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United Airlines Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks of 2001 in New York City. UA Flight 175 hits WTC south tower 9-11 edit.jpeg
United Airlines Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks of 2001 in New York City.

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentional violence, generally against civilians, for political purposes. [1] It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in context of war against non-combatants (mostly civilians and neutral military personnel). [2] The terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century [3] but gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s in news reports and books covering the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Palestine. The increased use of suicide attacks from the 1980s onwards was typified by the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.

War Intense violent conflict between states

War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

Non-combatant is a term of art in the law of war and international humanitarian law, having civilians who are not taking a direct part in hostilities; persons—such as combat medics and military chaplains—who are members of the belligerent armed forces but are protected because of their specific duties ; combatants who are placed hors de combat; and neutral persons not involved in fighting for one of the belligerents involved in a war. This particular status was first recognized under the Geneva Conventions with the First Geneva Convention of 1864.

In general, a civilian is "a person who is not a member of the military or of a police or firefighting force". The definition distinguishes from persons whose duties involves risking their lives to protect the public at large from hazardous situations such as terrorism, riots, conflagrations, or wars. "Criminals" are also excluded from the category.


There are different definitions of terrorism. [4] [5] Terrorism is a charged term. It is often used with the connotation of something that is "morally wrong". Governments and non-state groups use the term to abuse or denounce opposing groups. [6] [7] [8] [9] [5] Varied political organizations have been accused of using terrorism to achieve their objectives. These organizations include right-wing and left-wing political organizations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments. [10] Legislation declaring terrorism a crime has been adopted in many states. [11] When terrorism is perpetrated by nation-states it is not considered terrorism by the state conducting it, making legality a largely grey-area issue. [12] There is no consensus as to whether or not terrorism should be regarded as a war crime. [11] [13]

There is no universal agreement on the definition of terrorism. Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions. Moreover, governments have been reluctant to formulate an agreed-upon and legally binding definition. Difficulties arise from the fact that the term has become politically and emotionally charged. In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents". In general, terrorism is classified as:

Loaded language is rhetoric used to influence an audience by using words and phrases with strong connotations associated with them in order to invoke an emotional response and/or exploit stereotypes.

Right-wing political thinking holds that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences or the competition in market economies. The term right-wing can generally refer to "the conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system".

The Global Terrorism Database, maintained by the University of Maryland, College Park, has recorded more than 61,000 incidents of non-state terrorism, resulting in at least 140,000 deaths between 2000 and 2014. [14]

Global Terrorism Database

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) is a database of incidents of terrorism from 1970 onward. As of July 2017, the list extended through 2016, with an incomplete data of 1993 due to issues with that year. The database is maintained by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States. It is also the basis for other terrorism-related measures, such as the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

University of Maryland, College Park public research university in the city of College Park in Prince Georges County, Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park is a public research university in College Park, Maryland, United States. Founded in 1856, UMD is the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland, and is the largest university in both the state and the Washington metropolitan area, with more than 41,000 students representing all fifty states and 123 countries, and a global alumni network of over 360,000. Its twelve schools and colleges together offer over 200 degree-granting programs, including 92 undergraduate majors, 107 master's programs, and 83 doctoral programs. UMD is a member of the Association of American Universities and competes in intercollegiate athletics as a member of the Big Ten Conference.


Etmologically, the word terror is derived from the Latin verb Tersere, which later becomes Terrere. The latter form appears in European languages as early as the 12th century; its first known use in French is the word terrible in 1160. By 1356 the word terreur is in use. Terreur is the origin of the Middle English term terrour, which later becomes the modern word "terror". [15]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Middle English Stage of the English language from about the 12th through 15th centuries

Middle English was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. English underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.

Historical background

Seal of the Jacobin Club: 'Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality'. JacobinVignette03.jpg
Seal of the Jacobin Club: 'Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality'.

The term terroriste, meaning "terrorist", is first used in 1794 by the French philosopher François-Noël Babeuf, who denounces Maximilien Robespierre 's Jacobin regime as a dictatorship. [16] [17] In the years leading up to the Reign of Terror, the Brunswick Manifesto threatened Paris with an "exemplary, never to be forgotten vengeance: the city would be subjected to military punishment and total destruction" if the royal family was harmed, but this only increased the Revolution's will to abolish the monarchy. [18] Some writers attitudes about French Revolution grew less favorable after the French monarchy was abolished in 1792. During the Reign of Terror, which began in July 1793 and lasted thirteen months, Paris was governed by the Committee of Public safety who oversaw a regime of mass executions and public purges. [19]

François-Noël Babeuf French political agitator and journalist of the French Revolutionary period

François-Noël Babeuf, known as Gracchus Babeuf, was a French political agitator and journalist of the French Revolutionary period. His newspaper Le tribun du peuple was best known for his advocacy for the poor and calling for a popular revolt against the Directory, the government of France. He was a leading advocate for democracy and the abolition of private property. He angered the authorities who were clamping down hard on their radical enemies. In spite of the efforts of his Jacobin friends to save him, Babeuf was executed for his role in the Conspiracy of the Equals.

