at the
Jersey City storage facility. Tall and red-haired, Abouhalima ("Mahmud
the Red"), 33, was captured in his native Egypt not long after the
bombing. He was "hands-on ringleader" and the motorist who
drove a getaway car. He is alleged to have planned the WTC bombing and
trained his co-conspirators in bomb-testing. He was sentenced to 240
years in federal prison.
Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman
Significance: World Trade Center bombing
Background:Omar Abdel Rahman was born
in 1938, blinded by diabetes as an infant. He became a religious scholar
in Islamic law at Cairo's al-Azhar University. By the 1960s, he had
become increasingly critical of Egypt's government and its institutions,
including al-Azhar University, which he blamed for failing to uphold true
Islamic law. One of the defendants accused of assassinating Egyptian President
Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981, Dr. Abdel Rahman was considered an
accessory because of his authorization of the assassination through the
issuance of a fatwa or Islamic judicial decree, to the assassins.
However, he was acquitted because of the ambiguity of his role. In the
1980s, made unwelcome by the Egyptian government, he traveled to
Afghanistan, Britain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Switzerland, and the
United States, exhorting young Muslims to join the mujahideen to fight
the Soviets in Afghanistan. Sheikh Abdel Rahman's activities also
included leading a puritanical Islamic fundamentalist movement (Al Jamaa
al Islamiyya) aimed at overthrowing the regime of President Hosni
Mubarak. The movement's methods included terrorist attacks against foreign
tourists visiting archaeological sites in Egypt. The sheik has described
American and other Western tourists in Egypt as part of a
"plague" on his country.
Omar Abdel Rahman
(Photo courtesy of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 3, No.
6, June 2001)
In 1990, after a brief visit back to Egypt, Abdel Rahman fled to
Sudan. Later that year, the blind cleric, despite being on the U.S.
official list of terrorists, succeeded in entering the United States with
a tourist visa obtained at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan. He became the
prayer leader of the small El Salem Mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey,
where many of the WTC bombing conspirators attended services. He preached
violence against the United States and pro-Western governments in the
Middle East. Abdel Rahman maintained direct ties with mujahideen fighters
and directly aided terrorist groups in Egypt, to whom he would send
messages on audiotape. He served as spiritual mentor of El Sayyid A.
Nosair, who assassinated Jewish Defense League founder Rabbi Meir Kahane
on November 5, 1990. (Nosair, whose conviction was upheld by a Federal
appeals court panel on August 16, 1999, knew many members of the WTC
bombing group and was visited by some of them in jail.)
Following the WTC bombing on February 26, 1993, Abdel Rahman was
implicated in that conspiracy as well as in a plot to bomb other public
places in New York, including the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and the
United Nations building. He was also implicated in a plot to assassinate
U.S. Senator Alfonse d'Amato (R., N.Y.) and United Nations Secretary
General Boutros-Ghali. Abdel Rahman and seven others were arrested in
connection with this plot in June 1993. In a 1994 retrial of 1981 riot
cases in Egypt, Abdel Rahman was convicted in absentia and sentenced to
seven years in prison.
On October 1, 1995, Sheikh Abdel Rahman and nine other Islamic
fundamentalists were convicted in a federal court in New York of
conspiracy to destroy U.S. public buildings and structures. Abdel Rahman
was convicted of directing the conspiracy and, under a joint arrangement
with Egypt, of attempting to assassinate Mubarak. His conviction and
those of his co-conspirators were upheld on August 16, 1999. Despite his
imprisonment, at least two Egyptian terrorist groups--Islamic Group
(Gamaa Islamiya) and al-Jihad (see al-Jihad)--continue to regard him as
their spiritual leader. The Gamaa terrorists who massacred 58 tourists
near Luxor, Egypt, in November 1997 claimed the attack was a failed
hostage takeover intended to force the United States into releasing Abdel
Rahman. He is currently serving a life sentence at a federal prison in
Mohammed A. Salameh
Significance: A World Trade Center bomber.
Background: Mohammed A. Salameh was born near Nablus,
an Arab town on the West Bank, on September 1, 1967. In his final years
in high school, Salameh, according to his brother, "became
religious, started to pray and read the Koran with other friends in high
school. He stopped most of his past activities and hobbies....He was not
a fundamentalist. He was interested in Islamic teachings." According
to another source, Salameh comes from a long line of guerrilla fighters
on his mother's side. His maternal grandfather fought in the 1936 Arab
revolt against British rule in Palestine, and even as an old man joined
the PLO and was jailed by the Israelis. A maternal uncle was arrested in
1968 for "terrorism" and served 18 years in an Israeli prison
before he was released and deported, making his way to Baghdad, where he
became number two in the "Western Sector," a PLO terrorist unit
under Iraqi influence. Mohammed Salameh earned a degree from the Islamic
studies faculty of the University of Jordan. His family went into debt to
buy him an airline ticket to the United States, where he wanted to obtain
an MBA. Salameh entered the United States on February 17, 1988, on a
six-month tourist visa, and apparently lived in Jersey City illegally for
the next five years. He apparently belonged to the Masjid al-Salam Mosque
in Jersey City, whose preachers included fundamentalist Sheikh Omar Abdel
Rahman. Slight and bearded, naive and manipulable, Salameh was arrested
in the process of returning to collect the deposit on the van that he had
rented to carry the Trade Center bombing materials. On March 4, 1993,
Salameh, 26, was charged by the FBI with "aiding and abetting"
the WTC bombing on February 26, 1993. He is also believed to be part of
the group that stored the explosive material in a Jersey City storage
Ahmed Ramzi Yousef
Significance: Mastermind of the World Trade Center
Background: Yousef, whose real name is Abd-al-Basit
Balushi, was born either on May 20, 1967, or April 27, 1968, in Kuwait,
where he grew up and completed high school. His Pakistani father is
believed to have been an engineer with Kuwaiti Airlines for many years.
Yousef is Palestinian on his mother's side; his grandmother is
Palestinian. He considers himself Palestinian.
In 1989 Yousef graduated from Britain's Swansea University with a
degree in engineering. Yousef is believed to have trained and fought in
the Afghan War. He and bin Laden reportedly were linked at least as long
ago as 1989. In that year, Yousef went to the Philippines and introduced
himself as an emissary of Osama bin Laden, sent to support that country's
radical Islamic movement, specifically the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf
group. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's army invaded Kuwait in
August 1990, Yousef was known as a collaborator. After disappearing in
Kuwait in 1991, he is next known to have reappeared in the Philippines in
December 1991, accompanied by a Libyan missionary named Mohammed abu
Bakr, the leader of the Mullah Forces in Libya. Yousef stayed for three
months providing training to Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in the southern
When he arrived from Pakistan at John F. Kennedy Airport on September
1, 1992, without a visa, Yousef, who was carrying an Iraqi passport,
applied for political asylum. Often described as slender, Yousef is six
feet tall, weighs 180 pounds, and is considered white, with an olive
complexion. He was sometimes clean shaven, but wears a beard in his FBI
wanted poster. Despite his itinerant life as an international terrorist,
Yousef is married and has two daughters. A Palestinian friend and fellow
terrorist, Ahmad Ajaj, who was traveling with Yousef on September 1,
1992, although apparently at a safe distance, was detained by passport
control officers at John F. Kennedy Airport for carrying a false Swedish
passport. Ajaj was carrying papers containing formulas for bomb-making
material, which prosecutors said were to be used to destroy bridges and
tunnels in New York.
(Photo courtesy of www.terrorismfiles.org/individuals/ramzi_yousef.html/
Yousef was allowed to stay in the United States while his political
asylum case was considered. U.S. immigration officials apparently
accepted his false claim that he was a victim of the Gulf War who had
been beaten by Iraqi soldiers because the Iraqis suspected that he had
worked for Kuwaiti resistance. Yousef moved into an apartment in Jersey
City with roommate Mohammad Salameh (q.v.). After participating
in the Trade Center bombing on February 26, 1993, Yousef, then 25 or 26
years old, returned to Manila, the Philippines, that same day. In Manila,
he plotted "Project Bojinka," a plan to plant bombs aboard U.S.
passenger airliners in 1995, using a virtually undetectable bomb that he
had created. He was skilled in the art of converting Casio digital
watches into timing switches that use light bulb filaments to ignite
cotton soaked in nitroglycerine explosive. He carried out a practice run
on a Philippine Airlines Flight 434 bound for Tokyo on December 9, 1994.
A wearer of contact lenses, Yousef concealed the nitroglycerin compound
in a bottle normally used to hold saline solution. His bomb killed a
Japanese tourist seated near the explosive, which he left taped under a
seat, and wounded 10 others. In March 1993, prosecutors in Manhattan
indicted Yousef for his role in the WTC bombing. On January 6, 1995,
Manila police raided Yousef's room overlooking Pope John Paul II's
motorcade route into the city. Yousef had fled the room after
accidentally starting a fire while mixing chemicals. Police found
explosives, a map of the Pope's route, clerical robes, and a computer disk
describing the plot against the Pope, as well as planned attacks against
U.S. airlines. Yousef's fingerprints were on the material, but he had
vanished, along with his girlfriend, Carol Santiago. Also found in his
room was a letter threatening Filipino interests if a comrade held in
custody were not released. It claimed the "ability to make and use
chemicals and poisonous gas... for use against vital institutions and
residential populations and the sources of drinking water." Yousef's
foiled plot involved blowing up eleven U.S. commercial aircraft in
midair. The bombs were to be made of a stable, liquid form of
nitroglycerin designed to pass through airport metal detectors.
For most of the three years before his capture in early 1995, Yousef
reportedly resided at the bin Laden-financed Bayt Ashuhada (House of
Martyrs) guest house in Peshawar, Pakistan. On February 8, 1995, local
authorities arrested Yousef in Islamabad in the Su Casa guest house, also
owned by a member of the bin Laden family. Yousef had in his possession
the outline of an even greater international terrorist campaign that he
was planning, as well as bomb-making products, including two toy cars
packed with explosives and flight schedules for United and Delta
Airlines. His plans included using a suicide pilot (Said Akhman) to crash
a light aircraft filled with powerful explosives into the CIA
headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as well as blowing up 11 U.S.
airliners simultaneously as they approached U.S. airports. He was then
turned over to the FBI and deported to the United States. On June 21,
1995, Yousef told federal agents that he had planned and executed the WTC
On September 6, 1996, Yousef was convicted in a New York Federal
District Court for trying to bomb U.S. airliners in Asia in 1995. On
January 8, 1998, he was sentenced to 240 years in prison. He has remained
incarcerated in the new "supermax" prison in Florence,
Colorado. His cellmates in adjoining cells in the "Bomber Wing"
include Timothy McVeigh, the right-wing terrorist who blew up a federal
building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, and Ted Kaczynski, the
sociopathic loner known as the Unabomber. The polyglot Yousef has
discussed languages with Kaczynski, who speaks Spanish, French, and
German, and taught him some Turkish.
Ethnic Separatist Groups
According to a middle-level IRA officer interviewed by Newsweek
in 1988, the IRA has plenty of recruits. Each potential enlistee is kept
under scrutiny for as long as a year before being allowed to sign up. The
Provos are paranoid about informers, so hard drinkers and loudmouths are
automatically disqualified from consideration. H.A. Lyons, a Belfast
psychiatrist who frequently works with prisoners, told Newsweek
that the IRA's political murderers are "fairly normal
individuals," compared with nonpolitical killers. "They regard
themselves as freedom fighters,"adding that they feel no remorse for
their actions, at least against security forces. As the IRA officer
explained to Newsweek:
The killing of innocent civilians is a thing that sickens all
volunteers, and it must and will stop. But I can live with the killing
[of security forces]. There is an occupying army which has taken over our
country. I see no difference between the IRA and World War II resistance
Rona M. Fields noted in 1976 that Belfast "terrorists" are
most often adolescent youths from working-class families. By the 1990s,
however, that appeared to have changed. According to the profile of Irish
terrorists, loyalist and republican, developed by Maxwell Taylor and
Ethel Quayle (1994), "The person involved in violent action is
likely to be up to 30 years old, or perhaps a little older and usually
male." Republican and loyalist leaders tend to be somewhat older.
The terrorist is invariably from a working class background, not because
of some Marxist doctrine but because the loyalist and republican areas of
Northern Ireland are primarily working class. Quite likely, he is
unemployed. "He is either living in the area in which he was born,
or has recently left it for operational reasons." His education is
probably limited, because he probably left school at age 15 or 16 without
formal qualifications. However, according to Taylor and Quayle, recruits
in the early 1990s were becoming better educated. Before becoming
involved in a violent action, the recruit probably belonged to a junior
wing of the group for at least a year. Although not a technically
proficient specialist, he is likely to have received weapons or
explosives training. The profile notes that the recruits are often well
dressed, or at least appropriately dressed, and easily blend into the
community. "Northern Ireland terrorists are frequently articulate
and give the impression of being worldly," it states. At the
psychological level, Taylor found "a lack of signs of
psychopathology, at least in any overt clinical sense" among the
members. Irish terrorists can easily justify their violent actions
"in terms of their own perception of the world," and do not
even object to being called terrorists, although they refer to each other
as volunteers or members.
The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) is generally a homegrown,
grassroots organization. In the late 1980s, some members of the PIRA were
as young as 12 years of age, but most of those taking part in PIRA
operations were in the twenties. Front-line bombers and shooters were
younger, better educated, and better trained than the early members were.
The PIRA recruits members from the streets.
Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Abdullah Ocalan
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (Parte Krikaranc Kordesian/Partia
Karkaris Kurdistan-PKK) originated in 1972 with a small group of
Marxist-oriented university activists in Ankara known as
"Apocus." The principal founder of the student-based Apocular
group, Abdullah Ocalan ("Apo"--Uncle) was a former student
(expelled) in political science at Ankara University, who was prominent
in the underground Turkish Communist Party. Ocalan (pronounced Oh-ja-lan
or URGE'ah-lohn) was born in 1948 in the village of Omerli in the
southeastern Turkish province of Urfa, the son of an impoverished Kurdish
farmer and a Turkish mother. In 1974 Apocus formed a university
association whose initial focus was on gaining official recognition for
Kurdish language and cultural rights. Over the next four years, Ocalan
organized the association into the PKK while studying revolutionary
theories. In 1978 he formally established the PKK, a clandestine
Marxist-Leninist Kurdish political party. During his trial in June 1999,
Ocalan blamed harsh Turkish laws for spawning the PKK in 1978, and then
for its taking up arms in 1984. "These kinds of laws give birth to
rebellion and anarchy," he said. The language ban--now
eased--"provokes this revolt."
(Photo courtesy of CNN.com, Time.com)
Several of the founders of the PKK were ethnic Turks. One of the
eleven founders of the PKK was Kesire Yildirim, the only female member.
She later married Ocalan, but they became estranged when she began
questioning his policies and tactics. (She left him in 1988 to join a PKK
breakaway faction in Europe.) Unlike other Kurdish groups in the Middle
East, the PKK advocated the establishment of a totally independent
Kurdish Marxist republic, Kurdistan, to be located in southeastern
In about 1978, influenced by Mao Zedong's revolutionary theory, Ocalan
decided to leave the cities and establish the PKK in rural areas. He fled
Turkey before the 1980 military coup and lived in exile, mostly in
Damascus and in the Lebanese plains under Syrian control, where he set up
his PKK headquarters and training camps. In 1983 he recruited and trained
at least 100 field commandos in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, where the
PKK maintains its Masoum Korkmaz guerrilla training base and headquarters.
The PKK's army, the People's Liberation Army of Kurdistan (ARGK), began
operating in August 1984. The PKK created the National Liberation Front
of Kurdistan (ERNK) in 1985 to bolster its recruitment, intelligence, and
The PKK's early radical agenda, including its antireligious rhetoric
and violence, alienated the PKK from much of the Kurdish peasantry.
Citing various sources, Kurdish specialist Martin van Bruinessen reports
that although the PKK had won little popular sympathy by the early 1990s
with its brutally violent actions, "It gradually came to enjoy the
grudging admiration of many Kurds, both for the prowess and recklessness
of its guerrilla fighters and for the courage with which its arrested
partisans stood up in court and in prison.... By the end of 1990, it
enjoyed unprecedented popularity in eastern Turkey, although few seemed
to actively support it." Ocalan is reportedly regarded by many Kurds
as a heroic freedom fighter. However, the "silent majority" of
Kurds living in Turkey reportedly oppose the PKK and revile Ocalan.
The charismatic Ocalan was unquestioningly accepted by devoted PKK
members, and the PKK reportedly lacked dissenting factions, at least
until the early 1990s. The PKK's Leninist structure constrained any
internal debate. However, in March 1991 Ocalan admitted at a press
conference that he was facing a challenge from a faction within the PKK
that wanted him to work for autonomy within Turkey instead of a separate
Kurdish state and recognition of the PKK as a political force. When
Ocalan, who is said to speak very little Kurdish, agreed to this position
and announced a cease-fire in March 1993, the decision was not unanimous,
and there was dissension within the PKK leadership over it.
The PKK's recruitment efforts mainly have targeted the poorer classes
of peasants and workers, the latter group living in the standard
apartment ghettos on the fringes of Turkey's industrial cities. According
to a Turkish survey in the southeast cited by Barkey and Fuller, of the
35 percent of those surveyed who responded to a question on how well they
knew members of the PKK, 42 percent claimed to have a family member in
the PKK. The Turkish government has maintained that the PKK recruits its
guerrillas forcibly and then subjects them to "brainwashing"
sessions at training camps in Lebanon. According to the official Ankara
Journalist Association, "members of the organization are sent into
armed clashes under the influence of drugs. [PKK leaders] keep them under
the influence of drugs so as to prevent them from seeing the
reality." Scholars also report that the PKK has forced young men to
join. In November 1994, the PKK's former American spokesperson, Kani
Xulum, told James Ciment that the PKK recruits only those who understand
"our strategies and aims" and "we're careful to keep
psychopaths" out of the organization. The PKK has laws regarding
military conscription. At its 1995 congress, the PKK decided not to
recruit youth younger than 16 to fight and to make military service for
women voluntary. By the mid-1990s, PKK volunteers increasingly came from
emigre families in Germany and the rest of Europe and even Armenia and
Since it began operating, the PKK's ranks have included a sprinkling
of female members.
However, according to O'Ballance, "Its claim that they lived and
fought equally side by side with their male colleagues can be discounted,
although there were some exceptions. Women were employed mainly on
propaganda, intelligence, liaison and educational tasks. The PKK claimed
that women accounted for up to 30 percent of its strength." In April
1992, the ARGK claimed that it had a commando force of some 400 armed
women guerrillas in the mountains of northern Iraq. James Ciment reported
in 1996 that approximately 10 percent of PKK guerrillas are women. Thomas
Goltz, a journalist specializing in Turkey, reports that beginning in the
mid-1990s, "Many female recruits were specially trained as suicide
bombers for use in crowded urban environments like Istanbul's bazaar and
even on the beaches favored by European tourists along the Turkish
Riviera." For example, a 19-year-old suicide female commando wounded
eight policemen in a suicide attack in Istanbul in early July 1999.
The well-funded PKK's recruitment efforts have probably been aided
significantly by its mass media outlets, particularly Med-TV, a
PKK-dominated Kurdish-language TV station that operates by satellite
transmission out of Britain. Ocalan himself often participated, by
telephone, in the Med-TV talk shows, using the broadcasts to Turkey and
elsewhere to convey messages and make announcements. Med-TV commands a
wide viewership among the Kurds in southeast Turkey.
