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Target Psychology: Understanding the Threat

NCJ Number
Homeland Defense Journal Volume: 5 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 26,28,29
Richard J. Hughbank
Date Published
September 2007
3 pages
This article explains why it is important that training for responding to terrorist bomb attacks include a realistic understanding of the intent of women who blow themselves up as a strategic means of killing large numbers of individuals and otherwise causing dramatic destruction at selected sites.
Persistent use of the term "suicide" bomber fails to capture why it is that terrorists recruited by groups operating under an ideology that espouses violence and killing blow themselves up. The primary purpose of such bombers is not to kill themselves because of a mental disorder that tortures their mind, but rather to use themselves as carriers of explosives that will kill others and make a dramatic show of a terrorist organization's power and intent. A more appropriate term is "homicide" bomber. Such people should be viewed as imminent mass murderers intent on killing a large number of people with a bomb. This perspective should determine the strategy used to prevent a successful attack. Also, the recruitment of women volunteers in the role of killers should not pose a psychological barrier to quick and deadly action against homicide bombers. Viewing female bombers as mentally disordered individuals intent on committing suicide risks the use of tactics reserved for vulnerable individuals who must be saved from themselves during an emotional crisis. Further, the assumption that women are inherently reluctant to kill masses of people can also undermine an appropriate strategy for a quick and deadly response to a female homicide bomber.