Maximilien Robespierre French revolutionary lawyer and politician

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician, as well as one of the best known and most influential figures associated with the French Revolution. As a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club, he campaigned for universal manhood suffrage, and the abolition of both celibacy for the clergy and of slavery. Robespierre was an outspoken advocate for the citizens without a voice, for their unrestricted admission to the National Guard, to public offices, and for the right to carry arms in self-defence. Robespierre played an important part in the agitation which brought about the fall of the French monarchy in August 1792 and the summoning of a National Convention.

Jacobin The more radical constitutional reform group in the French Revolution

The Society of the Friends of the Constitution, after 1792 renamed Society of the Jacobins, Friends of Freedom and Equality, commonly known as the Jacobin Club or simply the Jacobins, became the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789 and following. The period of their political ascendency includes the Reign of Terror, during which time well over ten thousand people were put on trial and executed in France, many for political crimes.

Prior to the French Revolution, ancient philosophers wrote about tyrannicide, as tyranny was seen as the greatest political threat to Greco-Roman civilization. Medieval philosophers were similarly occupied with the concept of tyranny, though the analysis of some theologians like Thomas Aquinas drew a distinction between usurpers, who could be killed by anyone, and legitimate rulers who abused their power – the latter, in Aquinas' view, could only be punished by a public authority. John of Salisbury was the first medieval Christian scholar to defend tyrannicide. [15]

Tyrannicide is the killing or assassination of a tyrant or unjust ruler, usually for the common good, and usually by one of the tyrant's subjects.

Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophy is the philosophy that existed through the Middle Ages, the period roughly extending from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Renaissance in the 15th century. Medieval philosophy, understood as a project of independent philosophical inquiry, began in Baghdad, in the middle of the 8th century, and in France, in the itinerant court of Charlemagne, in the last quarter of the 8th century. It is defined partly by the process of rediscovering the ancient culture developed in Greece and Rome during the Classical period, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate sacred doctrine with secular learning.

Thomas Aquinas Dominican scholastic philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church

Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, Philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He is an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism; of which he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.

General Napoleon Bonaparte quelling the 5 October 1795 royalist rebellion in Paris, in front of the Eglise Saint-Roch, Saint-Honore Street, paving the way for Directory government. 13Vendemiaire.jpg
General Napoléon Bonaparte quelling the 5 October 1795 royalist rebellion in Paris, in front of the Église Saint-Roch, Saint-Honoré Street, paving the way for Directory government.

Most scholars today trace the origins of the modern tactic of terrorism to the Jewish Sicarii Zealots who attacked Romans and Jews in 1st century Palestine. They follow its development from the Persian Order of Assassins through to 19th-century anarchists. The "Reign of Terror" is usually regarded as an issue of etymology. The term terrorism has generally been used to describe violence by non-state actors rather than government violence since the 19th-century Anarchist Movement. [18] [20] [21]

In December 1795, Edmund Burke used the word "Terrorists" in a description of the new French government called 'Directory': [22]

At length, after a terrible struggle, the [Directory] Troops prevailed over the Citizens (…) To secure them further, they have a strong corps of irregulars, ready armed. Thousands of those Hell-hounds called Terrorists, whom they had shut up in Prison on their last Revolution, as the Satellites of Tyranny, are let loose on the people.(emphasis added)

The terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" gained renewed currency in the 1970s as a result of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, [23] the Northern Ireland conflict, [24] the Basque conflict, [25] and the operations of groups such as the Red Army Faction. [26] Leila Khaled was described as a terrorist in a 1970 issue of Life magazine. [27] A number of books on terrorism were published in the 1970s. [28] The topic came further to the fore after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings [8] and again after the 2001 September 11 attacks [29] [8] [30] and the 2002 Bali bombings. [8]

Modern definitions

Attack at the Bologna railway station on 2 August 1980 by the neo-fascist group Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari. With 85 deaths, it is the deadliest massacre in the history of Italy as a Republic. Stragedibologna-2.jpg
Attack at the Bologna railway station on 2 August 1980 by the neo-fascist group Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari. With 85 deaths, it is the deadliest massacre in the history of Italy as a Republic.