Barkey and Fuller describe the PKK as "primarily a nationalist
organization," but one still with ties to the Left, although it
claimed to have abandoned Marxism-Leninism by the mid-1990s. They report
that, according to some Kurdish observers, "Ocalan has begun to show
considerably more maturity, realism, and balance since 1993," moving
away from ideology toward greater pragmatism. Barley and Graham confirm
that the PKK "has been undergoing a significant shift in its
political orientation" since the mid-1990s, including moving away
from its anti-Islamism and "toward greater reality in its assessment
of the current political environment" and the need to reach a
political settlement with Turkey.
The PKK leadership's seemingly psychotic vengeful streak became an
issue in the assassination of Olaf Palme, the prime minister of Sweden,
who was shot and killed while walking in a Stockholm street on February
28, 1986. PKK members immediately became the prime suspects because of
the group's extremist reputation. According to John Bulloch and Harvey
Morris, "The motive was thought to be no more than a Swedish police determination
that the PKK was a terrorist organization, and that as a result a visa
had been refused for Ocalan to visit the country, which has a large and
growing Kurdish minority." On September 2, 1987, PKK militant Hasan
Hayri Guler became the prime suspect. According to Hurriyet, a
Turkish newspaper, Hasan Hayri Guler reportedly was sent to Stockholm
with orders to assassinate Palme in retaliation for the death of a PKK
militant in Uppsala, Sweden. (The PKK denied the accusation and hinted
that Turkish security forces may have been behind Palme's murder.)
In late 1998, Syria, under intense pressure from Turkey, closed the
PKK camps and expelled Ocalan, who began an odyssey through various
nations in search of political asylum. In February 1999, he was captured
in Kenya and flown to Turkey.
Ocalan had the reputation of being a dogmatic, strict, and hard
disciplinarian, even tyrannical. Scholars Henri J. Barkey and Graham E.
Fuller, citing a Turkish book, describe him as:
secretive, withdrawn, suspicious, and lacking in self-confidence. He
does not like group discussion; his close associates reportedly seem
uncomfortable around him. He does not treat others as equals and he often
demeans his subordinates in front of others, demands self-confessions
from his lieutenants, and keeps his distance from nearly everyone.
The ruthlessness with which Kurdish collaborators and PKK defectors
were treated by the PKK reflected Ocalan's brutish attitude. Some PKK
defectors have also alleged intimidation of guerrillas within PKK camps
and units in the field. "If anyone crosses [Ocalan], either with
eyes or attitude, he is accused of creating conflict," one defector
was quoted by a Danish weekly. "The sinner is then declared a
contra-guerrilla, and his punishment is death." According to the Turkish
Daily News, Ocalan underlined his personal hunger for absolute power
at the helm of the PKK in a party publication in 1991 as follows:
I establish a thousand relationships every day and destroy a thousand
political, organizational, emotional and ideological relationships. No
one is indispensable for me. Especially if there is anyone who eyes the
chairmanship of the PKK. I will not hesitate to eradicate them. I will
not hesitate in doing away with people.
Ocalan has also been described as "a smiling, fast-talking and
quick-thinking man," but one who "still follows an old
Stalinist style of thinking, applying Marxist principles to all
problems...." He is reportedly given to exaggeration of his
importance and convinced that he and his party alone have the truth.
Turkish journalists who have interviewed Ocalan have come away with the
impression of a "megalomaniac" and "sick" man who has
no respect for or understanding of the "superior values of European
civilization." A December 1998 issue of the Turkish Daily News
quoted Ocalan as saying in one of his many speeches:
Everyone should take note of the way I live, what I do and what I
don't do. The way I eat, the way I think, my orders and even my
inactivity should be carefully studied. There will be lessons to be
learned from several generations because Apo is a great teacher.
Ocalan's capture and summary trial initially appeared to have
radicalized the PKK. The return of two senior PKK members to the main
theater of operations following Ocalan's capture seemed to indicate that
a new more hard-line approach was emerging within the PKK leadership. Ali
Haidar and Kani Yilmaz, former PKK European representatives, were
summoned back to the PKK's main headquarters, now located in the Qandil
Mountain Range straddling Iraq and Iran. Jane's Defence Weekly
reports that their return suggested that the PKK's military wing
exercises new authority over the PKK's political or diplomatic
representatives, whose approach was seen as failing in the wake of Ocalan's
capture. (In addition to Haidar and Yilmaz, the PKK's ruling six-member
Presidential Council includes four other senior and long-serving PKK
commanders: Cemil Bayik ("Cuma"), Duran Kalkan
("Abbas"), Murat Karayillan ("Cemal"), and Osman
Ocalan ("Ferhat")). However, on August 5, 1999, the PKK's
Presidential Council declared that the PKK would obey Ocalan's call to
abandon its armed struggle and pull out of Turkey. Whether all the PKK
groups would do the same or whether the PKK's gesture merely amounted to
a tactical retreat remained to be seen. In any case, the rebels began
withdrawing from Turkey in late August 1999.
The PKK remains divided between political and military wings. The
political wing favors a peaceful political struggle by campaigning for international
pressure on Ankara. It is supported by hundreds of thousands of Kurds
living in Europe. The military wing consists of about 4,500 guerrillas
operating from the mountains of Turkey, northern Iraq, and Iran. It
favors continuing the war and stepping up attacks if Ocalan is executed.
Karayillan, a leading military hard-liner, is reportedly the most
powerful member of the Council and slated to take over if Ocalan is
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
The LTTE is widely regarded as the world's deadliest and fiercest
guerrilla/terrorist group and the most ferocious guerrilla organization
in South Asia. It is the only terrorist group to have assassinated three
heads of government--Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Sri
Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993, and former Prime Minister
Dissanayake in 1994. It has also assassinated several prominent political
and military figures. The LTTE's ill-conceived Gandhi assassination,
however, resulted in the LTTE's loss of a substantial logistical
infrastructure, and also the loss of popular support for the LTTE among
mainstream Indian Tamils. In 1999 the LTTE made two threats on the life
of Sonia Gandhi, who has nevertheless continued to campaign for a seat in
Also known as the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE is a by-product of Sri
Lanka's ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese people and the
minority ethnic Tamils, whose percentage of the island's population has
been reported with figures ranging from 7 per cent to 17 percent. As a
result of government actions that violated the rights of the Tamils in
Sri Lanka in the 1948-77 period, a large pool of educated and unemployed
young people on the island rose up against the government in 1972, under the
leadership of the reputed military genius, Velupillai Prabhakaran. The
Tigers and other Tamil militant groups realized the importance of
creating an exclusively Tamil northern province for reasons of security,
and began their campaign for the independence of Tamil Eelam, in the
northern part of the island.
Founders of the military youth movement, Tamil New Tigers, formed the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on May 5, 1976. In one of its first
major terrorist acts, it destroyed an Air Ceylon passenger jet with a
time bomb in September 1978. The LTTE is only one of five groups, albeit
the supreme one, that have achieved dominance over more than 35 Tamil
guerrilla groups. Nationalism has remained the driving force behind the
The Tamil guerrilla movement is mainly composed of groups known as the
Tigers, a term applied to the movement's numerous factions. According to
Robert C. Oberst,
The groups, commonly called 'Tigers,' are shadowy collections of
youths which emerged in the early 1980s as full-fledged politico-military
organizations. Prior to that time they were loosely organized, and
centered around dominant personalities.
The bloody ethnic riots of July 1983 polarized the Sinhalese and Tamil
communities and became a watershed in the history of Sri Lanka. The riots
started by the Sinhalese were a reaction to the death of 13 soldiers in a
Tiger ambush. The end result was that around 500,000 Tamils left for
India and the West, seeking asylum. They became the economic backbone of
the terrorist campaign, and in the years that followed, the Tigers
established offices and cells throughout the world, building a network
unsurpassed by any other terrorist group. By 1987 the LTTE had emerged as
the strongest militant group in Sri Lanka. More than two generations of
Tamil youth have now been indoctrinated with separatism.
The LTTE is an exclusively ethnic organization consisting almost
entirely of Tamil Hindu youth. Although a majority of members of the
Tamil guerrilla groups are Hindu, a significant number of Tamil
Christians reportedly are in the movement. The early supporters of the
Tamil independence movement were in their thirties. Since then, the age
level has declined sharply. In the 1970s, quotas on university admissions
for Tamils prompted younger Tamils to join the insurgency. By 1980 a
majority of LTTE combatants were reportedly between 18 and 25 years of
age, with only a few in their thirties. In 1990 approximately 75 percent
of the second-generation LTTE membership were below 30 years of age, with
about 50 percent between the ages of 15 and 21 and about 25 percent
between the ages of 25 and 29. Highly motivated and disciplined, most
LTTE fighters are subteenagers, according to an Indian authority.
(Photo courtesy of Asiaweek, July 26, 1996)
The majority of the rank and file membership belong to the lower
middle class. Almost all LTTE cadres have been recruited from the
lower-caste strata of Jaffna society. The Tamil Tigers draw their
recruits from the Tamils who live in the northern province and some from
the eastern province. The cadres drawn from other areas of the northern
and eastern provinces are only lower-rung "troops" who do not
hold any place of importance or rank. In 1993 the LTTE reportedly had about
10,000 men in its fighting cadres, all Tamils and Hindus.
Deputy Defense Minister General Anuruddha Ratwatte reported in March
1999 that LTTE recruitment had been limited since early 1998 and reduced
in strength to a fighting cadre of fewer than 3,000, down from 4,000 to
5,000 members. As a result of its depleted manpower strength, the LTTE
has become largely dependent on its Baby Brigade, which is comprised of
boys and girls of ages ranging from 10 to 16 years. In May 1999, in an
apparently desperate plan to establish a Universal People's Militia, the
LTTE began to implement compulsory military training of all people over
the age of 15 in areas under LTTE control in the Vanni.
Among the world's child combatants, children feature most prominently
in the LTTE, whose fiercest fighting force, the Leopard Brigade (Sirasu
puli), is made up of children. In 1983 the LTTE established a training
base in the state of Pondicherry in India for recruits under 16, but only
one group of children was trained. By early 1984, the nucleus of the LTTE
Baby Brigade (Bakuts) was formed. The LTTE trained its first group of
women in 1985. In October 1987, the LTTE stepped up its recruitment of
women and children and began integrating its child warriors into other
units. LTTE leader Prabhakaran reportedly had ordered the mass
conscription of children in the remaining areas under LTTE control,
especially in the northeastern Mullaittivu District. From late 1995 to
mid-1996, the LTTE recruited and trained at least 2,000 Tamils largely
drawn from the 600,000 Tamils displaced in the wake of the operations to
capture the peninsula. About 1,000 of these were between 12 and 16 years
old. In 1998 Sri Lanka's Directorate of Military Intelligence estimated
that 60 percent of LTTE fighters were below 18 and that a third of all
LTTE recruits were women. According to an estimate based on LTTE fighters
who have been killed in combat, 40 percent of LTTE's force are both males
and females between nine and 18 years of age. Since April 1995, about 60
percent of LTTE personnel killed in combat have been children, mostly
girls and boys aged 10 to 16. Children serve everywhere except in
(Photo courtesy of Asiaweek, July 26, 1996)
The entire LTTE hardcore and leaders are from Velvettihura or from the
"fisher" caste, which has achieved some social standing because
of the AK-47s carried by many of its militant members. According to
Oberst, many tend to be university-educated, English-speaking professionals
with close cultural and personal ties to the West. However, several of
the important Tiger groups are led by Tamils who are relatively
uneducated and nonprofessional, from a middle-status caste.
LTTE Suicide Commandos
The LTTE has a female military force and uses some females for combat.
Indeed, female LTTE terrorists play a key role in the force. An unknown
number of LTTE's female commandos are members of the LTTE's elite
commando unit known as the Black Tigers. Members of this unit are
designated as "suicide commandos" and carry around their necks
a glass vial containing potassium cyanide. Suicide is common in Hindu
society, and the Tigers are fanatical Hindus. The cyanide capsule, which
LTTE members view as the ultimate symbol of bravery and commitment to a
cause, is issued at the final initiation ceremony. A LTTE commando who
wears the capsule must use it without fail in the event of an
unsuccessful mission, or face some more painful form of death at the
hands of the LTTE. One of the first reported instances when LTTE members
had to carry out their suicide vow was in October 1987, when the LTTE
ordered a group of captured leaders being taken to Colombo to commit
child soldier with a cyanide capsule in his hand
(Photo courtesy of Asiaweek, July 26, 1996)
The Black Tigers include both male and female members. The LTTE
"belt-bomb girl" who assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi on May 21, 1991, after garlanding him with flowers, was an
18-year-old Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu, who had semtex sachets taped to her
body. The blast also killed 17 others, including a LTTE photographer
recording the action. Over the subsequent two months of investigations,
as many as 25 LTTE members committed suicide to avoid capture.
Although the Gandhi assassination had huge negative repercussions for
the LTTE, suicide attacks have remained the LTTE's trademark. On January
31, 1996, a LTTE suicide bomber ran his truck carrying 440 pounds of
explosives into the front of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, killing at
least 91 people and wounding 1,400, as well as damaging a dozen office
buildings in Sri Lanka's busy financial district. On March 16, 1999, a
LTTE "belt-bomb girl" blew herself to bits when she jumped in
front of the car of the senior counter-terrorism police officer in an
attack just outside Colombo. The car, swerved, however, and escaped the
full force of the blast. An accomplice of the woman then killed himself
by swallowing cyanide. More recently, on July 29, 1999, a LTTE
"belt-bomb girl" assassinated Neelan Tiruchelvam, a
Harvard-educated, leading Sri Lankan moderate politician and peacemaker,
in Colombo by blowing herself or himself up by detonating a body bomb
next to the victim's car window.
Position: Top leader of the LTTE.
Background: Velupillai Prabhakaran was born on
November 27, 1954. He is a native of Velvettihurai, a coastal village
near Jaffna, where he hails from the "warrior-fisherman" caste.
He is the son of a pious and gentle Hindu government official, an agricultural
officer, who was famed for being so incorruptible that he would refuse
cups of tea from his subordinates. During his childhood, Prabhakaran
spent his days killing birds and squirrels with a slingshot. An average
student, he preferred historical novels on the glories of ancient Tamil
conquerors to his textbooks. As a youth, he became swept up in the
growing militancy in the northern peninsula of Jaffna, which is
predominately Tamil. After dropping out of school at age 16, he began to
associate with Tamil "activist gangs." On one occasion as a
gang member, he participated in a political kidnapping. In 1972 he helped
form a militant group called the New Tamil Tigers, becoming its co-leader
at 21. He imposed a strict code of conduct over his 15 gang members: no
smoking, no drinking, and no sex. Only through supreme sacrifice,
insisted Prabhakaran, could the Tamils achieve their goal of Eelam, or a
separate homeland. In his first terrorist action, which earned him
nationwide notoriety, Prabhakaran assassinated Jaffna's newly elected
mayor, a Tamil politician who was a member of a large Sinhalese political
party, on July 27, 1973 [some sources say 1975]. Prabhakaran won
considerable power and prestige as a result of the deed, which he
announced by putting up posters throughout Jaffna to claim
responsibility. He became a wanted man and a disgrace to his pacifist
father. In the Sri Lankan underworld, in order to lead a gang one must
establish a reputation for sudden and decisive violence and have a prior
criminal record. Qualifying on both counts, Prabhakaran then was able to
consolidate control over his gang, which he renamed Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam on May 5, 1976.
(Photo courtesy of Rediff on the Net, April 3,1999)
In Tamil Nadu, Prabhakaran's exploits in the early 1980s turned him
into a folk hero. His fierce eyes glared from calendars. Gradually and
ruthlessly, he gained control of the Tamil uprising. Prabhakaran married
a fiery beauty named Mathivathani Erambu in 1983. Since then, Tigers have
been allowed to wed after five years of combat. Prabhakaran's wife, son,
and daughter (a third child may also have been born) are reportedly
hiding in Australia.
The LTTE's charismatic "supremo," Prabhakaran has earned a
reputation as a military genius. A portly man with a moustache and
glittering eyes, he has also been described as "Asia's new Pol
Pot," a "ruthless killer," a "megalomaniac," and
an "introvert," who is rarely seen in public except before
battles or to host farewell banquets for Tigers setting off on suicide
missions. He spends time planning murders of civilians, including
politicians, and perceived Tamil rivals. Prabhakaran is an enigma even to
his most loyal commanders. Asked who his heroes are, Prabhakaran once named
actor Clint Eastwood. He has murdered many of his trusted commanders for
suspected treason. Nevertheless, he inspires fanatical devotion among his
Prabhakaran and his chief intelligence officer and military leader,
Pottu Amman, are the main LTTE leaders accused in Rajiv Gandhi's
assassination. On January 27, 1998, the Colombo High Court issued
warrants for the arrest of Prabhakaran, Amman, and eight others accused
of killing 78 persons and destroying the Central Bank Building by the
bomb explosion in 1996 and perpetrating other criminal acts between July
1, 1995, and January 31, 1996. Prabhakaran has repeatedly warned the
Western nations providing military support to Sri Lanka that they are
exposing their citizens to possible attacks.
Social Revolutionary Groups
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
(aka Fatah--The Revolutionary Council, Black June Organization, Arab
Revolutionary Brigades, Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims)
Since 1974 the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) is said to have killed
more than 300 people and wounded more than 650 in 20 countries. In recent
years, however, as Abu Nidal has become little more than a symbolic head
of the ANO, the ANO appears to have passed into near irrelevance as a
By mid-1984 the ANO had about 500 members. A highly secretive,
mercenary, and vengeful group, ANO has carried out actions under various
aliases on several continents on behalf of Middle East intelligence
organizations, such as those of Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Libya, as well as
other terrorist groups, such as the Shi'ites in southern Lebanon. For
many of its attacks, the ANO has used its trademark Polish W.Z.63
submachine gun. Relying primarily on highly motivated young Palestinian
students, Abu Nidal has run a highly disciplined and professional
organization, but one held together by terror; many members have been
accused of treason, deviation, or desertion and eliminated.
For Abu Nidal, the enemy camp comprises everyone who opposes the
forceful liberation of Palestine. Together with Zionism and imperialism,
a special place in this pantheon is occupied by those in the Arab world
supporting the political process, whether Arab regimes or Arafat's PLO.
Abu Nidal's Fath (Revolutionary Council) sees itself as the true heir of
the authentic Fath, which must be saved from the "founding
fathers" (Arafat and his cohorts) who betrayed its heritage. Abu
Nidal's Fath represents a model of secular Palestinian fundamentalism,
whose sacred goal is the liberation of Palestine.
In 1976-78 Abu Nidal began to establish a corps of dormant agents by
forcing young Palestinian students on scholarships in Europe to become
his agents. After a short training period in Libya, Iraq, or Syria, they
were sent abroad to remain as dormant agents for activation when needed.
Despite the ruthlessness of ANO terrorism, ANO members may have a very
conservative appearance. Robert Hitchens, a British journalist and
reportedly one of the few foreigners to have met Abu Nidal, was highly
impressed by the cleanliness of Abu Nidal's headquarters in Baghdad, and
by the "immaculate dress of his men," who were "all
clean-shaven and properly dressed," as well as very polite.
