A suicide attack is an attack upon a target, in which an attacker intends to kill others and/or cause great damage, knowing that he or she will either certainly or most likely die in the process. Between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks occurred around the world, constituting 4% of all terrorist attacks but 32% (14,599 people) of all terrorism related deaths. 90% of these attacks occurred in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.
Although use of suicide attacks has occurred throughout recent history — particularly with the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II — its main notoriety as a specific kind of attack began in the 1980s and involved explosives deliberately carried to the target either on the person or in a civilian vehicle and delivered by surprise. Following the success of a 1983 truck bombing of two barracks buildings in Beirut that killed 300 and helped drive American and French Multinational Force troops from Lebanon, the tactic spread to insurgent groups like the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, and Islamist groups such as Hamas.
More recently, the number of suicide attacks has grown significantly, from an average of less than five a year in the 1980s to 180/year in the first half of the 00s, and from 81 suicide attacks in 2001 to 460 in 2005. Particularly hard-hit by attacks have been military and civilian targets in Sri Lanka, Israeli targets in Israel since April 1993, Iraqis since the US-led invasion of that country in 2003, and Pakistanis and Afghans since 2005.
Observers believe suicide attacks have become popular because of their lethal effectiveness, but attackers' motivation is disputed. One scholar, Robert Pape, attributes over 90% of attacks prior to the Iraq Civil War to a goal of withdrawal of occupying forces; while another, Scott Atran, argues that since 2004 the overwhelming majority of bombers have been motivated by the ideology of Islamist martyrdom, and that these attacks have been much more numerous. In just two years - 2004-2005 - there were more suicide attacks, "roughly 600, than in Pape's entire sample."
The means of suicide attack usually include vehicles filled with explosives, passenger planes carrying large amounts of fuel, and individuals wearing vests filled with explosives due to the amount of devastation these methods can cause within the short period of time the attacker is alive and in control. Synonyms include suicide bombing, suicide-homicide bombing, martyrdom operation, and predatory martyrdom.
Famous quotes containing the words suicide and/or attack:
“However great a mans fear of life, suicide remains the courageous act, the clear-headed act of a mathematician. The suicide has judged by the laws of chanceso many odds against one that to live will be more miserable than to die. His sense of mathematics is greater than his sense of survival. But think how a sense of survival must clamour to be heard at the last moment, what excuses it must present of a totally unscientific nature.”
—Graham Greene (19041991)
“Philosophy can be compared to some powders that are so corrosive that, after they have eaten away the infected flesh of a wound, they then devour the living flesh, rot the bones, and penetrate to the very marrow. Philosophy at first refutes errors. But if it is not stopped at this point, it goes on to attack truths. And when it is left on its own, it goes so far that it no longer knows where it is and can find no stopping place.”
—Pierre Bayle (16471706)