There are over 109 different definitions of terrorism. [31] American political philosopher Michael Walzer in 2002 wrote: "Terrorism is the deliberate killing of innocent people, at random, to spread fear through a whole population and force the hand of its political leaders". [5] Bruce Hoffman, an American scholar, has noted that

It is not only individual agencies within the same governmental apparatus that cannot agree on a single definition of terrorism. Experts and other long-established scholars in the field are equally incapable of reaching a consensus. [32]

C. A. J. Coady has written that the question of how to define terrorism is "irresolvable" because "its natural home is in polemical, ideological and propagandist contexts". [12]

French historian Sophie Wahnich  [ fr ] distinguishes between the revolutionary terror of the French Revolution and the terrorists of the September 11 attacks:

Revolutionary terror is not terrorism. To make a moral equivalence between the Revolution's year II and September 2001 is historical and philosophical nonsense ... The violence exercised on 11 September 2001 aimed neither at equality nor liberty. Nor did the preventive war announced by the president of the United States. [33] [34]

Experts disagree about "whether terrorism is wrong by definition or just wrong as a matter of fact; they disagree about whether terrorism should be defined in terms of its aims, or its methods, or both, or neither; they disagree about whether or not states can perpetrate terrorism; they even disagree about the importance or otherwise of terror for a definition of terrorism." [12]

State terrorism

Alternatively, responding to developments in modern warfare, Paul James and Jonathan Friedman distinguish between state terrorism against non-combatants and state terrorism against combatants, including 'Shock and Awe' tactics:

Shock and Awe" as a subcategory of "rapid dominance" is the name given to massive intervention designed to strike terror into the minds of the enemy. It is a form of state-terrorism. The concept was however developed long before the Second Gulf War by Harlan Ullman as chair of a forum of retired military personnel. [35]

United Nations

In November 2004, a Secretary-General of the United Nations report described terrorism as any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act". [36] The international community has been slow to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding definition of this crime. These difficulties arise from the fact that the term "terrorism" is politically and emotionally charged. [37] [38] In this regard, Angus Martyn, briefing the Australian parliament, stated,

The international community has never succeeded in developing an accepted comprehensive definition of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, the United Nations attempts to define the term floundered mainly due to differences of opinion between various members about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. [39]

These divergences have made it impossible for the United Nations to conclude a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that incorporates a single, all-encompassing, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism. [40] The international community has adopted a series of sectoral conventions that define and criminalize various types of terrorist activities.

Since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism:

Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them. [41]

U.S. law

Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions of terrorism in their national legislation.

U.S. Code Title 22 Chapter 38, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as: "Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience". [42]

18 U.S.C. § 2331 defines "international terrorism" and "domestic terrorism" for purposes of Chapter 113B of the Code, entitled "Terrorism":

"International terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law; Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

Media spectacle

A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:

Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states. [43]

Terrorists attack national symbols, which may negatively affect a government, while increasing the prestige of the given terrorist group or its ideology. [44]

Political violence

Luis Posada and CORU are widely considered responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Posada.jpg
Luis Posada and CORU are widely considered responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

Terrorist acts frequently have a political purpose. [46] Some official, governmental definitions of terrorism use the criterion of the illegitimacy or unlawfulness of the act. [47] [ better source needed ] to distinguish between actions authorized by a government (and thus "lawful") and those of other actors, including individuals and small groups. For example, carrying out a strategic bombing on an enemy city, which is designed to affect civilian support for a cause, would not be considered terrorism if it were authorized by a government. This criterion is inherently problematic and is not universally accepted,[ attribution needed ] because: it denies the existence of state terrorism. [48] An associated term is violent non-state actor. [49]

According to Ali Khan, the distinction lies ultimately in a political judgment. [50]

Pejorative use

Having the moral charge in our vocabulary of 'something morally wrong', the term 'terrorism' is often used to abuse or denounce opposite parties, either governments or non-state-groups. [6] [7] [8] [9] [5]

Those labeled "terrorists" by their opponents rarely identify themselves as such, and typically use other terms or terms specific to their situation, such as separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, patriot, or any similar-meaning word in other languages and cultures. Jihadi, mujaheddin, and fedayeen are similar Arabic words that have entered the English lexicon. It is common for both parties in a conflict to describe each other as terrorists. [51]