Recruiting is highly selective. In the early 1980s, members typically
came from families or hometowns of earlier members in Lebanon, but by the
mid-1980s the ANO began to increase recruitment by drawing from refugee
camps. Graduates of the first training program would be driven to
southern Lebanon, where they would undergo several weeks of military
training. A few weeks later, they would be driven to Damascus airport,
issued new code names, and flown to Tripoli, where they would be
transferred to ANO training camps.
In the mid-1980s, Abu Nidal continued to recruit from Arab students
studying in Europe. Madrid has served as an important source for
recruiting these students.
In the 1987-92 period, most of Abu Nidal's trainees at his camp
located 170 kilometers south of Tripoli continued to be alienated
Palestinian youths recruited from Palestinian refugee camps and towns in
Lebanon. They were flown to Libya on Libyan military transports from the
Damascus airport in groups of about 100. Abu Nidal's recruitment efforts
were directed at very young students, whom he would promise to help with
education, career prospects, and families. In addition to paying them a
good salary, he lauded the students for fulfilling their duty not just to
Palestine but to the whole Arab nation by joining his organization, which
he claimed was inspired by the noblest Arab virtues.
The selection process became very serious once the new recruits
arrived at ANO training camps in Libya. New recruits were made to sign
warrants agreeing to be executed if any intelligence connection in their
backgrounds were later to be discovered. They were also required to write
a highly detailed autobiography for their personal file, to be used for
future verification of the information provided. While still on
probation, each new recruit would be assigned to a two-man cell with his
recruiter and required to stand guard at the Abu Nidal offices,
distribute the Abu Nidal magazine, or participate in marches and
demonstrations. Some were ordered to do some intelligence tasks, such as
surveillance or reporting on neighborhood activities of rival organizations.
New recruits were also required to give up alcohol, cigarettes, drugs,
and women. They were ordered never to ask the real name of any Abu Nidal
member or to reveal their own, and to use only codenames. Throughout
their training, recruits were drilled in and lectured on the ANO's ten
fundamental principles: commitment, discipline, democratic centralism,
obedience to the chain of command, initiative and action, criticism and
self-criticism, security and confidentiality, planning and implementation,
assessment of experience gained, and thrift. Infractions of the rules
brought harsh discipline. Recruits suspected of being infiltrators were
tortured and executed.
According to the Guardian, by the late 1990s the ANO was no
longer considered an active threat, having broken apart in recent years
in a series of feuds as Abu Nidal became a recluse in his Libyan haven.
According to the New York Times, Abu Nidal still had 200 to 300
followers in his organization in 1998, and they have been active in
recent years, especially against Arab targets. As of early 1999, however,
there were reports that the ANO was being torn apart further by internal
feuds, defections, and lack of financing. Half of Abu Nidal's followers
in Lebanon and Libya reportedly had defected to Yasser Arafat's Fatah
movement and moved to the Gaza Strip.
Position: Leader of the ANO.
Background: Abu Nidal was born Sabri al-Banna in May
1937 in Jaffa, Palestine, the son of a wealthy orange grower, Khalil
al-Banna, and of his eighth wife. His father was reputed to be one of the
wealthiest men in Palestine, primarily from dealing in property. Abu
Nidal's family also had homes in Egypt, France, and Turkey. His father
died in 1945, when Sabri was attending a French mission school in Jaffa.
His more devout older brothers then enrolled him in a private Muslim
school in Jerusalem for the next two years, until the once wealthy family
was forced into abject poverty. The Israeli government confiscated all of
the al-Banna land in 1948, including more than 6,000 acres of orchards.
After living in a refugee camp in Gaza for nine months, the family moved
to Nablus on the West Bank, when Sabri al-Banna was 12 years old. An
average student, he graduated from high school in Nablus in 1955.
(Photo courtesy of The Washington Post, 1999)
That year Sabri joined the authoritarian Arab nationalist and
violence-prone Ba'ath Party. He also enrolled in the engineering
department of Cairo University, but two years later returned to Nablus
without having graduated. In 1958 he got a demeaning job as a common
laborer with the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco) in Saudi Arabia.
In 1960 he also set up an electronic contracting shop in Riyadh. His
character traits at that time included being an introvert and stubborn.
In 1962, while back in Nablus, he married and then returned with his wife
to Saudi Arabia. Political discussions with other Palestinian exiles in
Saudi Arabia inspired him to become more active in the illegal Ba'ath
Party and then to join Fatah. In 1967 he was fired from his Aramco job
because of his political activities, imprisoned, and tortured by the
Saudis, who then deported him to Nablus. As a result of the Six-Day War
and the entrance of Israeli forces into Nablus, he formed his own group
called the Palestine Secret Organization, which became more militant in
1968 and began to stir up trouble. He moved his family to Amman, where he
joined Fatah, Yasser Arafat's group and the largest of the Palestinian
In 1969 Abu Nidal became the Palestinian Liberation Organization's
(PLO) representative in Khartoum, and while there he apparently first
came in contact with Iraqi intelligence officers. In August 1970, he
moved to Baghdad, where he occupied the same post, and became an agent of
the Iraqi intelligence service. After the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, he left
Fatah to start his own organization. With Iraqi weapons, training, and
intelligence support, his first major act of terrorism was to seize the
Saudi Arabian Embassy in Paris on September 5, 1973. Later Iraqi
officials reportedly admitted that they had commissioned Abu Nidal to
carry out the operation.
During 1973-74, the relationship between Abu Nidal and Arafat
worsened. Abu Nidal himself has suggested that he left Fatah because of
the PLO's willingness to accept a compromise West Bank state instead of
the total liberation of Palestine. By mid-1974 Abu Nidal was replaced
because of his increasing friendliness with his Iraqi host. In October 1974,
Iraq sponsored the Rejection Front. Abu Nidal did not join, however,
because of his recent expulsion from the PLO, and he was organizing his
own group, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, with the help of the Iraqi
leadership. In 1978 Abu Nidal began to retaliate for his ouster from the
PLO by assassinating the leading PLO representatives in London, Kuwait,
and Paris. He subsequently assassinated the leading PLO representative in
Brussels in 1981 and the representatives in Bucharest, Romania, in 1984.
Other attempts failed. In 1983 Abu Nidal's hitmen in Lisbon also
assassinated one of Arafat's most dovish advisers.
In addition to his terrorist campaign against the PLO, Abu Nidal
carried out attacks against Syria. He organized a terrorist group called
Black June (named after the month the Syrian troops invaded Lebanon) that
bombed Syrian embassies and airline offices in Europe, took hostages at a
hotel in Damascus, and attempted to assassinate the Syrian foreign
minister. In November 1983, Saddam expelled Abu Nidal from Iraq because
of pressure applied by the United States, Jordan, and the United Arab
Emirates--all allies of Iraq in the ongoing war against Iran.
Abu Nidal moved his headquarters to Syria. From late 1983 to 1986,
Hafiz al-Assad's government employed ANO to carry out two main
objectives: to intimidate Arafat and King Hussein, who were considering
taking part in peace plans that excluded Syria, and to attempt to
assassinate Jordanian representatives (mainly diplomats). Between 1983
and 1985, the ANO attacked Jordanians in Ankara, Athens, Bucharest,
Madrid, New Delhi, and Rome, as well as bombed offices in these capitals.
The Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab
Emirates were also attacked because they were late in paying him protection
money. Other ANO attacks included the machine-gun massacres of El Al
passengers at the Vienna and Rome airports on December 27, 1985.
Abu Nidal's relationship with Syria weakened, however, because Assad
treated him as a contract hitman rather than a Palestinian leader and
because Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States applied intense
pressures on Assad's regime to end terrorism. After Syrian intelligence
caught one of Abu Nidal's lieutenants at the Damascus airport carrying
sensitive documents and found weapons that he had stored in Syria without
their knowledge, Syria expelled Abu Nidal in 1987. After the expulsion,
he moved to Libya.
Abu Nidal appeared to be more secure in Libya. He followed the same
pattern that he had established in Iraq and Syria. He organized attacks
on the enemies of his friends (Libya's enemies included the United
States, Egypt, and the PLO), bombed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, hijacked
planes, and gunned down 21 Jews at an Istanbul synagogue. In Libya,
however, internal feuds ripped ANO apart. In 1989-90 hundreds died in
battles between Abu Nidal and dissidents supported by the PLO, who sought
to take control of his operations in Libya and Lebanon.
A curious feature of Abu Nidal's terrorism is that more than 50 percent
of it has been directed against Arab and Palestinian rivals. The ANO's
vicious war against the PLO has led to Arab claims that it was secretly
manipulated by Israel's Mossad secret service. According to this
seemingly far-fetched hypothesis, the Mossad penetrated Abu Nidal's
organization and has manipulated Abu Nidal to carry out atrocities that
would discredit the Palestinian cause. The hypothesis is based on four
main points: Abu Nidal killings have damaged the Palestinian cause to
Israel's advantage, the suspicious behavior of some of Abu Nidal's
officials, the lack of attacks on Israel, lack of involvement in the
Intifada, and Israel's failure to retaliate against Abu Nidal's groups.
Another distinctive feature of Abu Nidal's terrorism is that the ANO has
generally not concerned itself with captured ANO members, preferring to
abandon them to their fate rather than to attempt to bargain for their
release. These traits would seem to suggest that the ANO has been more a
product of its leader's paranoid psychopathology than his ideology. Abu
Nidal's paranoia has also been evident in interviews that he has
supposedly given, in which he has indicated his belief that the Vatican
was responsible for his fallout with Iraq and is actively hunting down
his organization. Wary of being traced or blown up by a remote-controlled
device, he allegedly never speaks on a telephone or two-way radio, or
drinks anything served to him by others.
In recent years, the aging and ailing Abu Nidal has slipped into
relative obscurity. On July 5, 1998, two days after 10 ANO members
demanded his resignation as ANO chief, the Egyptians arrested Abu Nidal,
who was carrying a Tunisian passport under a false name. Egyptian
security officers eventually ordered the 10 dissident members of his
group out of Egypt. Abu Nidal was rumored to be undergoing treatment in
the Palestinian Red Crescent Society Hospital in the Cairo suburb of
Heliopolis. In mid-December 1998, he went from Egypt to Iraq after
fleeing a hospital bed in Cairo, where he had quietly been undergoing
treatment for leukemia.
Abu Nidal's physical description seems to vary depending on the
source. In 1992 Patrick Seale described Abu Nidal as "a
pale-skinned, balding, pot-bellied man, with a long thin nose above a
gray mustache." One trainee added that Abu Nidal was not very tall
and had blue-green eyes and a plump face.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command
Ahmad Jibril, a Palestinian who had served as a captain in the Syrian
army before joining
first the Fatah and later the PFLP, became disillusioned with the
PFLP's emphasis on ideology over action and for being too willing to
compromise with Israel. Consequently, in August 1968 Jibril formed the
PFLP-GC as a breakaway faction of the PFLP. The PFLP-GC is a secular,
nationalist organization that seeks to replace Israel with a
"secular democratic" state. Like the PFLP, the PFLP-GC has
refused to accept Israel's continued existence, but the PFLP-GC has been
more strident and uncompromising in its opposition to a negotiated
solution to the Palestinian conflict than the PFLP and, unlike the PFLP,
has made threats to assassinate Yasir Arafat. Terrorist actions linked to
the PFLP-GC have included the hang-glider infiltration of an operative over
the Lebanese border in November 1987, the hijacking of four jet airliners
on September 6, 1970, and the bombing of a Pan Am Boeing 747 over
Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, causing 270 deaths. Libyan agents were
later charged for the Pan Am bombing, but Jibril and his PFLP-GC have
continued to be suspected of some involvement, such as planning the
operation and then giving it to the Libyans. In recent years, the
PFLP-GC, weakened by reduced support from Syria and Jibril's health
problems, has not been associated with any major international terrorist
action. Its activities have focused on guerrilla attacks against Israeli
forces in southern Lebanon.
In 1991 the PFLP-GC had about 500 members and was attempting to
recruit new members. It is known that the PFLP looks for support from the
working classes and middle classes, but little has been reported about
the PFLP-GC's membership composition. The PFLP-GC's presence in the West
Bank and Gaza is negligible, however.
The PFLP has a strict membership process that is the only acceptable
form of recruitment. Although it is unclear whether the PFLP-GC uses this
or a similar process, the PFLP's recruiting program is nonetheless
described here briefly. A PFLP cell, numbering from three to ten members,
recruits new members and appoints one member of a comparably sized PFLP
circle to guide PFLP trainees through their pre-membership period. Cells
indoctrinate new recruits through the study of PFLP literature and
Marxist-Leninist theory. Prior to any training and during the training
period, each recruit is closely monitored and evaluated for personality,
ability, and depth of commitment to the Palestinian cause. To qualify for
membership, the applicant must be Palestinian or Arab, at least 16 years
old, from a "revolutionary class," accept the PFLP's political
program and internal rules, already be a participant in one of the PFLP's
noncombatant organizations, and be prepared to participate in combat. To
reach "trainee" status, the new recruit must submit an application
and be recommended by at least two PFLP members, who are held personally
responsible for having recommended the candidate. Trainees undergo
training for a period of six months to a year. On completing training,
the trainee must be formally approved for full membership.
The PFLP-GC political leadership is organized into a General
Secretariat, a Political Bureau, and a Central Committee. The PFLP-GC is
currently led by its secretary general, Ahmad Jibril. Other top leaders
include the assistant secretary general, Talal Naji; and the Political
Bureau secretary, Fadl Shururu.
In August 1996, Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad reportedly asked
PFLP-GC chief Ahmad Jibril to leave Syria and go to Iran. However, Jibril
apparently was not out of Syria for long. On May 14, 1999, a delegation
representing the leadership of the PFLP-GC, led by PFLP-GC Secretary
General Ahmad Jibril and comprising PFLP-GC Assistant Secretary General
Talal Naji, PFLP-GC Political Bureau Secretary Fadl Shururu, and Central
Committee Member Abu Nidal 'Ajjuri, met in Damascus with Iranian
President Muhammad Khatami and his delegation, who paid a state visit to
the Syrian Arab Republic. Several senior PFLP-GC members quit the group
in August 1999 because of Jibril's hard-line against peace negotiations.
The PFLP-GC is not known to have been particularly active in recent
years, at least in terms of carrying out major acts of terrorism.
However, if one of its state sponsors, such as Iran, Libya, and Syria,
decides to retaliate against another nation for a perceived offense, the
PFLP-GC could be employed for that purpose. The group retains dormant
cells in Europe and has close ties to the JRA and Irish terrorists.
Position: Secretary General of the PFLP-GC.
Background: Ahmad Jibril was born in the town of
Yazur, on land occupied in 1938. Following the Arab-Israeli War in 1948,
his family moved to Syria. Late in the second half of the 1950s, he, like
other Palestinians, joined the Syrian Army. He attended military college
and eventually became a demolitions expert and a captain. While remaining
an active officer in the Syrian Army, Jibril tried to form his own
militant organization, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), with a few
young Palestinians on the eve of the June 1967 war. Since that time,
Jibril has been characterized by two basic constants: not offending or
distancing himself from Syria and maintaining a deep-seated hostility
toward Fatah and Yasir Arafat. After a brief membership in George
Habbash's PFLP, in October 1968 Jibril formed the PFLP-GC, which became
known for its military explosives technology.
(Photo courtesy of The Washington Post, 1999)
After a long period of suffering and poverty, Jibril had the good
fortune in the mid-1970s of becoming acquainted with Libya's Colonel
Muammar al-Qadhafi in the wake of the downing of a Libyan civilian plane
by Israeli fighters over the Sinai. Jibril offered to retaliate, and
Qadhafi reportedly gave him millions of dollars to buy gliders and launch
kamikaze attacks on an Israeli city. After sending the pilots to certain
communist countries for training in suicide missions, Jibril met with
Qadhafi and returned the money, saying that twice that amount was needed.
Impressed by Jibril's honesty, Qadhafi immediately gave him twice the
Despite his huge quantities of weapons and money, Jibril still
suffered from low popularity among Palestinians and a lack of presence in
the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Reasons cited for his low
popularity included his having grown up in Syrian Army barracks, the
nature of his alliance with Syria, and the Fatah movement's isolation of
him from the Palestinian scene. Jibril suffered a major setback in 1977,
when the PFLP-GC split. In 1982 Jibril fled Beirut in 1982 and began a
closer association with Libyan agencies, taking charge of liquidating a
large number of Libyan opposition figures and leaders overseas. In early
1983, Jibril suddenly began identifying with Iran, which welcomed him.
Eventually, he moved his headquarters and operations center to Tehran.
The PFLP-GC began engaging in intelligence operations for Iran among
Palestinians in various countries.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
The membership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas
Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia--FARC) has always come primarily from
the countryside. Sociologist James Peter says that 80 percent of the
FARC's members are peasants, which explains its vitality and development
over time. Most FARC members reportedly are poorly educated, young people
from rural areas and who are more attracted to the FARC for its
relatively good salary and revolutionary adventurism than for ideology.
Many are teenagers, both male and female. Many poor farmers and teenagers
join the FARC out of boredom or simply because it pays them about $350 a
month, which is $100 more than a Colombian Army conscript. Others may be
more idealistic. For example, Ramón, a 17-year-old guerrilla, told a Washington
Post reporter in February 1999 that "I do not know the word
'Marxism,' but I joined the FARC for the cause of the country...for the
cause of the poor." The FARC has relied on forced conscription in
areas where it has had difficulties recruiting or in instances in which
landowners are unable to meet FARC demands for "war taxes." In
early June 1999, the FARC's Eduardo Devía ("Raul Reyes")
pledged to a United Nations representative not to recruit or kidnap more
Although the FARC has traditionally been a primarily peasant-based movement,
its membership may have broadened during the 1990s as a result of the
steadily expanding area under FARC control. Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley
points out that "The most striking single feature of the Colombian
guerrilla experience, especially but not only for the FARC, is how
thoroughly the entire guerrilla experience has been rooted in local
experiences in the countryside." Wickham-Crowley qualifies that
traditional characteristic, however, by noting that, according to FARC
leader Manuel Marulanda, "there had been an appreciable broadening
of the guerrillas' ranks, now including a larger number of urbanites:
workers, intellectuals, students, professionals, doctors, lawyers,
professors, and priests." If true, this would be surprising
considering that the FARC's increasingly terrorist actions, such as mass
kidnappings, have had the effect of shifting public opinion in Colombia
from apathy toward the isolated rural guerrilla groups to increasing
concern and a hardening of attitudes toward the guerrillas.
According to some analysts, the insurgent organization has
approximately 20,000 fighters organized in at least 80 fronts throughout
the country, which are especially concentrated in specific areas where
the FARC has managed to establish a support base within the peasant
population. However, that figure is at the higher end of estimates. In
1999 the FARC reportedly had approximately 15,000 heavily armed
combatants. The National Army's intelligence directorate puts the figure
even lower, saying that the insurgent group has close to 11,000
men--seven blocs that comprise a total of 61 fronts, four columns, and an
unknown number of mobile companies.
The FARC was not known to have any women combatants in its ranks in
the 1960s, but by the 1980s women were reportedly fighting side by side
with FARC men without any special privileges. By 1999 a growing number of
FARC troops were women.
In contrast to most other Latin American guerrilla/terrorist groups,
FARC leaders generally are poorly educated peasants. The formal education
of current FARC leader Manuel Marulanda consists of only four years of
grammar school. His predecessor, Jocobo Arenas, had only two years of
school. Wickham-Crowley has documented the peasant origins of FARC
leaders and the organization in general, both of which were a product of
the La Violencia period in 1948, when the government attempted to retake
the "independent republics" formed by peasants.
