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Suicide bomber with a masters degree
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, 17 2012

Who wears the suicide bomber’s belt

ImageAltruists in suicide bomber belts.Poor, disadvantaged, and uneducated this is the traditional cliché associated with terrorists and suicide bombers. Theface of global terrorism, as studies show, has changed dramatically. The distinctive features of 21st century terrorism are explained to The New Times.

“If they weren’t at war with us, I’d be on their side!”
(Actor Andrei Chadov in the movie ‘Alive’. Chadov is- a former Spetsnaz commando who lost a leg and most of his friends in Chechnya.)

The author, Marc Sageman, is a CIA adviser in Pakistan and worked as an instructor in special tactical training in the northern Afghanistan camp run by USSR ally General Dostum*. During the early 1980s, they were on opposing sides. Sageman is a professional psychiatrist, and served as a military physician onboard a U.S. aircraft carrier before being recruited by the CIA. Inhis biography it states that he is “a specialist in specific activities.” Today, Dr. Sageman is considered the foremost authority on the psychology of modern terror, and has access to all captured Mujahideen records. Hewrote the book ‘The Network Structure of Terrorism’, which he presented in Russia, where he first arrived in the middle of the ‘zeros’ (mid-2000s). Theauthor of this article spoke with Dr. Sageman for over than two hours, wishing to understand the terrible force that finds, trains, and motivates people who later strap on a suicide belt or sit at the controls of a Boeing to turn it into a flying bomb. Thefollowing are the main points of the discussion.


* Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum during the Afghan war was commander of the Afghan National Army 53rd division, at the time supporting the pro-Soviet government of Najibullah. During the Afghan civil war, he entered into alliances with various warring factions, and in 2004he ran for president, coming in fourth with 10percent of the vote. In2005 he was appointed chief of staff of the Afghan military high command.

Born in war

The Soviet Union and the central apparatus of global jihad. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan led to something unforeseen: modern global jihad. Reckless decisions by Kremlin elders became a “black swan” for militants from all over the Muslim world, rallying them to active cooperation over a long period. Somewhat later, leaders of the Afghan resistance movement became the founding fathers of Al-Qaeda. Today they no longer are personally involved in operations, but inspire and approve certainacts.

Structure. In addition to the central office (Shura), the CIA has determined that their are three main clusters in Al Qaeda. Thefirst is the so-called Arab Maghreb of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Thefour members of the Hamburg cell responsible for the September 11th operation were Moroccans. Thesecond cluster is composed of Middle Eastern Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, and Kuwait, while the third consists of the Southeast Asian Mujahideen from Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. Sageman is silent as far as the Caucasian cluster, possibly due to political correctness.

Portrait of a Terrorist

Terrorists are above all else the intelligentsias. Most of the terrorists whose dossiers were at Marc Sageman’s disposal were well-educated people, almost half (44%) having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among the members of the Hamburg cell, for example, Qutb was a journalist, Faraj an engineer, Al-Zawahiri a physical therapist, Mustafa Kamel a civil engineer.

Among the terrorists sampled by the expert, most were graduates from technical departments, especially the engineering and computer sciences. Specialists in the fields of social sciences or the humanities are less commonly found among contemporary terrorists. Slightly fewer Mujahideen were employed in fields requiring moderate levels of training, such as police, soldiers, mechanics, officials, small businessmen, students, etc. Inlast place are those who worked as unskilled labor before becoming Mujahideen.

Terrorists are mostly from the middle class. A common misconception is that terrorism is fueled by poverty. Sageman’s data shows that 18% of terrorists (mostly Middle Eastern Arabs) are from the upper class, and more than half are from the middle. Onlya small percentage came from the lowerclass.

Terrorists are well educated. About 20% of the members of Al-Qaeda’s central office have doctorate degrees, while the rest have at least graduated from technical schools or colleges. The“average temperature in the hospital” (the organization’s expertise) is defined by the starting level of education. Dr. Sageman tosses out the longstanding misconception that terrorists are a community of ignorant, uneducated persons who are ill informed of what is happening in the world. Theexpert claims, moreover, that the group consists of the original “global citizens” who are familiar with many countries of the West and Middle East, and able to speak several languages.

Terrorists are mature, conscientious people. The average age of joining the jihad is now 25to 30. Avast majority of terrorists have families and several children.

Terrorists have healthy minds. Psychiatrist Marc Sageman states that no pathological changes were found in the psyche of those who were examined. Froma medical point of view, Mujahideen are not fanatics. Their behavior, including suicide, is not a mental disorder, but a principle that defines and guides them inlife.