On whether particular terrorist acts, such as killing non-combatants, can be justified as the lesser evil in a particular circumstance, philosophers have expressed different views: while, according to David Rodin, utilitarian philosophers can (in theory) conceive of cases in which the evil of terrorism is outweighed by the good that could not be achieved in a less morally costly way, in practice the "harmful effects of undermining the convention of non-combatant immunity is thought to outweigh the goods that may be achieved by particular acts of terrorism". [52] Among the non-utilitarian philosophers, Michael Walzer argued that terrorism can be morally justified in only one specific case: when "a nation or community faces the extreme threat of complete destruction and the only way it can preserve itself is by intentionally targeting non-combatants, then it is morally entitled to do so". [52] [53]

In his book Inside Terrorism Bruce Hoffman offered an explanation of why the term terrorism becomes distorted:

On one point, at least, everyone agrees: terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one's enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore. 'What is called terrorism,' Brian Jenkins has written, 'thus seems to depend on one's point of view. Use of the term implies a moral judgment; and if one party can successfully attach the label terrorist to its opponent, then it has indirectly persuaded others to adopt its moral viewpoint.' Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization terrorist becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending largely on whether one sympathizes with or opposes the person/group/cause concerned. If one identifies with the victim of the violence, for example, then the act is terrorism. If, however, one identifies with the perpetrator, the violent act is regarded in a more sympathetic, if not positive (or, at the worst, an ambivalent) light; and it is not terrorism. [54] [55] [56]

President Reagan meeting with Afghan Mujahideen leaders in the Oval Office in 1983 Reagan sitting with people from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in February 1983.jpg
President Reagan meeting with Afghan Mujahideen leaders in the Oval Office in 1983

The pejorative connotations of the word can be summed up in the aphorism, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". [51] This is exemplified when a group using irregular military methods is an ally of a state against a mutual enemy, but later falls out with the state and starts to use those methods against its former ally. During World War II, the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army was allied with the British, but during the Malayan Emergency, members of its successor (the Malayan Races Liberation Army), were branded "terrorists" by the British. [57] [58] More recently, Ronald Reagan and others in the American administration frequently called the mujaheddin "freedom fighters" during the Soviet–Afghan War [59] yet twenty years later, when a new generation of Afghan men were fighting against what they perceive to be a regime installed by foreign powers, their attacks were labelled "terrorism" by George W. Bush. [60] [61] [62] Groups accused of terrorism understandably prefer terms reflecting legitimate military or ideological action. [63] [64] [65] Leading terrorism researcher Professor Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Ottawa's Carleton University, defines "terrorist acts" as unlawful attacks for political or other ideological goals, and said:

There is the famous statement: 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.' But that is grossly misleading. It assesses the validity of the cause when terrorism is an act. One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless. [66]

Some groups, when involved in a "liberation" struggle, have been called "terrorists" by the Western governments or media. Later, these same persons, as leaders of the liberated nations, are called "statesmen" by similar organizations. Two examples of this phenomenon are the Nobel Peace Prize laureates Menachem Begin and Nelson Mandela. [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has been called a "terrorist" by Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. [73] [74]

Sometimes, states that are close allies, for reasons of history, culture and politics, can disagree over whether or not members of a certain organization are terrorists. For instance, for many years, some branches of the United States government refused to label members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) as terrorists while the IRA was using methods against one of the United States' closest allies (the United Kingdom) that the UK branded as terrorism. This was highlighted by the Quinn v. Robinson case. [75] [76]

Media outlets who wish to convey impartiality may limit their usage of "terrorist" and "terrorism" because they are loosely defined, potentially controversial in nature, and subjective terms. [77] [78]


The Irish Republican Brotherhood was one of the earliest organizations to use modern terrorist tactics. Pictured, "The Fenian Guy Fawkes" by John Tenniel (1867). Fenian guy fawkesr1867reduced.png
The Irish Republican Brotherhood was one of the earliest organizations to use modern terrorist tactics. Pictured, "The Fenian Guy Fawkes" by John Tenniel (1867).

Depending on how broadly the term is defined, the roots and practice of terrorism can be traced at least to the 1st-century AD. [79] Sicarii Zealots, though some dispute whether the group, a radical offshoot of the Zealots which was active in Judaea Province at the beginning of the 1st century AD, was in fact terrorist. According to the contemporary Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, after the Zealotry rebellion against Roman rule in Judea, when some prominent Jewish collaborators with Roman rule were killed, [80] [81] Judas of Galilee formed a small and more extreme offshoot of the Zealots, the Sicarii, in 6 AD. [82] Their terror was directed against Jewish "collaborators", including temple priests, Sadducees, Herodians, and other wealthy elites. [83]

The term "terrorism" itself was originally used to describe the actions of the Jacobin Club during the "Reign of Terror" in the French Revolution. "Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible", said Jacobin leader Maximilien Robespierre. In 1795, Edmund Burke denounced the Jacobins for letting "thousands of those hell-hounds called Terrorists ... loose on the people" of France.