Marulanda's power is limited by the Central General Staff, the FARC's
main decision-making body, formed by seven members, including Marulanda.
The other six are Jorge Briceño Suárez ("Mono Jojoy"),
Guillermo León Saenz Vargas ("Alfonso Cano"), Luis Eduardo
Devía ("Raúl Reyes"), Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry
("Timochenko" or "Timoleón"), Luciano Marín Arango ("Iván
Márquez"), and Efraín Guzmán Jiménez. Raúl Reyes, Joaquín Gómez and
Fabian Ramírez, who have led lengthy military and political careers
within the insurgent ranks, have been present during the peace talks with
the government in 1999. Raúl Reyes is in charge of finances and
international policy; Fabian Ramírez is a commander with the Southern
Bloc, one of the organization's largest operations units; and Joaquín
Gómez is a member of the Southern Bloc's General Staff.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the FARC leadership decided to send
about 20 of its best youth to receive training in the military academies
of the now former Soviet Union. The FARC's new second-generation of
guerrilla leaders--those young FARC members who completed
political-military training abroad and are beginning to assume important
military responsibilities--have been educated more for waging war than
making peace. Since the mid-1990s, these second-generation FARC military
leaders have been gradually assuming greater military responsibilities
and taking over from the FARC's first-generation leaders.
The division between so-called moderates and hard-liners within the
FARC leadership constitutes a significant vulnerability, if it can be
exploited. Whereas Marulanda represents the supposedly moderate faction
of the FARC and favors a political solution, Jorge Briceño ("Mono
Jojoy") represents the FARC hard-liners who favor a military
solution. Marulanda must know that he will not live long enough to see
the FARC take power. Thus, he may prefer to be remembered in history as
the FARC leader who made peace possible. However, should Marulanda
disappear then Mono Jojoy and his fellow hard-liners will likely dominate
the FARC. Mono Jojoy, who does not favor the peace process, reportedly
has been the primary cause of a rupture between the FARC's political and
Pedro Antonio Marín/Manuel Marulanda Vélez
Position: FARC founder and commander in chief.
Background: Since its inception in May 1966, the FARC
has operated under the leadership of Pedro Antonio Marín (aka
"Manuel Marulanda Vélez" or "Tirofijo"--Sure Shot).
Marín was born into a peasant family in Génova, Quindío Department, a
coffee-growing region of west-central Colombia. He says he was born in
May 1930, but his father claimed the date was May 12, 1928. He was the
oldest of five children, all brothers. His formal education consisted of
only four years of elementary school, after which he went to work as a
woodcutter, butcher, baker, and candy salesman. His family supported the
Liberal Party. When a civil war erupted in 1948 following the
assassination of a Liberal president, Marín and a few cousins took to the
mountains. On becoming a guerrilla, Marín adopted the pseudonym of Manuel
Marulanda Vélez in tribute to a trade unionist who died while opposing
the dispatch of Colombian troops to the Korean War.
Pedro Antonio Marín
(Photo courtesy of www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/6433/04.html)
A professional survivor, an experienced tactician, and
a determined commander, Marulanda Vélez has been officially pronounced
dead several times in army communiqués, but he has always reappeared in
guerrilla actions. Although only five feet tall, he is a charismatic
guerrilla chieftain who has long been personally involved in combat and
has inspired unlimited confidence among his followers. He ascended to the
top leadership position after the death of Jocobo Arenas from a heart
attack in 1990. He is reported to be a member of the Central Committee of
the Communist Party of Colombia (Partido Comunista de Colombia--PCC),
which has historically been associated with the FARC. According to author
Alfredo Rangel Suárez, Marulanda "is not a theoretician by any
means, but he is very astute and has a great capacity for command and organization."
Rangel Suárez believes that Marulanda is a hardcore Marxist-Leninist.
However, Marulanda's peasant origins and his innate sense of military
strategy have earned him nationwide recognition as a leader among
politicians, leftists, and other guerrilla groups.
Marulanda is not known to have ever married, although he reportedly
has numerous children by liaisons with various women. According to
journalist María Jimena Duzán, Marulanda lives simply, like a peasant,
and without any luxuries, such as cognac. However, he smokes cigarettes.
Jorge Briceño Suárez ("Mono Jojoy")
Position: Second in command of the FARC; commander,
Eastern Bloc of the FARC; member, FARC General Secretariat since April
Background: Jorge Briceño Suárez was born in the Duda
region of Colombia, in the jurisdiction of Uribe, Meta Department, in
1949. His father was the legendary guerrilla Juan de la Cruz Varela, and
his mother was a peasant woman, Romelia Suárez. He grew up and learned to
read and write within the FARC. For years, he was at the side of Manuel
Marulanda Vélez ("Tirofijo"--Sureshot), who is considered his
tutor and teacher. Mono Jojoy is a jovial-looking, heavy-set man who
wears a handlebar moustache and who normally wears a simple green
camouflage uniform and a black beret. He is another of the new
second-generation FARC military chiefs who was born in the FARC. Both he
and "Eliécer"created the FARC's highly effective school for
"special attack tactics," which trains units to strike the
enemy without suffering major casualties. Mono Jojoy is credited with
introducing the Vietnam War-style specialized commandos that consist of
grouping the best men of each front in order to assign them specific
high-risk missions. He is one of the most respected guerrilla leaders within
FARC ranks. He became second in command when Marulanda succeeded Jocobo
Arenas in 1990.
Unlike the other commanders who came to the FARC after
university-level studies, Mono Jojoy learned everything about guerrilla
warfare in the field. He easily moves among the Departments of Boyacá,
Cundinamarca, and Meta. He is said to know the Sumapaz region "like
the palm of his hand." He is known as a courageous guerrilla, who is
obsessed with attacking the Public Force, has little emotion, and is laconic.
His great military experience helps to compensate for his low
intellectual level. He is said to be unscrupulous and to advocate any
form of warfare in pursuit of power, including dialoging with the
government as a ruse. Under his command, the Eastern Bloc has earned
record amounts of cocaine-trafficking profits. He is opposed to
extradition of Colombians, including his brother, Germán Briceño Suárez
("Grannobles"), a FARC hard-liner who was charged on July 21,
1999, in the slayings of three U.S. Indian rights activists, who were
executed in early 1999. He is contemptuous of the prospect of U.S.
military intervention, noting that U.S. soldiers would not last three
days in the jungle. However, he would welcome U.S. economic assistance to
rural development projects, such as bridge-building.
Germán Briceño Suárez ("Grannobles")
Position: Commander, 10th, 28th, 38th, 45th, and 56th
Background: Germán Briceño, younger brother of Jorge
Briceño Suárez, was born in the Duda region of Colombia, in the
jurisdiction of Uribe, Meta Department, in 1953. His father was the
legendary guerrilla Juan de la Cruz Varela, and his mother was a peasant
woman, Romelia Suárez. At the recommendation of his brother, Germán
Briceño became an official member of the FARC in 1980. Even from that
early date, Germán Briceño showed himself to be more of a fighter and
bolder than his older brother, despite the latter's own reputation for
boldness. Germán Briceño was promoted rapidly to commander of the FARC's
30th Front in Cauca Department. After founding a combat
training school in that department's Buenos Aires municipality, he began
to be known for his meanness. He was reportedly suspended temporarily
from the FARC for his excesses against the peasants and his subordinates,
but later readmitted as a commander, thanks to his brother. However, he
was transferred to Vichada Department, where he engaged in weapons
trafficking and extortion of taxes from coca growers and drug
In 1994, after being promoted to his brother's Western Bloc staff,
Germán Briceño took over command of the 10th Front, which
operates in Arauca Department and along the Venezuelan border. Since then
he has also assumed command of the 28th, 38th, 45th,
and 56th fronts, operating in the economically and militarily
important departments of Arauca, Boyaca, and Casanare. In 1994 he
reportedly participated, along with his brother, in the kidnappings and
murders of American missionaries Stephen Welsh and Timothy van Dick; the
kidnapping of Raymond Rising, an official from the Summer Linguistics
Institute; and the kidnappings of industrialist Enrique Mazuera Durán and
his son, Mauricio, both of whom have U.S. citizenship. Germán Briceño is
also accused of kidnapping British citizen Nigel Breeze, and he is under
investigation for the murder of two Colombian Marine Infantry deputy
officers and for the kidnappings of Carlos Bastardo, a lieutenant from
the Venezuelan navy, as well as about a dozen cattlemen from Venezuela's
Apure State. His kidnap victims in Arauca have included the son of
Congressman Adalberto Jaimes; and Rubén Dario López, owner of the Arauca
convention center, along with his wife. He has also ordered the murders
of young women who were the girlfriends of police or military officers.
On February 23, 1999, Germán Briceño also kidnapped, without FARC
authorization, three U.S. indigenous activists in Arauca and murdered
them a week later in Venezuelan territory. The incident resulted in the
breaking off of contact between the FARC and the U.S. Department of State.
After a so-called FARC internal investigation, he was exonerated, again
thanks to his brother, and a guerrilla named Gildardo served as the fall
guy. Germán Briceño recovered part of his warrior's reputation by leading
an offensive against the army in March and April 1999 that resulted in
the deaths of 60 of the army's soldiers. On July 30, 1999, however,
Germán Briceño once again carried out an unauthorized action by hijacking
a Venezuela Avior commercial flight with 18 people on board (they were
released on August 8).
Position: A leading FARC military tactician.
Background: "Eliécer" was born in the FARC
in 1957, the son of one of the FARC's founders. He walked through the
Colombian jungles at the side of his father. Tall, white, and muscular, he
is a member of the so-called second-generation of the FARC. One the
FARC's most highly trained guerrillas, he received military training in
the Soviet Union. The late FARC ideologist Jocobo Arenas singled out
Eliécer for this honor. An outstanding student, Eliécer was awarded
various Soviet decorations. He then went to East Germany, where he not
only received military training but also learned German and completed
various political science courses. Following his stay in East Germany, he
received guerrilla combat experience in Central America. Commander
"Eliécer" became the FARC's military chief of Antioquia
Department at the end of 1995. A modern version of Manuel Marulanda,
Eliécer is regarded as cold, calculating, a very good conversationalist,
cultured, and intuitive. By 1997 he was regarded as one of the FARC's
most important tacticians. He and "Mono Jojoy"created the
FARC's highly effective school for "special attack tactics,"
which trains units to strike the enemy without suffering major
casualties. In Antioquia Eliécer was assigned to work alongside Efraín
Guzmán ("El Cucho"), a member of the FARC Staff and a FARC
founder who was 60 years old in 1996.
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N)
Since the group's initial appearance with the assassination of U.S.
official Richard Welch in an Athens suburb with a Colt .45-caliber magnum
automatic pistol on December 23, 1975, no known member of the shadowy
Revolutionary Organization 17 November (Epanastatiki Organosi 17
Noemvri--17N) has been apprehended. Thus, the membership and internal
dynamics of this small, mysterious, and well-disciplined group remain
It has been claimed in some news media that the identity of no member
of 17N is known to Greek, American, or European police and intelligence
agencies. However, the group's ability to strike with impunity at its
chosen targets for almost a quarter century without the apprehension of a
single member has reportedly made Western intelligence agencies suspect
it of being the instrument of a radicalized Greek intelligence service,
the GYP, according to the Observer [London]. According to one of
the Observer's sources, Kurdish bomber Seydo Hazar, 17N leaders
work hand-in-glove with elements of the Greek intelligence service. According
to the Observer, 17N has sheltered the PKK by providing housing
and training facilities for its guerrillas. Police were kept away from
PKK training camps by 17N leaders who checked the identity of car license
plates with Greek officials. Funds were obtained and distributed to the
PKK by a retired naval commander who lives on a Greek military base and
is a well-known sympathizer of 17N.
What little is known about 17N derives basically from its target
selection and its rambling written communiqués that quote Balzac or
historical texts, which a member may research in a public library. Named
for the 1973 student uprising in Greece protesting the military regime,
the group is generally believed to be an ultranationalist,
Marxist-Leninist organization that is anti-U.S., anti-Turkey, anti-rich
Greeks, anti-German, anti-European Union (EU), and anti-NATO, in that
order. It has also been very critical of Greek government policies, such
as those regarding Cyprus, relations with Turkey, the presence of U.S. bases
in Greece, and Greek membership in NATO and the European Union (EU). In
its self-proclaimed role as "vanguard of the working class,"
17N has also been critical of Greek government policies regarding a
variety of domestic issues. One of the group's goals is to raise the
"consciousness of the masses" by focusing on issues of
immediate concern to the population. To these ends, the group has
alternated its attacks between so-called "watchdogs of the
capitalist system" (i.e., U.S. diplomatic and military personnel and
"secret services") and "servants of the state" (such
as government officials, security forces, or industrialists). It has been
responsible for numerous attacks against U.S. interests, including the
assassination of four U.S. officials, the wounding of 28 other Americans,
and a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Athens in February
1996. The group justified its assassination of Welch by blaming the CIA
for "contributing to events in Cyprus" and for being
"responsible for and supporting the military junta."
Unlike most European Marxist-Leninist terrorist groups that are in
their third or fourth generation of membership, the 17N group has been
able to retain its original hard-core members. In 1992, according to 17N
expert Andrew Corsun, the group's hard-core members were most likely
professionals such as lawyers, journalists, and teachers in their late
thirties and early forties. If that is the case, most of the group's core
membership, which he estimated to be no more than twenty, would today be
mostly in their forties. Moreover, the 17N communiques, with a
five-pointed star and the name "17N," typically come from the
same typewriter that issued the movement's first proclamation in 1975,
shortly before Welch's execution. According to the prosecutor who
examined the files on 17N accumulated by late Attorney General Dhimitrios
Tsevas, the group comprises a small circle of members who are highly
educated, have access and informers in the government, and are divided
into three echelons: General Staff, operators, and auxiliaries. The core
members are said to speak in the cultivated Greek of the educated.
There appears to be general agreement among security authorities that
the group has between 10 and 25 members, and that its very small size
allows it to maintain its secrecy and security. The origin of the group
is still somewhat vague, but it is believed that its founders were part
of a resistance group that was formed during the 1967-75 military
dictatorship in Greece. It is also believed that Greek Socialist Premier
Andreas Papendreou may have played some hand in its beginnings. After
democracy returned to Greece in 1975, it is believed that many of the
original members went their own way. N17 is considered unique in that it
appears not to lead any political movement.
One of the group's operating traits is the fact that more than 10 of
its attacks in Athens, ranging from its assassination of U.S. Navy
Captain George Tsantes on November 15, 1983, to its attack on the German
ambassador's residence in early 1999, took place in the so-called
Khalandhri Triangle, a triangle comprising apartment blocks under
construction in the suburb of Khalandhri and situated between Kifisias,
Ethinikis Antistaseos, and Rizariou. The terrorists are believed by
authorities to know practically every square foot of this area. Knowing
the urban terrain intimately is a basic tenet of urban terrorism, as
specified by Carlos Marighella, author of The Minimanual of the Urban
The continuing hard-core membership is suggested by the fact that the
group murdered Cosfi Peraticos, scion of a Greek shipping family, in June
1997 with the same Colt .45 that it used to assassinate Richard Welch in
1975. The group has actually used the Colt .45 in more attacks than those
in 1975 and 1997 (see Table 6, Appendix). Since the Welch assassination,
its signature Colt .45 has been used to kill or wound at least six more
of its 20 victims, who include three other American officials and one
employee, two Turkish diplomats, and 13 Greeks. The rest have been killed
by another Colt .45, bombs, and anti-tank missiles. The group's repeated
use of its Colt .45 and typewriter suggests a trait more typical of a
psychopathic serial killer. In the political context of this group,
however, it appears to be symbolically important to the group to
repeatedly use the same Colt .45 and the same typewriter.
Authorities can tell that the people who make bombs for the 17N
organization were apparently trained in the Middle East during the early
1970s. For example, in the bombing of a bank branch in Athens on June 24,
1998, by the May 98 Group, the bomb, comprised of a timing mechanism made
with two clocks and a large amount of dynamite, was typical of devices
used by 17N, according to senior police officials.
Religious Fundamentalist Groups
In February 1998, bin Laden announced the formation of an umbrella
organization called the Islamic World Front for the Struggle against the
Jews and the Crusaders (Al-Jabhah al-Islamiyyah al-`Alamiyyah li-Qital
al-Yahud wal-Salibiyyin). Among the announced members of this terrorist
organization are the Egyptian Al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah, the Egyptian
Al-Jihad, the Egyptian Armed Group, the Pakistan Scholars Society, the
Partisan Movement for Kashmir, the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh, and bin
Laden's Afghan military wing of the Advice and Reform Commission
(Bodansky: 316). Unlike most terrorist groups, Al-Qaida is more of a home
base and financier for a global network of participating Islamic groups.
According to Bodansky (308-9), bin Laden and his close advisers live
in a three-chamber cave in eastern Afghanistan, in the mountains near
Jalalabad. One room is used as bin Laden's control and communications
center and is equipped with a state-of-the-art satellite communications
system, which includes, in addition to a satellite telephone, a desktop
computer, at least a couple laptops, and fax machines. Another room is
used for storage of weapons such as AK-47s, mortars, and machine guns. A
third room houses a large library of Islamic literature and three cots.
His immediate staff occupy cave bunkers in nearby mountains.
Bin Laden is ingratiating himself with his hosts, the Taliban, by
undertaking a massive reconstruction of Qandahar. In the section reserved
for the Taliban elite, bin Laden has built a home of his own, what
Bodansky (312) describes as "a massive stone building with a tower
surrounded by a tall wall on a side street just across from the Taliban's
"foreign ministry" building." Bin Laden's project includes
the construction of defensive military camps around the city. In
addition, in the mountains east of Qandahar, bin Laden is building
bunkers well concealed and fortified in mountain ravines.
After the U.S. cruise missile attack against his encampment on August
20, 1998, bin Laden began building a new headquarters and communications
center in a natural cave system in the Pamir Mountains in Kunduz
Province, very close to the border with Tajikistan. According to Bodansky
(312-13), the new site will be completed by the first half of 2000.
Bodanksy (326) reports that, since the fall of 1997, bin Laden has
been developing chemical weapons at facilities adjacent to the Islamic
Center in Soba, one of his farms located southwest of Khartoum, Sudan.
Meanwhile, since the summer of 1998 bin Laden has also been preparing
terrorist operations using biological, chemical, and possibly
radiological weapons at a secret compound near Qandahar.
By 1998 a new generation of muhajideen was being trained at bin
Laden's camps in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden's Afghan
forces consist of more than 10,000 trained fighters, including almost
3,000 Arab Afghans, or Armed Islamic Movement (AIM), which is also known
as the International Legion of Islam. According to Bodansky (318-19),
Egyptian intelligence reported that these Arab Afghans total 2,830,
including 177 Algerians, 594 Egyptians, 410 Jordanians, 53 Moroccans, 32
Palestinians, 162 Syrians, 111 Sudanese, 63 Tunisians, 291 Yemenis, 255
Iraqis, and others from the Gulf states. The remaining 7,000 or so
fighters are Bangladeshis, Chechens, Pakistanis, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and
other nationalities. Bodansky (318) reports that the 5,000 trainees at
one training center in Afghanistan are between 16 and 25 years of age and
from all over the world. The Martyrdom Battalions are composed of human
bombs being trained to carry out spectacular terrorist operations.