None of the terrorists was a career criminal. What motivates these so seemingly perfect “suitors”? Theyare intelligent, wealthy, well-educated professionals with university and technical education; polyglots who tend to create strong families and raise several children. Incontrast to official Russian propaganda, CIA experts are not afraid to call a spade a spade, or even publish their research. Themain drivers of terrorist activity, according to Dr. Sageman, are “a keen sense of lack of spirituality in a utilitarian culture”, a personal feeling grievance and humiliation (“they’re invaders here”), a hunger for a cause that would fill them with youthful energy and join them with a community of like-minded people, as well as give them spiritual comfort and sense of belonging to a mission that is worth the sacrifice of their lives. “There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” quotes Sageman from theBible.

Conclusion: the young men and women that are blowing us up in airports, subways, and pedestrian underpasses crave a fair and equitable society. Theyhave in their heads (please, Holy Church, forgive this author) a defense mechanism that often recalls our communities and collectives that do not fear the sacrifice of life. Thisis a socio-cultural rationale: the massive use of human bombs began among Middle Eastern Arabs who are followers of one of the most communal-oriented religions.

Kill the best?

What must Russian security services do to oppose the terrorist version of the next Utopia? Itwould suffice to recall Kabardino-Balkaria: the ruthless suppression of a youth rebellion, even if incited by provocateurs from the terrorist underground, became more gas on the fire by which the government and security forces have so successfully driven the whole of the Caucasus against them. After the events in Nalchik, the author was able to speak with teachers from that city. There were a lot of them, a whole stream from the higher-education academy. Distinguished frontline veterans, and women in mourning, screamed through their tears: “Why did you kill the best and brightest of our of youth?”

This is not an attempt to glorify the warriors of the jihad, who will never forgive us, or leave us in peace. Atthe end of their conversation, the author asked Dr. Sageman what one could do against the existing terrorist underground. Thegentleman in the bow tie and snow-white shirt sullenly grinned: “You should kill them.”

Terrorist attacks at airports

May 30, 1972
Three members of the Japanese Red Army opened fire on people in the passenger hall of Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel. Asa result of the attack 26were killed and 76injured.

September 5, 1972
During a failed rescue operation at a military airfield near Munich, 9Israeli Olympic athletes, held hostage by the Black September Palestinian group, were killed.

August 7, 1982
The terrorist organization, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) attacked Esenboga International Airport in Ankara, Turkey. Twoterrorists detonated a bomb in the middle of a crowded waiting room and then opened fire on passengers and airport personnel. Theythen seized a coffee shop and took 20hostages. Ninewere killed and 72injured.

July 15, 1983
A suitcase full of explosives blew up by the front desk of Turkish Airlines in Paris Orly airport, killing 8. ASALA took credit for the terrorist attack.

December 27, 1988
Palestinian terrorists staged attacks in airports in Rome and Vienna, shooting at passengers standing in front of Israeli airline ticket counters. Sixteen died, and more than 120were injured.

December 24, 1994
Members of an Algerian Islamic militant group seized an Air France airliner with 230passengers at Algiers airport, demanding the release of their leaders. After killing 3of the hostages, they flew to France were the aircraft was liberated by assault at Marseille airport.

July 24, 2001
Militants from Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) made their way to a government air force near Bandarainke International Airport, 30km from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Using explosives, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades, they destroyed eight aircraft, including two MiG-27 fighter jets, a number of training aircraft, and a helicopter. All14 terrorists were killed in the ensuing battle, while on the government side 5were killed and 9injured.

December 30, 2006
A bomb in the parking lot at Madrid airport killed two Ecuadorian citizens. TheETA Basque separatist organization claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack.

June 30, 2007
A Jeep Cherokee SUV loaded with propane canisters tried to ram Glasgow International Airport. Thevehicle ran into a barrier at the entrance, became stuck in the airport entrance, and caught fire. Oneof the terrorists died of burns, and the other was convicted.

September 8, 2009
A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Asa result of the incident, 2civilians were killed and 3foreign soldiers were wounded.

The 1990s vs. the 2000s

“As for the negotiations with criminal elements, with terrorists, no self-respecting country in the world has gone down this path. Attempts to negotiate with terrorists and extremists in the early 90's brought us the first and second Chechen wars. Andhere it is not just about the prestige of the state. Itis international practice to fight terrorists. Assoon as one enters into negotiations, aggression and the number of terrorist attacks increase, which therefore increases the number of victims.” (Vladimir Putin during a press conference after his meeting with Prime Minister of Belgium, January 26, 2011.)

Number of victims*

During the ‘Wild 1990s’:
675 killed

During the ‘Stable Zeros’ (2000s):
1375 killed
3954 victims

* Based on open sources

In The New times, 3 (198), January 31, 2011

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