In January 1858, Italian patriot Felice Orsini threw three bombs in an attempt to assassinate French Emperor Napoleon III. [84] Eight bystanders were killed and 142 injured. [84] The incident played a crucial role as an inspiration for the development of the early terrorist groups. [84]

Arguably the first organization to utilize modern terrorist techniques was the Irish Republican Brotherhood, [85] founded in 1858 as a revolutionary Irish nationalist group [86] that carried out attacks in England. [87] The group initiated the Fenian dynamite campaign in 1881, one of the first modern terror campaigns. [88] Instead of earlier forms of terrorism based on political assassination, this campaign used modern, timed explosives with the express aim of sowing fear in the very heart of metropolitan Britain, in order to achieve political gains. [89]

Another early terrorist group was Narodnaya Volya, founded in Russia in 1878 as a revolutionary anarchist group inspired by Sergei Nechayev and "propaganda by the deed" theorist Carlo Pisacane. [79] [90] [91] The group developed ideas – such as targeted killing of the 'leaders of oppression' – that were to become the hallmark of subsequent violence by small non-state groups, and they were convinced that the developing technologies of the age – such as the invention of dynamite, which they were the first anarchist group to make widespread use of [92]  – enabled them to strike directly and with discrimination. [93]

Scholars of terrorism refer to four major waves of global terrorism: "the Anarchist, the Anti-Colonial, the New Left, and the Religious. The first three have been completed and lasted around 40 years; the fourth is now in its third decade." [94]



Depending on the country, the political system, and the time in history, the types of terrorism are varying.

source: Death toll by Five perpetrator groups with the most attacks worldwide, 2015.png
Number of failed, foiled or successful terrorist attacks by year and type within the European Union. Source: Europol. Terro.jpg
Number of failed, foiled or successful terrorist attacks by year and type within the European Union. Source: Europol.
Aftermath of the King David Hotel bombing by the Zionist militant group Irgun, July 1946 KD 1946.JPG
Aftermath of the King David Hotel bombing by the Zionist militant group Irgun, July 1946
A view of damage to the U.S. Embassy in the aftermath of the 1983 Beirut bombing caused by Islamic Jihad Organization and Hezbollah BombenanschlagUS-BotschaftBeirut.jpg
A view of damage to the U.S. Embassy in the aftermath of the 1983 Beirut bombing caused by Islamic Jihad Organization and Hezbollah

In early 1975, the Law Enforcement Assistant Administration in the United States formed the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. One of the five volumes that the committee wrote was titled Disorders and Terrorism, produced by the Task Force on Disorders and Terrorism under the direction of H. H. A. Cooper, Director of the Task Force staff.

The Task Force defines terrorism as "a tactic or technique by means of which a violent act or the threat thereof is used for the prime purpose of creating overwhelming fear for coercive purposes". It classified disorders and terrorism into six categories: [98]

Other sources have defined the typology of terrorism in different ways, for example, broadly classifying it into domestic terrorism and international terrorism, or using categories such as vigilante terrorism or insurgent terrorism. [102] One way the typology of terrorism may be defined: [103] [104]

Motivations of terrorists

As well as there being no one agreed definition of terrorism, there is a similar lack of consensus regarding the causes – or motivations behind – terrorism. Numerous studies have identified certain behavioural and situational characteristics that are common, and perhaps causal, to the consequence of terrorism, specific analysis of case studies have led to suggested motivations to individual historical acts.

A report conducted by Paul Gill, John Horgan and Paige Deckert on behalf of The Department of security of UK highlights the vast discrepancies between individual cases of terrorism recorded. To begin with, 43 percent of lone wolf terrorism is motivated by religious beliefs. The same report indicates that just less than a third (32 percent) have pre-existing mental health disorders, while many more are found to have these problems upon arrest. At least 37 percent lived alone at the time of their event planning and/or execution, a further 26 percent lived with others, and no data were available for the remaining cases. 40 percent were unemployed at the time of their arrest or terrorist event. 19 percent subjectively experienced being disrespected by others, while 14 percent experienced being the victim of verbal or physical assault. [105]


Attacks on 'collaborators' are used to intimidate people from cooperating with the state in order to undermine state control. This strategy was used in Ireland, in Kenya, in Algeria and in Cyprus during their independence struggles. [106]

International attention

This strategy was used by Al-Qaeda in its attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States on September 11, 2001. These attacks are used to draw international attention to struggles that are otherwise unreported, such as the Palestinian airplane hijackings in 1970 and the 1975 Dutch train hostage crisis.