Osama bin Laden ("Usama bin Muhammad bin Laden,
Shaykh Usama bin Laden, the Prince, the Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mujahid
Shaykh, Hajj, the Director")
Position: Head of Al-Qaida.
Background: Usamah bin Mohammad bin Laden, now known
in the Western world as Osama bin Laden, was born on July 30, 1957, in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the seventeenth son of Mohammad bin Laden. The late
Mohammad bin Laden rose from peasant origins in Yemen to become a
small-time builder and contractor in Saudi Arabia and eventually the
wealthiest construction contractor in Saudi Arabia.. He had more than 50
children from several wives. Osama bin Laden's mother was reportedly a
Palestinian. Depending on the source of information, she was the least or
most favored of his father's ten wives, and Osama was his father's
favorite son. He was raised in the Hijaz in western Saudi Arabia, and
ultimately al Medina Al Munawwara. The family patriarch died in the late
1960s, according to one account, but was still active in 1973, according
to another account. In any case, he left his 65 children a financial
empire that today is worth an estimated $10 billion. The Saudi bin Laden
Group is now run by Osama's family, which has publicly said it does not
condone his violent activities.
After being educated in schools in Jiddah, the main port city on the
Red Sea coast, bin Laden studied management and economics in King Abdul
Aziz University, also in Jiddah, from 1974 to 1978. As a student, he
often went to Beirut to frequent nightclubs, casinos, and bars. However,
when his family's construction firm was rebuilding holy mosques in the
sacred cities of Mecca and Medina in 1973, bin Laden developed a
religious passion for Islam and a strong belief in Islamic law. In the
early 1970s, he began to preach the necessity of armed struggle and
worldwide monotheism, and he also began to associate with Islamic
(AP Photo; www.cnn.com)
Bin Laden's religious passion ignited in December 1979, when the
Soviet Union invaded Muslim Afghanistan. Bin Laden's worldview of seeing
the world in simplistic terms as a struggle between righteous Islam and a
doomed West prompted him to join the mujahideen in Pakistan, just a few
days after the invasion. In the early 1980s, he returned home to fund,
recruit, transport, and train a volunteer force of Arab nationals, called
the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF), to fight alongside the existing Afghan
mujahideen. He co-founded the Mujahideen Services Bureau (Maktab
al-Khidamar) and transformed it into an international network that
recruited Islamic fundamentalists with special knowledge, including
engineers, medical doctors, terrorists, and drug smugglers. In addition,
bin Laden volunteered the services of the family construction firm to
blast new roads through the mountains. As commander of a contingent of
Arab troops, he experienced combat against the Soviets first-hand,
including the siege of Jalalabad in 1986--one of the fiercest battles of
the war, and he earned a reputation as a fearless fighter. Following that
battle, bin Laden and other Islamic leaders concluded that they were
victims of a U.S. conspiracy to defeat the jihad in Afghanistan and
By the time the Soviet Union had pulled out of Afghanistan in February
1989, bin Laden was leading a fighting force known as "Afghan
Arabs," which numbered between 10,000 and 20,000. That year, after
the Soviets were forced out of Afghanistan, bin Laden disbanded the ISF
and returned to the family construction business in Saudi Arabia.
However, now he was a celebrity, whose fiery speeches sold a quarter
million cassettes. The Saudi government rewarded his hero status with
numerous government construction contracts. Following Iraq's invasion of
Kuwait on August 2, 1990, bin Laden urged the Saudi government not to
compromise its Islamic legitimacy by inviting infidel Americans into
Saudi Arabia to defend the country, but he was ignored..
Although bin Laden, unlike most other Islamic leaders, remained loyal
to the regime while condemning the U.S. military and economic presence as
well as the Iraqi invasion, Saudi officials increasingly began to
threaten him to halt his criticism. Consequently, bin Laden and his
family and a large band of followers moved to Sudan in 1991. While living
modestly in Sudan, bin Laden established a construction company employing
many of his former Afghan fighters. In addition to building roads and
infrastructure for the Sudanese government, he ran a farm producing
sunflower seeds and a tannery exporting goat hides to Italy. Sudan served
as a base for his terrorist operations. In 1992 his attention appears to
have been directed against Egypt, but he also claimed responsibility that
year for attempting to bomb U.S. soldiers in Yemen, and again for attacks
in Somalia in 1993. He also financed and help set up at least three
terrorist training camps in cooperation with the Sudanese regime, and his
construction company worked directly with Sudanese military officials to
transport and supply terrorists training in such camps. During the
1992-96 period, he built and equipped 23 training camps for mujahideen.
While in Sudan, he also established a supposedly detection-proof
financial system to support Islamic terrorist activities worldwide.
In the winter of 1993, bin Laden traveled to the Philippines to
support the terrorist network that would launch major operations in that
country and the United States. In 1993-94, having become convinced that
the House of al-Saud was no longer legitimate, bin Laden began actively
supporting Islamic extremists in Saudi Arabia. His calls for insurrection
prompted Saudi authorities to revoke his Saudi citizenship on April 7, 1994,
for "irresponsible behavior," and he was officially expelled
from the country. He subsequently established a new residence and base of
operations in the London suburb of Wembley, but was forced to return to
Sudan after a few months to avoid being extradited to Saudi Arabia. In
early 1995, he began stepping up activities against Egypt and Saudi
In mid-May 1996, pressure was applied by the Saudi government on Sudan
to exert some form of control over bin Laden. That summer, he uprooted
his family again, returning to Afghanistan on board his unmarked, private
C-130 military transport plane. Bin Laden established a mountain fortress
near the city of Kandahar southwest of Jalalabad, under the protection of
the Afghan government. From this location, he continues to fund his
training camps and military activities. In particular, bin Laden
continues to fund the Kunar camp, which trains terrorists for Al-Jihad
and Al-Jama' ah al-Islamiyyah. After attending a terrorism summit in
Khartoum, bin Laden stopped in Tehran in early October 1996 and met with
terrorist leaders, including Abu Nidal, to discuss stepping up terrorist
activities in the Middle East.
A mysterious figure whose exact involvement with terrorists and
terrorist incidents remains elusive, bin Laden has been linked to a
number of Islamic extremist groups and individuals with vehement
anti-American and anti-Israel ideologies. His name has been connected to
many of the world's most deadly terrorist operations, and he is named by
the U.S. Department of State as having financial and operational
connections with terrorism. Some aspects of bin Laden's known activities
have been established during interviews, mainly with Middle Eastern
reporters and on three occasions of the release of fatwas (religious rulings)
in April 1996, February 1997, and February 1998. Each threatened a jihad
against U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia and the Holy Lands, and each called
for Muslims to concentrate on "destroying, fighting and killing the
enemy."Abdul-Bari Atwan, editor of al-Quds al-Arabi
[London], who interviewed bin Laden at his Afghan headquarters in the
Khorassan mountains, reports that:
The mujahideen around the man belong to most Arab states, and are of
different ages, but most of them are young. They hold high scientific
degrees: doctors, engineers, teachers. They left their families and jobs
and joined the Afghan Jihad. There is an open front, and there are always
volunteers seeking martyrdom. The Arab mujahideen respect their leader,
although he does not show any firmness or leading gestures. They all told
me that they are ready to die in his defense and that they would take
revenge against any quarter that harms him.
A tall (6'4" to 6'6"), thin man weighing about 160 pounds
and wearing a full beard, bin Laden walks with a cane. He wears long,
flowing Arab robes fringed with gold, and wraps his head in a traditional
red-and-white checkered headdress. He is said to be soft-spoken,
extremely courteous, and even humble. He is described in some sources as
ordinary and shy. He speaks only Arabic. Because he has dared to stand up
to two superpowers, bin Laden has become an almost mythic figure in the
Islamic world. Thanks to the ineffectual U.S. cruise missile attack
against his camps in Afghanistan following the bombings in Kenya and
Tanzania in August 1998, thousands of Arabs and Muslims, seeing him as a
hero under attack by the Great Satan, have volunteered their service.
In 1998 bin Laden married his oldest daughter to Mullah Muhammad Omar,
the Taliban's leader. He himself married a fourth wife, reportedly a
young Pushtun related to key Afghan leaders. Thus, Bodansky points out,
now that he is related to the Pushtun elite by blood,
the ferocious Pushtuns will defend and fight for him and never allow
him to be surrendered to outsiders. Bin Laden's son Muhammad, who was
born in 1985, rarely leaves his father's side. Muhammad has already
received extensive military and terrorist training and carries his own
AK-47. He serves as his father's vigilant personal bodyguard.
Position: Bin Laden's second in command and the
undisputed senior military commander.
Background: Al-Zawahiri, who claims to be the supreme
leader of the Egyptian Jihad, is responsible for converting bin Laden to
Subhi Muhammad Abu-Sunnah ("Abu-Hafs al-Masri")
Position: Military Commander of al-Qaida.
Background: A prominent Egyptian fundamentalist
leader. He has close ties to bin Laden and has accompanied him on his
travels to Arab and foreign countries. He also helped to establish the
al-Qaida organization in Afghanistan in early 1991. He moved his
activities with bin Laden to Sudan and then backed to Afghanistan.
Hizballah (Party of God)
Alias: Islamic Jihad
Hizballah, an extremist political-religious movement based in Lebanon,
was created and sponsored by a contingent of 2,000 Iranian Revolutionary
Guards (IRGs) dispatched to Lebanon by Iran in July 1982, initially as a
form of resistance to the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon.
Hizballah's followers are Shia Muslims, who are strongly anti-Western and
anti-Israeli and totally dedicated to the creation of an Iranian-style
Islamic Republic in Lebanon and the removal of non-Islamic influences in
the area. Hizballah's following mushroomed in 1982 as both the Iranians
and their local allies in Lebanon indoctrinated young and poor Shia
peasants and young people in West Beirut's poor Shia suburbs through
films, ideological seminars, and radio broadcasts. The Islamic
fundamentalist groups in Lebanon have been most successful in recruiting
their followers among the slum dwellers of south Beirut. By late 1984,
Hizballah is thought to have absorbed all the known major extremist
groups in Lebanon.
Hizballah's worldview, published in a 1985 manifesto, states that all
Western influence is
detrimental to following the true path of Islam. In its eyes, the West
and particularly the United States, is the foremost corrupting influence
on the Islamic world today: thus, the United States is known as "the
Great Satan." In the same way, the state of Israel is regarded as
the product of Western imperialism and Western arrogance. Hizballah
believes that the West installed Israel in the region in order to
continue dominating it and exploiting its resources. Thus, Israel
represents the source of all evil and violence in the region and is seen
as an outpost of the United States in the heart of the Islamic Middle
East. In Hizballah's eyes, Israel must, therefore, be eradicated.
Hizballah sees itself as the savior of oppressed and dispossessed
Muslims. Hizballah's central goals help to explain the nature and scope
of its use of terrorism.
These include the establishment of an exclusively Shia, Iran-style
Islamic state in Lebanon; the complete destruction of the state of Israel
and the establishment of Islamic rule over Jerusalem and Palestine; and
an implacable opposition to the Middle East peace process, which it has
tried to sabotage through terrorism.
The typical Hizballah member in 1990 was a young man in his late teens
or early twenties, from a lower middle-class family. In Hizballah's first
years, many members were part-time soldiers. By 1990, however, most of
the militia and terrorist group members were believed to be full-time
"regulars." In the early 1980s, Hizballah used suicide commandos
as young as 17, including a beautiful Sunni girl, who killed herself and
two Israeli soldiers. In the last decade or so, however, Hizballah has
been using only more mature men for special missions and attacks, while
continuing to induct youths as young as 17 into its guerrilla ranks.
Hizballah's military branch includes not only members recruited from the
unemployed, but also doctors, engineers, and other professionals. In 1993
Iranian sources estimated the number of Hizballah's fighters at 5,000 strong,
plus 600 citizens from Arab and Islamic countries; the number of the
party's political cadres and workers was estimated at 3,000 strong.
Within this larger guerrilla organization, Hizballah has small terrorist
cells organized on an informal basis. They may consist of the personal
following of a particular leader or the relatives of a single extended
Hizballah is divided between moderates and radicals. Shaykh Muhammud
Husayn Fadlallah, Hizballah's spiritual leader, is considered a moderate
leader. The radical camp in 1997 was led by Ibrahim Amin and Hasan
Nasrallah. The latter is now Hizballah's secretary general.
Imad Fa'iz Mughniyah
Position: Head of Hizballah's Special Operations
Background: Imad Mughniyah was born in about 1961 in
southern Lebanon. He has been wanted by the FBI since the mid-1980s. He
is a charismatic and extremely violent individual. His physical
description, according to Hala Jaber (1997:120), is "short and
chubby with a babyish face." Mughniyah served in the PLO's Force 17
as a highly trained security man specializing in explosives. In 1982,
after his village in southern Lebanon was occupied by Israeli troops, he
and his family took refuge in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where he
was soon injured by artillery fire. Disillusioned by the PLO, he joined
the IRGs. His first important task apparently was to mastermind the
bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1982, in which 22
people were killed. On September 2, 1999, Argentina's Supreme Court
issued an arrest warrant for Mughniyah for ordering that bombing. His
next important tasks, on behalf of Syria and Iran, were the truck
bombings that killed 63 people at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in
April 1983, and another 241 U.S. Marines and sailors at their barracks
near Beirut airport the following October; the hijacking of an American
airliner in 1985, in which one American was killed; and the 1995
hijacking of TWA flight 847 from Athens to Rome. He also kidnapped most
of the Americans who were held hostage in Lebanon, including William
Buckley, who was murdered, as well as the British envoy, Terry Waite. In
December 1994, his brother was killed by a car bomb placed outside his
shop in Beirut.
In mid-February 1997, the pro-Israeli South Lebanese Army radio
station reported that Iran's intelligence service dispatched Mughniyah to
Lebanon to directly supervise the reorganization of Hizballah's security
apparatus concerned with Palestinian affairs in Lebanon and to work as a
security liaison between Hizballah and Iranian intelligence. Mughniyah
also reportedly controls Hizballah's security apparatus, the Special
Operations Command, which handles intelligence and conducts overseas
terrorist acts. Operating out of Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, Mughniyah is
known to frequently travel on Middle East Airlines (MEA), whose ground
crews include Hizballah members. Although he uses Hizballah as a cover,
he reports to the Iranians.
Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)
In December 1987, when the Palestinian uprising (Intifada) erupted,
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and other followers of the Muslim Brotherhood Society
(Jama'at al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin--MB), who had been running welfare,
social, and educational services through their mosques, immediately established
the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakat al Muqawana al
Islamiyyah--Hamas). Hamas's militant wing Al Qassam ('Izz al-Din
al-Qassam) played a major role in the Intifada. Responsible for attacks
on Israeli soldiers, Hamas gained a reputation for ruthlessness and
During the Intifada, two main organizational trends toward
decentralization of Hamas developed: Hamas's political leadership moved
to the neighboring Arab states, mainly Jordan; and grass-roots leaders,
representing young, militant activists, attained increased authority and
increased freedom of action within their areas of operation. Hamas's
leadership remains divided between those operating inside the Occupied
Territories and those operating outside, mainly from Damascus. Mahmoud
el-Zahar, Hamas's political leader in Gaza, operated openly until his
arrest in early 1996 by Palestinian security forces.
Impatient with the PLO's prolonged efforts to free the Occupied
Territories by diplomatic means, in November 1992 Hamas formed an
alliance with Iran for support in the continuation of the Intifada. That
December, 415 Palestinians suspected of having links with Hamas were
expelled from Israel into Lebanon, where they were refused refugee status
by Lebanon and neighboring Arab states. They remained for six months in a
desert camp until international condemnation of the deportations forced
Israel to agree to their return. In September 1993, Hamas opposed the
peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) and maintained a campaign of violence within Israel aimed at
disrupting the Middle East peace process. Its militant wing, Al-Qassam,
claimed responsibility for two bomb attacks within Israel in April 1994
and for a further bus bombing in Tel Aviv in October 1994. All were
carried out by suicide bombers.
The most persistent image of Hamas in the Western media is that of a
terrorist group comprised of suicide bombers in the occupied territories
and a radical terrorist faction in Damascus. However, Hamas is also a
large socioreligious movement involved in communal work within the
Palestinian refugee camps and responsible for many civic-action projects.
It runs a whole range of cultural, educational, political, and social
activities based on mosques and local community groups. In 1996 most of
Hamas's estimated $70 million annual budget was going to support a
network of hundreds of mosques, schools, orphanages, clinics, and
hospitals in almost every village, town, and refugee camp on the West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Consequently, Hamas has massive grass-roots support.
In 1993 Hamas's support reportedly varied from more than 40 percent
among the Gaza population as a whole to well over 60 percent in certain
Gaza refugee camps, and its support in the West Bank varied from 25
percent to as much as 40 percent. Hamas was reported in early 1996 to
enjoy solid support among 15 percent to 20 percent of the 2 million
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. According to Professor Ehud
Sprinzak of Hebrew University, Hamas is so popular among 20 to 30 percent
of Palestinians not because it has killed and wounded hundreds of
Israelis but because it has provided such important community services
for the Palestinian population. Moreover, Hamas activists live among the
poor and have a reputation for honesty, in contrast with many Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) activists. Hamas supporters reportedly
cross both tribal patterns and family patterns among Palestinians. The
same family often has brothers in both the PLO and Hamas.
Hamas's social services also provide both a cover and a recruiting
ground for young Hamas terrorists. Hamas members have been recruited from
among believers at Hamas-run mosques, which are also used for holding
meetings, organizing demonstrations, distributing leaflets, and launching
terrorist attacks. Hamas's ability to recruit leading West Bank religious
activists into its leadership ranks has broadened its influence.
The Suicide Bombing Strategy
Sprinzak points out that Hamas's opposition to the peace process has
never led it to pursue a strategy of suicide bombing. Rather, the group
has resorted to this tactic as a way of exacting tactical revenge for
humiliating Israeli actions. For example, in a CBS "60 Minutes"
interview in 1997, Hassan Salameh, arch terrorist of Hamas, confirmed
that the assassination of Yehiya Ayash ("The Engineer") by
Israelis had prompted his followers to organize three suicide bombings
that stunned Israel in 1996. Salameh thus contradicted what former Labor
Party prime minister Shimon Peres and other Israeli leaders had
contended, that the bombings resulted from a strategic decision by Hamas
to bring down the Israeli government. According to Sprinzak, the wave of
Hamas suicide bombings in late 1997, the third in the series, started in response
to a series of Israeli insults of Palestinians that have taken place
since the beginning of 1997, such as unilateral continuation of
settlements. Similarly, Sprinzak notes, Hamas did not initially pursue a
policy of bombing city buses. Hamas resorted to this tactic only after
February 1994, when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli physician and army
reserve captain, massacred 29 Palestinians praying in a Hebron shrine.
The professor's policy prescriptions for reducing Hamas's incentives to
commit terrorist atrocities against Israel are to recognize that Hamas is
a Palestinian fact of life and to desist from aggressive policies such as
unilateral continuation of settlements and assassination of Hamas
Hamas thrives on the misery and frustration of Palestinians. Its
charter, Jerrold Post notes, is pervaded with paranoid rhetoric. The
harsh Israeli blockade of Palestinian areas has only strengthened Hamas.
Selection of Suicide Bombers
Hamas's suicide bombers belong to its military wing, Al-Qassam. The
Al-Qassam brigades are composed of small, tightly knit cells of fanatics
generally in their mid- to late twenties. In Hamas, selection of a
suicide bomber begins with members of Hamas's military cells or with
members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who circulate among
organizations, schools, and mosques of the refugee camps in the West Bank
and the Gaza Strip. The recruiter will broach the subject of dying for
Allah with a group of students and watch the students' reactions.
Students who seem particularly interested in the discussion are
immediately singled out for possible "special merit."
In almost every case, these potential bombers--who range in age from
12 to 17 years--have a relative or close friend who was killed, wounded,
or jailed during the Israeli occupation. Bombers are also likely to have
some longstanding personal frustration, such as the shame they suffered
at the hands of friends who chastised them for not throwing stones at the
Israeli troops during the Intifada. Theirs is a strong hatred of the
enemy that can only be satisfied through a religious act that gives them
the courage to take revenge. The suicide bombers are of an age to be
regarded by the community as old enough to be responsible for their
actions but too young to have wives and children. Hamas claims that its
suicide bombers repeatedly volunteer to be allowed to be martyrs. These
young persons, conditioned by years of prayer in Hamas mosques, believe
that as martyrs they will go to heaven.
These aspiring suicide bombers attend classes in which trained Islamic
instructors focus on the verses of the Koran and the Hadith, the sayings
of the Prophet that form the basis of Islamic law and that idealize and
stress the glory of dying for Allah. Students are promised an afterlife
replete with gold palaces, sumptuous feasts, and obliging women. Aside
from religion, the indoctrination includes marathon sessions of
anti-Israeli propaganda. Students entering the program quickly learn that
"the Jews have no right to exist on land that belongs to the
Muslims." Students are assigned various tasks to test their
commitment. Delivering weapons for use in clandestine activities is a
popular way to judge the student's ability to follow orders and keep a
secret. Some students are even buried together in mock graves inside a
Palestinian cemetery to see if the idea of death spooks them. Students
who survive this test are placed in graves by themselves and asked to
recite passages from the Koran. It is at this stage that the recruits,
organized in small groups of three to five, start resembling members of a
cult, mentally isolated from their families and friends.
The support granted by Hamas to the families of suicide bombers and
others killed in clashes with Israel are considered vital to Hamas's
military operations because they play an important role in recruiting.
Graduates of Hamas's suicide schools know that their supreme sacrifice
will see their families protected for life. For someone used to a life of
poverty, this is a prized reward. Hamas awards monthly stipends in the
range of $1,000 to the families of the bombers. Scholarships for siblings
and foodstuffs are also made available. Hamas pays for the resettlement
of all suicide bomber families who lose their homes as a result of
Before embarking on his or her final mission directly from a mosque,
the young suicide bomber spends many days chanting the relevant
scriptures aloud at the mosque. The mantras inculcate a strong belief in
the bomber that Allah and Heaven await. For example, a favorite verse
reads: "Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. No,
they live on and find their sustenance in the presence of their
Lord." This belief is strong enough to allow the bomber to mingle
casually among his intended victims without showing any nervousness.
To ensure the utmost secrecy, a bomber learns how to handle explosives
only right before the mission. This practice also minimizes the time in
which the bomber could have second thoughts about his martyrdom that
could arise from using explosives over time. In the past, it was common
for the bomber to leave a written will or make a videotape. This custom
is no longer practiced because the General Security Service, the secret
service, known by its initials in Hebrew as Shin Bet, has arrested other
suicide bombers on the basis of information left on these records. In
November 1994, the names of 66 Al-Qassam Brigade Martyrs, along with
their area of residence, date of martyrdom, and means of martyrdom, were
published for the first time. In the late 1990s, the name or the picture
of the bomber is sometimes not even released after the suicide attack.
Hamas has even stopped publicly celebrating successful suicide attacks.
Nevertheless, pictures of past suicide bombers hang on the walls of
barber shops inside the refugee camps, and small children collect and
trade pictures of suicide bombers. There is even a teenage rock group
known as the "Martyrs" that sings the praises of the latest
bombers entering heaven.
In late 1997, Iran reportedly escalated its campaign to sabotage the
Middle East peace process by training Palestinian suicide bombers. The
two suicide bombers who carried out an attack that killed 22 Israelis on
January 22, 1998, reportedly had recently returned from training in Iran.
After their deaths, the Iranian government reportedly made payments to
the families of both men. On September 5, 1999, four Hamas terrorists,
all Israeli Arabs who had been recruited and trained in the West Bank,
attempted to carry out a mission to bomb two Jerusalem-bound buses.
However, both bombs apparently had been set to explode much earlier than
planned, and both exploded almost simultaneously in the terrorists' cars,
one in Tiberias and another in Haifa, as they were en route to their
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Significance: Hamas founder and spiritual leader.
Background: Ahmed Yassin was born near Ashqelan in
the south of Palestine in 1937. After the
1948 Israeli occupation, he lived as a refugee in the Shati camp in
Gaza. He became handicapped and confined to a wheelchair in 1952 as a
result of an accident. He is also blind and nearly deaf. He received a
secondary school education in Gaza and worked as a teacher and preacher
there from 1958 until 1978. His association with the Islamic
fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood organization began in the 1950s. He
founded the Islamic Center in Gaza in 1973. In 1979, influenced by the
1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, he established Gaza's Islamic Society
(Mujamma') and was its director until 1984. Although he was allowed to
use the Israeli media to criticize Yasir Arafat and the PLO, Yassin was
jailed for 10 months in 1984 for security reasons. He was a
well-respected Muslim Brotherhood leader in Gaza running welfare and
educational services in 1987 when the Palestinian uprising, Intifada,
against Israeli occupation began. He shortly thereafter formed Hamas. He
was arrested in May 1989 and sentenced in Israel to life imprisonment for
ordering the killing of Palestinians who had allegedly collaborated with
the Israeli Army. He was freed in early October 1997 in exchange for the
release of two Israeli agents arrested in Jordan after a failed
assassination attempt there against a Hamas leader. Yassin then returned
to his home in Gaza. He spent much of the first half of 1998 on a
fund-raising tour of Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United
Arab Republics, Iran, and Syria, during which he also received medical
treatment in Egypt. Two countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, reportedly
pledged between $50 million and $300 million for Hamas's military
operations against Israel. After his tour, and in frail health, Yassin
returned to Gaza.
Sheik Ahmed Yassin
(Photo courtesy of The News-Times, January 28, 1998)
Mohammed Mousa ("Abu Marzook")
Significance: Member, Hamas Political Bureau.
Background: Mohammed Mousa was born in 1951 in Rafah,
the Gaza Strip. He completed his basic education in the Gaza Strip,
studied engineering at Ein Shams University in Cairo, and graduated in
1977. He worked as manager of a factory in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
until 1981. He then moved to the United States to pursue his doctorate
and lived with his family in Falls Church, Virginia, and Brooklyn, New
York, for almost 14 years prior to his arrest in 1995. In the early
1980s, he became increasingly involved with militant Muslims in the
United States and elsewhere. He co-founded an umbrella organization
called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and became head of its
governing council. The IAP, now headquartered in Richardson, Texas,
established offices in Arizona, California, and Indiana. Beginning in
1987, Mousa allegedly was responsible for launching Hamas terrorist
attacks against Israel. In 1989 he became the founding president of the
United Association of Studies and Research (UASR), allegedly a covert
branch of Hamas responsible for disseminating propaganda and engaging in
strategic and political planning, located in Springfield, Virginia. In
1991 he earned a Ph.D. degree in Industrial Engineering. That year he was
elected as Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, as a result of the
arrest of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1989. Known as an ambitious and
charismatic figure, Mousa reorganized Hamas by centralizing political,
military, and financial control under his leadership and developing
foreign funding. Traveling freely between the United States and Europe,
Iran, Jordan, Sudan, and Syria, he allegedly helped to establish a large,
clandestine financial network as well as death squads that allegedly were
responsible for the murder or wounding of many Israelis and suspected
Palestinian collaborators. He led the resumption of suicide bombings in protest
of the 1993 Oslo accords. In early 1995, under U.S. pressure, Jordanian
authorities expelled him from Amman, where he had set up a major Hamas
support office. After leaving Amman, he traveled between Damascus and
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, among other places.
On July 28, 1995, Mousa arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York
on a flight from London and was detained by Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) agents for being on a "watch list"
of suspected terrorists. Three days later, Israel formally requested
Mousa's extradition to face criminal charges of terrorism and conspiracy
to commit murder. FBI agents arrested Mousa on August 8, 1995, pending an
extradition hearing, and he was jailed at the Federal Metropolitan
Correction Center in Manhattan. Mousa dropped his objection to
extradition 18 months later, saying he would rather "suffer
martyrdom in Israel than fight extradition through an unjust U.S. court
system." Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official in Gaza, then threatened
the United States if Mousa were extradited. Wishing to avoid terrorist
retaliation, Israel withdrew its extradition request on April 3, 1997.
Mousa was thereupon deported to Jordan on May 6, 1997. In August 1999,
Jordanian authorities closed the Hamas office in Amman and, on September
22, arrested Mousa and two of his fellow Hamas members. Mousa, who was
reportedly holding Yemeni citizenship and both Egyptian and Palestinian
travel documents, was again deported.
Significance: A Hamas leader.
Background: Al-Alami was born in the Gaza Strip in
1956. An engineer, he became overall leader of Hamas after the arrest of
Mohammed Mousa in 1995. However, in early 1996 he reportedly had less
control over all elements of Hamas than Mousa had had. He was based
mainly in Damascus, from where he made trips to Teheran.
Position: Al-Qassam leader.
Background: Mohammed Dief is believed to have assumed
command of the military brigades of Hamas (Al-Qassam) following the death
of Yahya Ayyash ("The Engineer"), who was killed on January 5,
1996. Dief reportedly leads from a small house on the Gaza Strip,
although he is known to travel frequently to both Lebanon and Syria. He
is currently among the most wanted by Israeli authorities.
(a.k.a.: al-Jihad, Islamic Jihad, New Jihad Group, Vanguards of the
Conquest, Tala'i' al-Fath)
The al-Jihad Organization of Egypt, also known as the Islamic Group,
is a militant offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, an
anti-Western Islamic organization that has targeted Egyptian government
officials for assassination since its founding in 1928. In 1981 Sheikh
'Umar Abd al-Rahman (also known as Omar Abdel Rahman), al-Jihad's blind
theologian at the University of Asyut, issued a fatwa, or religious
edict, sanctioning the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat.
In 1981 more than half of al-Jihad's membership were students or
teachers from vocational centers and at least eight universities.
However, some of the 302 al-Jihad members arrested in December 1982 for
coup-plotting in the wake of Sadat's assassination included members of
the Air Force military intelligence, Army central headquarters, the
Central Security Services, and even the Presidential Guard. Others
included employees at strategic jobs in broadcasting, the telephone
exchange, and municipal services.
Since 1998 there has been a change in the declared policy of the
Al-Jihad group. In addition to its bitter ideological conflict with the
"heretical" Egyptian government, the organization began calling
for attacks against American and Israeli targets. Nassar Asad al-Tamini
of the Islamic Jihad, noting the apparent ease with which biological
weapons can be acquired, has suggested using them against Israel. In the
eyes of the al-Jihad group, the United States and Israel are the vanguard
of a worldwide campaign to destroy Islam and its believers, with the help
of the current Egyptian government. This changed attitude was the result
of, among other things, the Egyptian al-Jihad's joining the coalition of
Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations led by the Afghans. The
collaboration between the Egyptian organizations and Al-Qaida played a
key role in the formation of Osama bin Laden's "Islamic Front for
Jihad against the Jews and the Crusaders." Ayman al-Zawahiri,
al-Jihad's leader, who was sentenced in absentia to death or to life
imprisonment on April 18, 1999, is a close associate of Osama bin Laden
and one of the founders of the "Islamic Front for Jihad against the
Crusaders and the Jews."
The movement basically seeks to challenge the West on an Islamic basis
and establish an Islamic caliphate. However, the goals of the various
al-Jihad groups differ in regard to the Palestinian issue. Islamic Jihad
wants to liberate Palestine. Others give priority to establishing an
Islamic state as a prerequisite for the liberation of Palestine. Islamic
Jihad is very hostile toward Arab and Islamic regimes, particularly
Jordan, which it considers puppets of the imperialist West. In the spring
of 1999, the Islamic Group's leadership and governing council announced
that it was giving up armed struggle. Whether that statement was a ruse
remains to be seen.
The social background of the al-Jihad remains unclear because the
group has never operated fully in public. By the mid-1990s, intellectuals
occupied important positions in the leadership of the al-Jihad movements
in both Jordan and the Occupied Territories, where it is a powerful force
in the unions of engineers, doctors, and students. Their power among workers
continues to be weak.
New Religious Groups
The investigation into the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway on
March 20, 1995, opened a window on Shoko Asahara's cult, Aum Shinrikyo.
In 1995 Aum Shinrikyo claimed to have 10,000 supporters in Japan and
30,000 in Russia. Whereas doomsday cults previously had carried out mass
suicides, Aum Shinrikyo set itself apart from them by inflicting mass
murder on the general public.
What seems most remarkable about this apocalyptic cult is that its
leading members include Japan's best and brightest: scientists, computer
experts, lawyers and other highly trained professionals. But according to
cult expert Margaret Singer of the University of California at Berkeley,
these demographics are not unusual. "Cults actively weed out the
stupid and the psychiatric cases and look for people who are lonely, sad,
between jobs or jilted," she says. Many observers also suggest that
inventive minds turn to Aum Shinrikyo as an extreme reaction against the
corporate-centered Japanese society, in which devotion to one's job is
valued over individual expression and spiritual growth.
Japan's school system of rote memorization, in which individualism and
critical thinking and analysis are systematically suppressed, combined
with crowded cities and transportation networks, have greatly contributed
to the proliferation of cults in Japan, and to the growth of Aum
Shinrikyo in particular. Aum Shinrikyo is one of at least 180,000 minor
religions active in Japan. There is general agreement that the discipline
and competitiveness required of Japan's education system made Aum
Shinrikyo seem very attractive to bright university graduates. It
provided an alternative life-style in which recruits could rebel against
their families, friends, and "the system."
Numerous Aum Shinrikyo members were arrested on various charges after
the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. According to Manabu
Watanabe, none of them claimed innocence; rather, many of them confessed their
crimes and showed deep remorse. "These people were proven to be
sincere and honest victims of Asahara, the mastermind," Watanabe
comments. Aum Shinrikyo became active again in 1997, when the Japanese
government decided not to ban it. In 1998 Aum Shinrikyo had about 2,000
members, including 200 of the 380 members who had been arrested.
The story of Aum Shinrikyo is the story of Shoko Asahara, its
charismatic and increasingly psychopathic leader. Asahara, whose real
name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was born in 1955, the fourth son of a poor
weaver of tatami mats, in the small rural village of Yatsushiro
on Japan's main southern island of Kyushu. Afflicted with infantile
glaucoma, he was blind in one eye and had diminished vision in the other.
At age six, he was sent to join his blind older brother at a
government-funded boarding school for the blind. Because he had limited
vision in one eye, however, he soon developed influence over the blind
students, who would pay him for services such as being a guide. Already
at that early age, he exhibited a strong tendency to dominate people. His
activities as a violence-prone, judo-proficient con artist and avaricious
bully had earned him the fear of his classmates, as well as $3,000, by
the time he graduated from high school in 1975.
After graduation, Asahara established a lucrative acupuncture clinic
in Kumamoto. However, his involvement in a fight in which several people
were injured forced him to leave the island for Tokyo in 1977. His stated
ambitions at the time included serving as supreme leader of a robot
kingdom and even becoming prime minister of Japan. In Tokyo he again
found work as an acupuncturist and also attended a prep school to prepare
for the highly competitive Japanese college entrance examinations, which
he nevertheless failed. He also began taking an interest in religion,
taught himself Chinese, and studied the revolutionary philosophy of Mao
Zedong. In the summer of 1977, Asahara met Tomoko Ishii, a young college
student; they married in January 1978, and the first of their six
children was born in 1979. In 1978 Asahara opened a Chinese herbal
medicine and acupuncture clinic southeast of Tokyo and reportedly earned
several hundred thousand dollars from the business. In 1981 he joined a
new religion called Agon Shu, known for its annual Fire Ceremony and
fusing of elements of Early Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, and Hindu and
Taoist yoga. In 1982 he was arrested and convicted for peddling fake
Chinese cures and his business collapsed as a result. Bankrupted, Asahara
reportedly earned nearly $200,000 from a hotel scam that year.
In 1984 Asahara quit Agon Shu and, with the help of a few followers
who also left Agon Shu, created a yoga training center called Aum, Inc.
By the mid-1980s, the center had more than 3,000 followers, and in 1985
Asahara began promoting himself as a holy man. After a spiritual voyage
through the Himalayas, he promoted himself as having mystical powers and
Beginning in 1986, Aum Shinrikyo began a dual system of membership:
ordained and lay. Ordained members had to donate all their belongings,
including inheritances, to Aum. Many resisted, and a total of 56 ordained
members have been reported as missing or dead, including 21 who died in
the Aum Shinrikyo clinic.
In early 1987, Asahara managed to meet the Dalai Lama. Asahara's
megalomania then blossomed. In July 1987, he renamed his yoga schools,
which were nonreligious, Aum Supreme Truth (Aum Shinri Kyo) and began
developing a personality cult. The next year, Asahara expanded his vision
to include the salvation not only of Japan but the world. By the end of
1987, Aum Shinrikyo had 1,500 members concentrated in several of Japan's
(Photo courtesy of Reuters/Ho/Archive)
In 1988 Aum Shinrikyo began recruiting new members, assigning only
attractive and appealing members as recruiters. It found a fertile
recruitment ground in Japan's young, college-educated professionals in
their twenties and early thirties from college campuses, dead-end jobs, and
fast-track careers. Systematically targeting top universities, Aum
Shinrikyo leaders recruited brilliant but alienated young scientists from
biology, chemistry, engineering, medical, and physics departments. Many,
for example, the computer programmers, were "techno-freaks" who
spent much of their time absorbed in comics and their computers. Aum
Shinrikyo also enlisted medical doctors to dope patients and perform
human experiments. The first young Japanese to be free of financial
pressures, the Aum Shinrikyo recruits were wondering if there was more to
life than job security and social conformity. However, as Aum Shinrikyo
members they had no need to think for themselves. According to David
Kaplan and Andrew Marshall, "The high-tech children of postindustrial
Japan were fascinated by Aum's dramatic claims to supernatural power, its
warnings of an apocalyptic future, its esoteric spiritualism."
Aum's hierarchy had been influenced by Japanese animated movies,
cyberpunk fiction and science fiction, virtual reality machines, and
computer games. For example, Aum Shinrikyo used Isaac Asimov's classic
sci-fi epic in the Foundation Series as a high-tech blueprint for the
millennium and beyond. Indeed, Asahara modeled himself on Hari Seldon,
the key character in the Foundation Series. The fictional Seldon is a
brilliant mathematician who discovers "psychohistory," the
science of true prediction, and attempts to save humanity from apocalypse
by forming a secret religious society, the Foundation, that can rebuild
civilization in a millennium. To do this, Seldon recruits the best minds
of his time, and, once a hierarchy of scientist-priests is established,
they set about preserving the knowledge of the universe. Like Asimov's
scientists in the Foundation Series, Asahara preached that the only way
to survive was to create a secret order of beings armed with superior
intellect, state-of-the-art technology, and knowledge of the future.