Local/internal social standing

Abrahm suggests that terrorist organizations do not select terrorism for its political effectiveness. [107] Individual terrorists tend to be motivated more by a desire for social solidarity with other members of their organization than by political platforms or strategic objectives, which are often murky and undefined. [107]

Cultural tolerance of violence

Additionally, Michael Mousseau shows possible relationships between the type of economy within a country and ideology associated with terrorism. [108] Many terrorists have a history of domestic violence. [109]

Perceived illegitimacy of the State

Some terrorists like Timothy McVeigh were motivated by revenge against a state for its actions against its citizens.[ citation needed ]

Religious beliefs/zealotry

According to Paul Gill, John Horgan and Paige Deckert on behalf of The Department of security of UK, 43 percent of lone wolf terrorism is motivated by religious beliefs. The same report indicates that just less than a third (32 percent) have pre-existing mental health disorders, while many are found to have these problems upon arrest. At least 37 percent lived alone at the time of their event planning and/or execution, a further 26 percent lived with others, and no data were available for the remaining cases. 40 percent were unemployed at the time of their arrest or terrorist event. Many were chronically unemployed and consistently struggled to hold any form of employment for a significant amount of time. 19 percent subjectively experienced being disrespected by others, while 14.3 percent experienced being the victim of verbal or physical assault. [105]

Mental health

Ariel Merari, a psychologist who has studied the psychological profiles of suicide terrorists since 1983 through media reports that contained biographical details, interviews with the suicides’ families, and interviews with jailed would-be suicide attackers, concluded that they were unlikely to be psychologically abnormal. [110]

In comparison to economic theories of criminal behaviour, Scott Atran found that suicide terrorists exhibit none of the socially dysfunctional attributes – such as fatherless, friendless, jobless situations – or suicidal symptoms. By which he means, they do not kill themselves simply out of hopelessness or a sense of 'having nothing to lose'. [111]


Although a common factor in terrorism is a strong religious belief there are other factors such as cultural, social and political that wholly preclude religion. For example, the drive behind these Chechen terrorists are quite distinct and unique from others. Many of the Chechens considered themselves secular freedom fighters, nationalist insurgents seeking to establish an independent secular state of Chechnya. Although a distinction should be made between national Chechen terrorists and non-Chechen fighters who have adopted the idea from abroad. Few Chechen fighters fought for the jihads whereas most of the non-Chechen fighters did (Janeczko, 2014). [112]

Financial support for family

Another factor are perceived assurances of financial stability for the actor's families, that they are given when they join a terrorist organization or complete an attempt of terror. An extra grant is provided for the families of suicide bombers. [31]

Democracy and domestic terrorism

Terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom, and it is least common in the most democratic nations. [113] [114] [115] [116] one study suggests that suicide attacks may be an exception to this general rule.[ irrelevant citation ] Evidence regarding this particular method of terrorism reveals that every modern suicide campaign has targeted a democracy–a state with a considerable degree of political freedom. [117] [ relevant? ][ verify ] The study suggests that concessions awarded to terrorists during the 1980s and 1990s for suicide attacks increased their frequency.[ example needed ][ dubious ] [118] There is a connection between the existence of civil liberties, democratic participation and terrorism.[ improper synthesis? ] According to Young and Dugan, these things encourage terrorist groups to organize and generate terror. [119] [ non sequitur ]

Some examples of "terrorism" in non-democratic nations include ETA in Spain under Francisco Franco (although the group's terrorist activities increased sharply after Franco's death), [120] the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in pre-war Poland, [121] the Shining Path in Peru under Alberto Fujimori, [122] the Kurdistan Workers Party when Turkey was ruled by military leaders[ citation needed ] and the ANC in South Africa. [123] Democracies, such as Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Indonesia, India, Spain, Germany, Italy and the Philippines, have experienced domestic terrorism.

While a democratic nation espousing civil liberties may claim a sense of higher moral ground than other regimes, an act of terrorism within such a state may cause a dilemma: whether to maintain its civil liberties and thus risk being perceived as ineffective in dealing with the problem; or alternatively to restrict its civil liberties and thus risk delegitimizing its claim of supporting civil liberties. [124] For this reason, homegrown terrorism has started to be seen as a greater threat, as stated by former CIA Director Michael Hayden. [125] This dilemma, some social theorists would conclude, may very well play into the initial plans of the acting terrorist(s); namely, to delegitimize the state and cause a systematic shift towards anarchy via the accumulation of negative sentiments towards the state system. [126]

Religious terrorism

Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing. Some 35,000 Pakistanis have died from terrorist attacks in recent years. Marriot Hotel Islamabad Pakistan bombing.jpg
Islamabad Marriott Hotel bombing. Some 35,000 Pakistanis have died from terrorist attacks in recent years.