To retain its membership, Aum Shinrikyo used mind-control techniques
that are typical of cults worldwide, including brutal forms of physical
and psychological punishment for various minor transgressions. New
members had to terminate all contacts with the outside world and donate
all of their property to Aum. This policy outraged the parents of Aum
Shinrikyo members. In addition, in 1989 Aum Shinrikyo began to use murder
as a sanction on members wishing to leave the sect.
In July 1989, Aum Shinrikyo became more public when Asahara announced
that Aum Shinrikyo would field a slate of 25 candidates, including
Asahara, in the next election of the lower house of the Japanese
parliament. To that end, Aum Shinrikyo formed a political party, Shinrito
(Turth Party). All of the Aum Shinrikyo candidates were young
professionals between the ages of 25 and 38. In addition, Aum Shinrikyo
finally succeeded in getting official recognition as an official religion
on August 15, 1989, on a one-year probationary basis.
In the political arena, however, Aum Shinrikyo was a total failure.
Its bizarre campaign antics, such as having its followers dance about in
front of subway stations wearing huge papier-mâché heads of Asahara,
dismayed the public, which gave Aum Shinrikyo a resounding defeat in the
1990 parliamentary elections (a mere 1,783 votes). This humiliation, it
is believed, fueled Asahara's paranoia, and he accused the Japanese
government of rigging the voting.
Following this public humiliation, Asahara's darker side began to
emerge. He began asking his advisers how they might set off vehicle bombs
in front of their opponents' offices, and in March 1990, he ordered his
chief chemist, Seiichi Endo, to develop a botulin agent.
Beginning that April, when Aum Shinrikyo sent three trucks into the
streets of Tokyo to spray poisonous mists, Asahara began to preach a
doomsday scenario to his followers and the necessity for Aum Shinrikyo
members to militarize and dedicate themselves to protecting Aum Shinrikyo
against the coming Armageddon. That April, an Aum Shinrikyo team sprayed
botulin poison on the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka outside Tokyo, where
the U.S. 7th Fleet docked, but the botulin turned out to be a
To prevent its dwindling membership from falling off further, Aum
Shinrikyo began to forcefully prevent members from leaving, and to
recruit abroad. The group's efforts in the United States were not
successful; in the early 1990s, Aum Shinrikyo had only a few dozen
followers in the New York City area..
By late 1992, Asahara was preaching that Armageddon would occur by the
year 2000, and that more than 90 percent of Japan's urban populations
would be wiped out by nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons of mass
destruction. Apparently, Asahara's plan was to develop the weapons of
mass destruction needed for making this Armageddon a reality. In 1992 Aum
Shinrikyo began purchasing businesses on a worldwide scale. It set up
dummy companies, primarily in Russia and the United States, where its
investments served as covers to purchase technology, weapons, and
chemicals for its weapons program. During 1992-94, Aum Shinrikyo
recruited a number of Russian experts in weapons of mass destruction.
Aum's Russian followers included employees in Russia's premier nuclear
research facility, the I.V. Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, and the
Mendeleyev Chemical Institute. Aum's chemical weapons efforts were more
successful than its nuclear efforts. After the Gulf War, Aum's scientists
began work on sarin and other related nerve agents.
Aum Shinrikyo found that it could recruit at least one member from
almost any Japanese or Russian agency or corporation and turn that
recruit into its own agent. For example, in late 1994 Aum Shinrikyo
needed access to sensitive military secrets held by the Mitsubishi Heavy
Industries (MHI) compound in Hiroshima, so Aum Shinrikyo member Hideo
Nakamoto, an MHI senior researcher, obtained MHI uniforms, and Yoshihiro
Inoue recruited and converted three paratroopers from the 1st
Airborne Brigade, an elite Japanese paratrooper unit. Nakamoto then
escorted Inoue and the three paratroopers, wearing MHI uniforms, into the
high-security facility, where they downloaded megabytes of restricted
files on advanced weapons technology from MHI's mainframe. Other sites
raided by the squad included the laser-research lab of NEC, Japan's top
computer manufacturer, and the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka . Aum's
membership lists included more than 20 serving and former members of the
Aum's sarin attacks were carried out by highly educated terrorists.
Aum's minister of science and technology, Hideo Murai, an astrophysicist,
led the cult's first sarin attack in the mountain town Matsumoto on June
27, 1994, by releasing sarin gas near the apartment building in which the
judge who had ruled against the cult lived. The attack killed seven
people and poisoned more than 150 others. Robert S. Robbins and Jerrold
M. Post note that: "In 1994 Asahara made the delusional claim that
U.S. jets were delivering gas attacks on his followers, a projection of
his own paranoid psychology. Asahara became increasingly preoccupied not
with surviving the coming war but with starting it." That year,
Asahara reorganized Aum, using Japan's government as a model (see Table
Table 7. Aum Shinrikyo's
Political Leadership, 1995
Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Construction
Ministry of Defense
Ministry of Education
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Healing
Ministry of Health and Welfare
Ministry of Home Affairs
Ministry of Intelligence
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Labor
Ministry of Post and Telecommunications
Ministry of Science and Technology
Ministry of Vehicles
Eastern Followers Agency
New Followers Agency
Western Followers Agency
Source: Based on information from D.W. Brackett, Holy Terror:
in Tokyo. New York: Weatherhill, 1996, 104.
The five Aum Shinrikyo terrorists who carried out the sarin gas attack
on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, included Ikuo Hayashi, 48, head of
Aum's Ministry of Healing (aka Medical Treatment Ministry). The other
four were all vice ministers of Aum's Ministry of Science and Technology
and included: Masato Yokoyama, 31, an applied-physics graduate; Kenichi
Hirose, 30, who graduated at the top of his class in applied physics at
the prestigious Waseda University; Yasuo Hayashi, 37, an electronics
engineer; and Toru Toyoda, a physicist.
Although no motive has been established for Asahara's alleged role in
the nerve-gas attacks, some observers suggest that the Tokyo subway
attack might have been revenge: all the subway cars struck by the sarin
converged at a station beneath a cluster of government offices. Adding
credence to this view, Ikuo Hayashi, a doctor who admitted planting gas
on one of the Tokyo trains, was quoted in newspapers as saying the goal
was to wipe out the Kasumigaseki section of Tokyo, where many government
offices are located. "The attack was launched so that the guru's
prophecy could come true," Hayashi reportedly told interrogators.
Shoko Egawa, an Aum Shinrikyo critic who has authored at least two
books on the cult, observed that Aum Shinrikyo members made no attempt at
reviewing the propriety of their own actions during the trial. When their
own violations were being questioned, they shifted to generalities, and
spoke as if they were objective third parties. Their routine tactics, she
notes, included shifting stories into religious doctrine and training,
making an issue out of a minor error on the part of the other party,
evading the main issue, and feigning ignorance when confronted with
Authorities arrested a total of 428 Aum Shinrikyo members, and
thousands of others quit. The government also stripped Aum Shinrikyo of
its tax-exempt status and declared it bankrupt in 1996. Nevertheless, Aum
Shinrikyo retained its legal status as a sect and eventually began to
regroup. In 1998 its computer equipment front company had sales of $57
million, and its membership had risen to about 2,000. In December 1998,
Japan's Public Security Investigation Agency warned in its annual
security review that the cult was working to boost its membership and
coffers. "Aum is attempting to re-enlist former members and step up
recruiting of new members nationwide. It is also initiating advertising
campaigns and acquiring necessary capital," the report said.
Key Leader Profiles
Position: Aum's minister of justice.
Background: Yoshinobu Aoyama was born in 1960. The
son of a wealthy Osaka family, he graduated from Kyoto University Law
School, where he was the youngest person in his class to pass the
national bar exam. He joined Aum Shinrikyo in 1988 and within two years
was its chief counsel. He was arrested in 1990 for violation of the
National Land Law, and after being released on bail, he involved himself
in an effort to prove his innocence. As Aum's attorney, he led its
successful defense strategy of expensive countersuits and legal
intimidation of Aum Shinrikyo critics. According to Kaplan and Marshall,
"He had longish hair, a robotlike delivery, and darting, nervous
eyes that made it easy to underestimate him." He was arrested on May
According to Shoko Egawa, Aoyama's foremost traits during his trial
included shifting responsibility and changing the story; speaking
emotionally and becoming overly verbose when advocating Aum Shinrikyo
positions, but speaking in a completely unemotional voice and making a
purely perfunctory apology when addressing a case of obvious violation of
the law; engaging in a lengthy dissertation on religious terms; deploying
extended empty explanations and religious theory until the listener
succumbed to a loss of patience and forgot the main theme of the
discussion; deliberately shifting away from the main discussion and
responding in a meandering manner to upset the questioner; resorting to
counter-questioning and deceiving the other party by refusing to answer
and pretending to explain a premise; and showing a complete absence of
any remorse for having served the Aum Shinrikyo cult.
Position: Minister of Health and Welfare.
Background: Seiichi Endo, born in 1960, was Aum's
health and welfare minister. As a graduate student in biology at Kyoto
University, he did experiments in genetic engineering at the medical
school's Viral Research Center. Provided with a small but well-equipped
biolab by Aum, he conducted research in biological warfare agents, such
as botulism and the Ebola virus. In March 1990, three weeks after voters
rejected 25 Aum Shinrikyo members running for legislative office, Endo
and three others went on a trip to collect starter botulinum germs on the
northern island of Hokkaido, where Endo had studied as a young man. In
late 1993, Asahara also assigned Endo the task of making sarin nerve gas.
In a 1994 speech made in Moscow, he discussed the use of Ebola as a
potential biological warfare agent. Endo produced the impure sarin that
was used for the Tokyo subway attack on March 20, 1995. He was arrested
on April 26, 1995, and publicly admitted his role in the sarin attacks in
the town of Matsumoto on June 27, 1994, and Tokyo on March 20, 1995.
Position: Asahara's second in command and minister of
Background: A key senior Aum Shinrikyo member,
Kiyohide Hayakawa was born in 1949 in Osaka. He was active in leftist
causes in the 1960s and during college. He received a master's degree in
environmental planning from Osaka University in 1975. He worked in
various architecture firms until 1986, when he joined the Aum's precursor
group and soon distinguished himself as director of the Aum's Osaka
division. Beginning in 1990, he masterminded Aum's attempt to arm itself
and promoted its expansion into Russia. After becoming second in command,
he spent a lot of time in Russia developing contacts there for the sect's
militarization program. During 1992-95, he visited Russia 21 times,
spending more than six months there. His visits to Russia became monthly
between November 1993 and April 1994. His captured notebooks contain numerous
references to nuclear and seismological weapons. Hayakawa participated in
the murder of an Aum Shinrikyo member and the family of Attorney Tsutsumi
Sakamoto, 33, a tenacious Aum Shinrikyo critic, in 1995. He was arrested
on April 19, 1995.
Dr. Ikuo Hayashi
Position: Aum's minister of healing.
Background: Ikuo Hayashi, born in 1947, was the son
of a Ministry of Health official. He graduated from Keio University's
elite medical school, and studied at Mount Sinai Hospital in the United
States before joining the Japanese medical system. Handsome and youthful
looking, he was a respected doctor and head of cardiopulmonary medicine
at a government hospital just outside Tokyo. His behavior changed after
an automobile accident in April 1988, when he fell asleep while driving a
station wagon and injured a mother and her young daughter. Despondent,
he, along with his wife, an anesthesiologist, joined Aum, whereupon he
began treating his patients bizarrely, using Aum Shinrikyo techniques.
Forced to resign from his hospital position, Dr. Hayashi was put in
charge of Aum's new clinic in Tokyo, where patients tended to live only
long enough to be brainwashed and to sign over their property to Aum,
according to Kaplan and Marshall.
Hayashi was also appointed Aum's minister of healing. Kaplan and
Marshall report that "he coldly presided over the wholesale doping,
torture, and death of many followers." His activities included using
electric shocks to erase memories of 130 suspicious followers. He
participated in the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway March 20, 1995.
Arrested on April 8, 1995, Hayashi was sentenced to life in prison on
May 26, 1998, for spraying sarin in the Tokyo subway. In trial witness
testimony on November 27, 1998, he said that he felt a dilemma over the
crimes that he committed because they clashed with his social values, but
he used Aum Shinrikyo doctrines to convince himself. Hayashi claimed he
followed Asahara's order to commit murders not only out of fear that if
he had disobeyed he would have been killed, but also out of a belief that
Asahara had some religious power, that he had the God-like ability to see
through a person's past, present, and future. Ikuo allegedly abandoned
his faith in Asahara.
Position: Aum's minister of intelligence.
Background: Yoshihiro Inoue was born in 1970, the son
of a salaried minor official. Kaplan and Marshall describe him as "a
quiet boy of middling intelligence who devoured books on Nostradamus and
the supernatural." While a high school student in Kyoto, he attended
his first Aum Shinrikyo seminar. He became Aum's minister of intelligence
and one of its "most ruthless killers," according to Kaplan and
Marshall. Unlike other Aum Shinrikyo leaders, Inoue lacked a university
degree, having dropped out of college after several months to dedicate
his life to Aum, which he had joined as a high school junior. He was so
dedicated to Asahara that he declared that he would kill his parents if
Asahara ordered it. Inoue was also so articulate, persuasive, and dedicated
that, despite his unfriendly face--lifeless black eyes, frowning mouth,
and pouting, effeminate lips--he was able to recruit 300 monks and 1,000
new believers, including his own mother and many Tokyo University
students. His captured diaries contain his random thoughts and plans
concerning future Aum Shinrikyo operations, including a plan to conduct
indiscriminate nerve gas attacks in major U.S. cities, including New York
In the spring of 1994, Inoue attended a three-day training program run
by the former KGB's Alpha Group outside Moscow, where he learned some
useful tips on skills such as kidnapping, murder, and so forth. That
summer he became Aum's minister of intelligence, a position that he used
as a license to abduct runaway followers, kidnap potential cash donors to
the cult, torture Aum Shinrikyo members who had violated some regulation,
and steal high-technology secrets. That year, Inoue and Tomomitsu Niimi
were ordered to plan a sarin and VX gas attack on the White House and the
Pentagon. Beginning on December 28, 1994, Inoue led the first of numerous
penetrations of the high-security compound of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
(MHI) in Hiroshima to pilfer weapons secrets. He was arrested on May 15,
1995, when police stopped his car at a roadblock outside of Tokyo. During
his trial, he allegedly abandoned his faith in Asahara.
Position: Aum's minister of finance.
Background: Hisako Ishii was born in 1960. She joined
Aum's yoga classes in 1984, when she was an "office lady" at a
major Japanese insurance company. One of Asahara's most devoted
disciples, she became Aum's minister of finance and was behind the
group's business success. She was also his inseparable mistress, until
she gave birth to twins.
At her trial, Ishii spoke of her childhood fear of death, the fact
that adults failed to initially reply to her questions concerning death,
the fact that she trusted Asahara with pure feelings, and her
determination to mature as a person within the Aum Shinrikyo framework.
She then proceeded to speak of changes which took place after her arrest:
When I experienced a total collapse of the past more than 10 years
during which I had matured within the cult as a religious person, I felt
I had died. When all that I had believed I had accomplished within myself
was destroyed, and I came to the awareness that all was just a fantasy of
Asahara imbued in me, that he is not a true religious being, that he is
not a guru, and that the Aum Shinrikyo doctrine was wrong, I experienced
a form of death separate from the death of a physical being.
Ishii proceeded to read books banned by the Aum, such as religious
books, books on mind-control, and psychology. She testified that as a
result she had been resurrected through the process of learning the
nature of genuine religion. Despite being impressed by the eloquence of
her written statement, Shoko Egawa was dismayed by Ishii's total omission
of anything about her
feelings for the victims who literally met death as the result of the
many crimes committed by the Aum. Although charged with relatively minor
offenses, such as concealment of criminals and destruction of evidence,
Ishii asserted that she was innocent of each of the charges. She depicted
herself merely as an innocent victim taken advantage of by Asahara and
stressed her determination to resurrect herself despite all the
suffering. She not only refused to testify about her inside knowledge of
cult affairs, she cut off any questions of that nature. In May 1998,
Ishii announced her resignation from the Aum.
Position: Aum's minister of foreign affairs.
Background: Fumihiro Joyu joined Aum Shinrikyo in
1989 at age 26. He had an advanced degree in telecommunications from
Waseda University, where he studied artificial intelligence. He quit his
promising new career at Japan's Space Development Agency after only two
weeks because it was incompatible with his interests in yoga. He became
the sect's spokesman and minister of foreign affairs. As Aum's Moscow
chief, Joyu ran the cult's large Moscow center at Alexseyevskaya Square.
"Joyu didn't try to hide his contempt for his poor Russian
flock," Kaplan and Marshall write. They describe him as "a
mini-guru, a cruel and arrogant man who later proved to be Aum's most
accomplished liar." They add: "...fluent in English, Joyu was
looked upon by most Japanese as a dangerously glib and slippery operator
with the ability to lie in two languages." However, with his
charismatic, boyish good looks he developed admirers among teenage girls
from his appearances on television talk shows. He was arrested on October
7, 1995, on perjury charges. He was scheduled to be released from prison
at the end of 1999. He has remained devout to Asahara, and was planning
to rejoin the Aum Shinrikyo cult.
Position: An Aum Shinrikyo driver.
Background: Born in 1966, Takeshi Matsumoto joined
Aum Shinrikyo after telling his parents that he had seen hell. Personable
but pathetic, he had dreams of becoming a Grand Prix auto racer. He drove
the rental car used to kidnap Kiyoshi Kariya, 68, a notary public whose
sister was a runaway Aum Shinrikyo member. Aum Shinrikyo members tortured
and murdered Kariya after he refused to reveal his sister's whereabouts.
National Police identified Matsumoto from fingerprints on the car rental
receipt and put him on their "most-wanted" list. His
fingerprints were the legal pretext long sought by the National Police to
raid Aum Shinrikyo compounds and offices. While on the run, Matsumoto had
Dr. Hayashi surgically remove all of his fingerprints and do some
abortive facial plastic surgery as well. However, he was arrested in
October 1995 and identified by his palm prints. He pleaded guilty to the
abduction and confinement of Kariya.
Position: Aum's minister of science and technology,
minister of distribution supervision, and "engineer of the
Background: Hideo Murai was born in 1954. After
graduating from the Physics Department at Osaka University, he entered
graduate school, where he studied X-ray emissions of celestial bodies,
excelled at computer programming, and earned an advance degree in
astrophysics. In 1987 he joined Kobe Steel and worked in research and
development. After reading one of Asahara's books, he lost interest in
his career. After a trip to Nepal, he quit Kobe Steel in 1989 and, along
with his wife, enlisted in a six-month training course at an Aum
Shinrikyo commune, where his life style turned ascetic and focused on
Asahara's teachings. He quickly rose through the ranks because of his
brilliant scientific background, self-confidence, boldness, and devotion
to Asahara. He created such devices as the Perfect Salvation Initiation
headgear (an electrode-laden shock cap), which netted Aum Shinrikyo about
$20 million, and the Astral Teleporter and attempted unsuccessfully to
develop a botulinus toxin as well as nuclear, laser, and microwave
weapons technology. In early 1993, Asahara ordered him to oversee Aum's
militarization program. "Widely recognized and feared within Aum,
Murai," according to Brackett, "had a reputation as a
determined and aggressive leader who liked to stir up trouble for other
people." He was directly involved in the murder of the Sakamotos and
at least one Aum Shinrikyo member. He led the team that attacked judges'
apartments in Matsumoto with sarin gas in June 27, 1994, in which seven
people were killed and 144 injured. Murai also masterminded the sarin
attack on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995. David Kaplan and Andrew
Marshall describe "the cult's deceptively unassuming science chief"
as follows: "At first glance, Murai looked more like a provincial
schoolteacher than a mad scientist. He had elfin features etched on a
perfectly round face, with a fragile build that suggested he could do
harm to no one. But a closer look revealed eyes that turned from benign
to beady in a blink. His hair was short but disheveled, and he often
looked lost in some unreachable thought." Just before he was to be
brought in by police for questioning, Murai was stabbed with a butcher's
knife by a Korean gangster on April 23, 1995, on prime-time TV in front
of Aum's Tokyo headquarters, and he died six hours later.
Position: Vice Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs.
Background: Nakada was born in 1948. He is described
as having a shiny, shaven head, clipped mustache, and piercing eyes. His
distinguishing feature, which is characteristic of a Japanese yakuza,
or mobster, is a brilliant tattoo stretching from his neck to his calf.
For years, he headed a gang affiliated with the Yamaguchi crime syndicate
in the city of Nagoya. When he was serving three years in prison on a
firearms charge, his wife joined Aum. Although Nakada disapproved of her
joining Aum, he himself turned to Aum Shinrikyo when a doctor gave him
three months to live because of a failing liver. After a miraculous
recovery, he joined Aum, dissolved his gang, and donated his assets to
Aum. Nakada became one of Asahara's two former yakuza conduits
to the underworld. When Aum Shinrikyo began its militarization program in
1994, he became particularly important in obtaining weapons. He
eventually became Tomomitsu Niimi's deputy in Aum's Ministry of Home
Affairs, charged with enforcing security within the organization. As head
of the Action Squad, he was responsible for abducting and killing defecting
sect members and opponents of Aum. He was arrested in April 1995.
Position: Head of Aum's Household Agency.
Background: Dr. Tomomasa Nakagawa, 29, an Aum
Shinrikyo physician, is alleged to have murdered Satoko Sakamoto, 29, and
her infant son with injections of potassium chloride, in 1995. Nakagawa
joined Aum Shinrikyo while a medical student at Kyoto Prefectural College
of Medicine in February 1988. After passing the national medical exam in
April 1988 and practicing medicine for a year, he moved into an Aum
Shinrikyo commune in August 1989. As head of the Aum's Household Agency,
one of his primary duties was to act as personal doctor to Asahara and
his family. He was also actively involved in Aum's sarin production.
Position: Aum's minister of home affairs.
Background: Tomomitsu Niimi was born in 1964. As a
university student, he read law, as well as the works of Nostradamus and
esoteric Buddhist texts. After graduation, he worked at a food company
but quit six months later to join Aum. Kaplan and Marshall describe him
as "a slender figure with a long neck, shaven head, and a reptilian
smirk that seemed permanently etched upon his face."
As Aum's ferocious minister of home affairs, Niimi presided over Aum's
mini-police state. His 10-member hit squad, the New Followers Agency,
engaged in spying on, abducting, confining, torturing, and murdering
runaway members. He is described by Kaplan and Marshall as Aum's
"chief hit man" and a sadistic and ruthless head of security.
He allegedly participated in various murders and abductions, including
the murder of Shuji Taguchi in 1989, the slaying of the Sakamoto family,
and the strangling of a pharmacist in January 1994. In February 1994, he
was accidentally exposed to some sarin and lapsed into convulsions, but
Dr. Nakagawa was able to save him. In the spring of 1994, he attended a
three-day training course conducted by veterans of the former KGB's Alpha
Group near Moscow. That year, Niimi and Yoshihiro Inoue were ordered to
plan a sarin and VX gas attack on the White House and the Pentagon. On
September 20, 1994, Niimi and his hit squad attacked Shoko Egawa, author
of two books on Aum, with phosgene gas, but she survived. In January
1995, Niimi sprayed Hiroyuki Nakaoka, head of a cult victims' support
group, with VX, but he survived after several weeks in a coma. Niimi also
participated in the Tokyo subway attack on March 20, 1995. He was
arrested on April 12, 1995. He has remained devout to Asahara.
Position: An Aum Shinrikyo operative.
Background: Ouchi joined the Aum Shinrikyo cult in
1985. Physically large and a long-time Aum Shinrikyo member, Ouchi
functioned primarily as a leader of cult followers. Many of the followers
and ordained priests of the cult with whom he had been personally
associated became involved in crimes, and many remain active cult
followers. Ouchi was indicted for involvement in two incidents. One case
took place in February 1989, and involved the murder of cult follower
Shuji Taguchi, who was making an attempt to leave the cult; the second
case involved the destruction of a corpse of a cult follower who had
passed away during religious training in June 1993. Ouchi's reluctant
behavior gave Asahara doubts about his commitment; hence, he condemned Ouchi
as a "cancerous growth on the Aum," assigning him to the
Russian chapter in September 1993. Nevertheless, Ouchi continued to serve
as an executive cult follower. He recruited new followers in Russia and
provided guidance to them. During the investigation of the Sakamoto case
that began in March 1995, Ouchi was alarmed when he learned that the Aum
Shinrikyo was involved. The knowledge undermined his religious beliefs.
He reportedly was shocked when he later received a letter from a former
cult follower, who was an intimate friend, that discussed the misguided
doctrine of Aum. His faith in Aum Shinrikyo shaken, he gradually began to
alter his views about people outside the cult. In early April 1995,
Russian police arrested Ouchi, who had been serving as Fumihiro Joyu's
deputy in Moscow. Kaplan and Marshall report that Ouchi, "a grinning
naïf," was described by one academic as "knowing as much about
Russia as the farthest star." During his initial trial in Japan,
Ouchi expressed repentance and apologized "as a former official of
Position: Head of Aum's chemical-warfare team.
Background: Masami Tsuchiya was born in 1965. Prior
to joining Aum, Tsuchiya was enrolled in a five-year doctoral degree
program in organic physics and chemistry at Tsukuba University, one of
the top universities in Japan, where his graduate work focused on the
application of light to change the structure of molecules. Although
described by a professor as "brilliant," Tsuchiya lived in a
barren room, was introverted, had no social life, and expressed a desire
to become a priest.
Tsuchiya abandoned a career in organic chemistry to join Aum. After
suggesting that Aum Shinrikyo produce a Nazi nerve gas called sarin, he
was given his own lab (named Satian 7) with 100 workers and a vast
chemical plant to develop chemical weapons. As Aum's chief chemist and
head of its chemical-warfare team, he played a central role in Aum's
manufacture of sarin. Kaplan and Marshall describe Tsuchiya as looking
the part of the mad scientist: "His goatee and crew-cut hair framed
a broad face with eyebrows that arched high above piercing eyes."
Fascinated by Russia's chemical weapons stockpiles, Tsuchiya spent at
least three weeks in Russia in 1993, where he is suspected of meeting
with experts in biochemical weapons. When he returned to his Mount Fuji
lab in the fall of 1993, he began experimenting with sarin, using a
Russian formula. He was prepared to build a vast stockpile of nerve
agents, such as sarin, blister gas, and others. Although poorly trained
workers, leaks of toxic fumes, and repeated setbacks plagued the program,
Tsuchiya succeeded in stockpiling 44 pounds of sarin at Satian 7 by
mid-June 1994. However, Kaplan and Marshall point out that he was not the
only Aum Shinrikyo chemist to make the nerve gas. Tsuchiya also produced
other chemical-warfare agents such as VX. He had Tomomitsu Niimi, using a
VX syringe, test the VX on several unsuspecting individuals. Police
arrested Tsuchiya on April 26, 1995. He has remained devout to Asahara.
Table 1. Educational
Level and Occupational Background of Right-Wing Terrorists in West
(In percentages of right-wing
Grammar (high school)
Skilled worker or artisan
Source: Based on information from Eva Kolinsky, "Terrorism in
West Germany. Pages 75-76 in Juliet Lodge, ed., The Threat of
Terrorism. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1988.
2. Ideological Profile of Italian Female Terrorists, January 1970-June
Membership in Extraparliamentary Political
Organizations Prior to Becoming a Terrorist
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Terrorist Group Affiliation
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
1. Partisan Action Groups, Nuclei of Armed Proletarians. Red Brigades,
- Compass, Mussolini
Action Squads, National Front, National Vanguard, New Order,
People's Struggle, Revolutionary Action Movement.
- Front Line, Red
Brigades, Revolutionary Action, Union of Communist Combatants,
Worker Autonomy, et alia.
- Let Us Build
Action, Nuclei of Armed Revolutionaries, Third Position.
Source: Based on information from Leonard Weinberg and William Lee
Eubank, "Italian Women Terrorists," Terrorism: An
International Journal, 9, No. 3, 1987, 250, 252.
3. Prior Occupational Profile of Italian Female Terrorists, January
Occupation Prior to Becoming a Terrorist
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Clerk, secretary, nurse, technician
Free professional (architect, lawyer,
Small business proprietor, salesperson
Source: Based on information from Leonard Weinberg and William Lee
Eubank, "Italian Women Terrorists," Terrorism: An
International Journal, 9, No. 3, 1987, 250-52.
4. Geographical Profile of Italian Female Terrorists, January 1970-June
Place of Birth (Region)
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Place of Birth (Size of Community)
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Small community (under
Medium-sized city (from 100,000
to 1 million)
Big City (more than 1 million)
Place of Residence (Region)
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Place of Residence (Size of Community)
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Small community (less than
(100,000 to 1 million)
Big City (more than 1 million)
Source: Based on information from Leonard Weinberg and William Lee
Eubank, "Italian Women Terrorists," Terrorism: An
International Journal, 9, No. 3, 1987, 250-51.
Table 5. Age and
Relationships Profile of Italian Female Terrorists, January 1970-June
Time of Arrest
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Age at Time of Arrest
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
15 to 19
20 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 and over
Role in Organization
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Related to Other Terrorists
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Nature of Relationship to Other Terrorists
Number of Terrorists
Percentage of Total Terrorists
Source: Based on information from Leonard Weinberg and William Lee
Eubank, "Italian Women Terrorists," Terrorism: An
International Journal, 9, No. 3, 1987, 250-52.
Table 6. Patterns of
Weapons Use by the Revolutionary Organization 17 November, 1975-97
A masked gunman assassinated U.S. Embassy official
Richard Welch in front of his home in an Athens suburb.
December 23, 1975
Gunmen in a passing car shot and fatally wounded
Petros Babalis, a former police officer, near his house in central
January 31, 1979
Gunmen riding on a motorcycle killed Pantalis
Petrou, deputy chief of the antiriot police MAT (Units for the
Restoration of Order), and seriously wounded his chauffeur in Pangrati,
a suburb of Athens.
January 16, 1980
Two men on a motor scooter assassinated U.S. Navy
Captain George Tsantes and fatally wounded his driver with the same
November 15, 1983
Two masked gunmen on a motorcycle shot and wounded
U.S. Army Master Sergeant Robert Judd, who took evasive action, as he
was driving to the Hellenikon base near Athens airport.
April 3, 1984
Two men on a motorcycle shot and wounded U.S. Master
Sgt. Richard H. Judd, Jr., as he was driving in Athens.
April 3, 1984
Two men in a car intercepted conservative newspaper
publisher Nikos Momferatos's Mercedes and shot to death him and
seriously wounded his driver in Kolonaki in the most central part of
February 21, 1985
Colt .45 and .22-caliber pistol
A gunman riding on the back seat of a motor scooter
opened fire on businessman Alexandros Athanasiadis when he stopped for
a traffic light on Kifissia Avenue on his way to work, fatally wounding
March 1, 1988
Three gunmen ambushed New Democracy (ND) Party
deputy Pavlos Bakoyannis, son-in-law of ND Chairman Konstandinos
Mitsotakis, as he was waiting for the elevator to his office in Athens.
One of the terrorists opened fire on the target from behind, hitting
him five times, and then all three casually walked to their getaway
September 26, 1989
Three gunmen assassinated the Turkish Deputy Chief
of Mission in Athens with seven bullets fired from at least one
.45-caliber automatic, as he drove to work.
Murdered Cosfi Peraticos, scion of a Greek shipping
Source: Compiled by the author from multiple sources.
Afghans--Term applied to veterans of the Afghan War. A number of the
would-be mujahideen (q.v.), or Islamic resistance fighters, who
flocked to Afghanistan in the 1980s and early 1990s later applied the
skills and contacts acquired during the Afghan War and its aftermath to
engage in terrorist activities elsewhere. The Afghans also transmitted
the knowledge they acquired to a new generation of Muslim militants in
countries as different as Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, and the Philippines.
This new breed of Afghan terrorists, who operate independently of state
sponsors, draws on global funding, is savvy about modern weapons and
explosives, and is able to take advantage of the most up-to-date means of
communication and transportation. Whereas Muslim terrorists were
cloistered by nationality prior to the Afghan War, after the war they
began working together--Pakistanis, Egyptians, Algerians, and so forth.
Al-Qaida's Afghan component is also known as the Armed Islamist Movement
Assassins--From the eleventh through the thirteenth century, a sect of
Shiite Muslims called the Assassins used assassination as a tool for
purifying the Muslim religion. The Assassins' victims, who were generally
officials, were killed in public to communicate the error of the targeted
official. By carrying out the assassination in public, the Assassin would
allow himself to be apprehended and killed in order to demonstrate the
purity of his motives and to enter Heaven.
Baader-Meinhof Gang--Journalistic name for the Red Army Faction (Rote
Armee Fraktion--RAF) (q.v.). Although the RAF had been reduced
to fewer than 20 members by the early 1990s, it may still exist in an
inactive status. If so, it would be in at least its second generation of
leadership. The group's support network, reportedly involving hundreds of
Germans, many of whom are well-educated professionals, helps to account
for its possible survival.
fundamentalism--This term is used to refer to people who dedicate
their lives to pursuing the fundamentals of their religion.
cult--A journalistic term for an unorthodox system of religious
beliefs and ritual that scholars of religion refrain from using.
fight or flight--A theory developed by W.B. Cannon in 1929. When an
individual is under stress, the heart rate increases, the lungs operate
more efficiently, adrenalin and sugar are released into the bloodstream,
and the muscles become infused with blood.
Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis--An hypothesis that every
frustration leads to some form of aggression and every aggressive act
results from some prior frustration. As defined by Ted Robert Gurr:
"The necessary precondition for violent civil conflict is relative
deprivation, defined as actors' perception of discrepancy between their
value expectations and their environment's apparent value capabilities.
This deprivation may be individual or collective."
Groupthink--As originally defined by I.L. Janis, "a mode of
thinking that people engage in when the members' strivings for unanimity
override the motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of
guerrilla--A revolutionary who engages in insurgency as opposed to
terrorism, although guerrillas also use terrorist methods. Usually
operating relatively openly in less-developed countries, guerrillas
attempt to hold territory and generally attack the state's
infrastructure, whereas terrorists usually operate in urban areas and
attack more symbolic targets. Guerrillas usually coerce or abduct
civilians to join them, whereas terrorists are highly selective in whom
international terrorism--Although the Central Intelligence Agency
distinguishes between international and transnational terrorism
(international being terrorism carried out by individuals or groups
controlled by a sovereign state and transnational terrorism being
terrorism carried out by autonomous nonstate actors), the distinction is
not used in this paper. This is because the distinction is unnecessarily
confusing, not self-evident, and lacking in usefulness, whereas the term
"state-sponsored terrorism" is self-evident and unambiguous.
Moreover, one would have to be extremely well informed to know which
terrorist acts are state-sponsored. Thus, the term international
terrorism is used here to refer to any act of terrorism affecting the
national interests of more than one country. The WTC bombing, for
example, was an act of international terrorism because its perpetrators
included foreign nationals.
Intifada--The uprising by Palestinians begun in October 1987 against
Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Also the
name of the involved Liberation Army of Palestine, a loosely organized
group of adult and teenage Palestinians active in 1987-93 in attacks on
armed Israeli troops. Their campaign for self-determination included
stone-throwing and petrol bombing. Some 1,300 Palestinians and 80
Israelis were killed in the uprising up to the end of 1991.
jihad--An Arabic verbal noun derived from jahada ("to
struggle"). Although "holy war" is not a literal translation,
it summarizes the essential idea of jihad. In the course of the revival
of Islamic fundamentalism (q.v.), the doctrine of jihad has been
invoked to justify resistance, including terrorist actions, to combat
"un-Islamic" regimes, or perceived external enemies of Islam,
such as Israel and the United States.
June Second Movement--An anarchistic leftist group formed in West
Berlin in 1971 that sought to resist the liberal democratic establishment
in West Berlin through bombings, bank robberies, kidnappings, and
murders. The group was named after the anniversary of Benno Ohnejorg's
death, who was killed in a demonstration against the visiting Shah of
Iran in Berlin on June 2,1967. The group was closely associated with the
Red Army Faction (q.v.) and after the majority of its members
had been arrested by the end of the 1970s, the remainder joined the RAF.
mindset--A noun defined by American Heritage Dictionary as:
"1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a
person's response to and interpretation of situations; 2. an inclination
or a habit." Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th
ed.) defines it as 1. A mental attitude or inclination; 2. a fixed state
of mind. The term dates from 1926 but apparently is not included in
dictionaries of psychology.
mujahideen--A general designation for Muslim fighters engaged in
jihad, as well as the name of various Muslim political and paramilitary
groups, such as the Afghan (q.v.) Mujahideen.
personality--The distinctive and characteristic patterns of thought,
emotion, and behavior that define an individual's personal style of
interacting with the physical and social environment.
psychopath--A mentally ill or unstable person, especially one having a
psychopathic personality (q.v.), according to Webster's.
psychopathy--A mental disorder, especially an extreme mental disorder
marked usually by egocentric and antisocial activity, according to Webster's.
psychopathology--The study of psychological and behavioral dysfunction
occurring in mental disorder or in social disorganization, according to Webster's.
psychotic--Of, relating to, or affected with psychosis, which is a
fundamental mental derangement (as schizophrenia) characterized by
defective or lost contact with reality, according to Webster's.
Red Army Faction--The RAF, formerly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang,
was a group of German anarchistic leftist terrorists active from May 11,
1972, to the early 1990s. (q.v., Baader-Meinhof Gang)
sociopath--Basically synonymous with psychopath (q.v.).
Sociopathic symptoms in the adult sociopath include an inability to
tolerate delay or frustration, a lack of guilt feelings, a relative lack
of anxiety, a lack of compassion for others, a hypersensitivity to
personal ills, and a lack of responsibility. Many authors prefer the term
sociopath because this type of person had defective
socialization and a deficient childhood.
sociopathic--Of, relating to, or characterized by asocial or
antisocial behavior or a psychopathic (q.v.) personality,
according to Webster's.
terrorism--the calculated use of unexpected, shocking, and unlawful
violence against noncombatants (including, in addition to civilians,
off-duty military and security personnel in peaceful situations) and
other symbolic targets perpetrated by a clandestine member(s) of a
subnational group or a clandestine agent for the psychological purpose of
publicizing a political or religious cause and/or intimidating or
coercing a government(s) or civilian population into accepting demands on
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