Terrorist acts throughout history have been performed on religious grounds with the goal to either spread or enforce a system of belief, viewpoint or opinion. [128] [ dubious ][ irrelevant citation ] The validity and scope of religious terrorism is limited to an individual's view or a group's view or interpretation of that belief system's teachings.[ citation needed ][ context? ]

According to the Global Terrorism Index by the University of Maryland, College Park, religious extremism has overtaken national separatism and become the main driver of terrorist attacks around the world. Since 9/11 there has been a five-fold increase in deaths from terrorist attacks. The majority of incidents over the past several years can be tied to groups with a religious agenda. Before 2000, it was nationalist separatist terrorist organizations such as the IRA and Chechen rebels who were behind the most attacks. The number of incidents from nationalist separatist groups has remained relatively stable in the years since while religious extremism has grown. The prevalence of Islamist groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria is the main driver behind these trends. [129]

Four of the terrorist groups that have been most active since 2001 are Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIL. These groups have been most active in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. 80 percent of all deaths from terrorism occurred in one of these five countries. [129]

Terrorism in Pakistan has become a great problem. From the summer of 2007 until late 2009, more than 1,500 people were killed in suicide and other attacks on civilians [130] for reasons attributed to a number of causes – sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims; easy availability of guns and explosives; the existence of a "Kalashnikov culture"; an influx of ideologically driven Muslims based in or near Pakistan, who originated from various nations around the world and the subsequent war against the pro-Soviet Afghans in the 1980s which blew back into Pakistan; the presence of Islamist insurgent groups and forces such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. On July 2, 2013 in Lahore, 50 Muslim scholars of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) issued a collective fatwa against suicide bombings, the killing of innocent people, bomb attacks, and targeted killings declaring them as Haraam or forbidden. [131]

In 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report on terrorism in the United States. The report (titled The Age of the Wolf) found that during that period, "more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists." [132] The "virulent racist and anti-semitic" ideology of the ultra-right wing Christian Identity movement is usually accompanied by anti-government sentiments. [133] Adherents of Christian Identity believe that whites of European descent can be traced back to the "Lost Tribes of Israel" and many consider Jews to be the Satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent. [133] This group has committed hate crimes, bombings and other acts of terrorism. Its influence ranges from the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups to the anti-government militia and sovereign citizen movements. [133] Christian Identity's origins can be traced back to Anglo-Israelism, which held the view that British people were descendants of ancient Israelites. By the 1930s, the movement had been infected with anti-Semitism, and eventually Christian Identity theology diverged from traditional Anglo-Israelism, and developed what is known as the "two seed" theory. [133] According to the two-seed theory, the Jewish people are descended from Cain and the serpent (not from Shem). [133] The white European seedline is descended from the "lost tribes" of Israel. They hold themselves to "God's laws", not to "man's laws", and they do not feel bound to a government that they consider run by Jews and the New World Order. [133]

Dawabsheh family home after Duma arson attack Duma arson attack 1.jpg
Dawabsheh family home after Duma arson attack

Israel has had problems with Jewish religious terrorism. Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. For Amir, killing Rabin was an exemplary act that symbolized the fight against an illegitimate government that was prepared to cede Jewish Holy Land to the Palestinians. [134]


Al-Qaida in Magreb members pose with weapons. Al-Qaida au Maghreb Islamique combattants.png
Al-Qaida in Magreb members pose with weapons.

The perpetrators of acts of terrorism can be individuals, groups, or states. According to some definitions, clandestine or semi-clandestine state actors may carry out terrorist acts outside the framework of a state of war. the most common image of terrorism is that it is carried out by small and secretive cells, highly motivated to serve a particular cause and many of the most deadly operations in recent times, such as the September 11 attacks, the London underground bombing, 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2002 Bali bombing were planned and carried out by a close clique, composed of close friends, family members and other strong social networks. These groups benefited from the free flow of information and efficient telecommunications to succeed where others had failed. [135]

Over the years, much research has been conducted to distill a terrorist profile to explain these individuals' actions through their psychology and socio-economic circumstances. [136] Others, like Roderick Hindery, have sought to discern profiles in the propaganda tactics used by terrorists. Some security organizations designate these groups as violent non-state actors.[ citation needed ] A 2007 study by economist Alan B. Krueger found that terrorists were less likely to come from an impoverished background (28 percent vs. 33 percent) and more likely to have at least a high-school education (47 percent vs. 38 percent). Another analysis found only 16 percent of terrorists came from impoverished families, vs. 30 percent of male Palestinians, and over 60 percent had gone beyond high school, vs. 15 percent of the populace.A study into the poverty-stricken conditions and whether or not,terrorists are more likely to come from here,show that people who grew up in these situations tend to show aggression and frustration towards others. This theory is largely debated for the simple fact that just because one is frustrated,does not make them a potential terrorist. [31] [137]

To avoid detection, a terrorist will look, dress, and behave normally until executing the assigned mission. Some claim that attempts to profile terrorists based on personality, physical, or sociological traits are not useful. [138] The physical and behavioral description of the terrorist could describe almost any normal person. [139] the majority of terrorist attacks are carried out by military age men, aged 16–40. [139]

Non-state groups

There is speculation that anthrax mailed inside letters to U.S. politicians was the work of a lone wolf. Daschle letter FBI.png
There is speculation that anthrax mailed inside letters to U.S. politicians was the work of a lone wolf.

Groups not part of the state apparatus of in opposition to the state are most commonly referred to as a "terrorist" in the media.

According to the Global Terrorism Database, the most active terrorist group in the period 1970 to 2010 was Shining Path (with 4,517 attacks), followed by Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Irish Republican Army (IRA), Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA), Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Taliban, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, New People's Army, National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN), and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). [140]

State sponsors

A state can sponsor terrorism by funding or harboring a terrorist group. Opinions as to which acts of violence by states consist of state-sponsored terrorism vary widely. When states provide funding for groups considered by some to be terrorist, they rarely acknowledge them as such. [141] [ citation needed ]

State terrorism

Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur it is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Infant crying in Shanghai's South Station after the Japanese bombing, 28 August 1937. Bloody Saturday, Shanghai.jpg
Infant crying in Shanghai's South Station after the Japanese bombing, 28 August 1937.

As with "terrorism" the concept of "state terrorism" is controversial. [143] The Chairman of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee has stated that the Committee was conscious of 12 international Conventions on the subject, and none of them referred to State terrorism, which was not an international legal concept. If States abused their power, they should be judged against international conventions dealing with war crimes, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law. [144] Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that it is "time to set aside debates on so-called 'state terrorism'. The use of force by states is already thoroughly regulated under international law". [145] he made clear that, "regardless of the differences between governments on the question of the definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is that any deliberate attack on innocent civilians [or non-combatants], regardless of one's cause, is unacceptable and fits into the definition of terrorism." [146]

USS Arizona (BB-39) burning during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - NARA 195617 - Edit.jpg
USS Arizona (BB-39) burning during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

State terrorism has been used to refer to terrorist acts committed by governmental agents or forces. This involves the use of state resources employed by a state's foreign policies, such as using its military to directly perform acts of terrorism. Professor of Political Science Michael Stohl cites the examples that include the German bombing of London, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the British firebombing of Dresden, and the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. He argues that "the use of terror tactics is common in international relations and the state has been and remains a more likely employer of terrorism within the international system than insurgents." He cites the first strike option as an example of the "terror of coercive diplomacy" as a form of this, which holds the world hostage with the implied threat of using nuclear weapons in "crisis management" and he argues that the institutionalized form of terrorism has occurred as a result of changes that took place following World War II. In this analysis, state terrorism exhibited as a form of foreign policy was shaped by the presence and use of weapons of mass destruction, and the legitimizing of such violent behavior led to an increasingly accepted form of this behavior by the state. [147] [148] [149]

St Paul's Cathedral after the German bombing of London, c. 1940. View from St Paul's Cathedral after the Blitz.jpg
St Paul's Cathedral after the German bombing of London, c. 1940.

Charles Stewart Parnell described William Ewart Gladstone's Irish Coercion Act as terrorism in his "no-Rent manifesto" in 1881, during the Irish Land War. [150] The concept is used to describe political repressions by governments against their own civilian populations with the purpose of inciting fear. For example, taking and executing civilian hostages or extrajudicial elimination campaigns are commonly considered "terror" or terrorism, for example during the Red Terror or the Great Terror. [151] Such actions are often described as democide or genocide, which have been argued to be equivalent to state terrorism. [152] Empirical studies on this have found that democracies have little democide. [153] [154] Western democracies, including the United States, have supported state terrorism [155] and mass killings, [156] with some examples being the Indonesian mass killings of 1965–66 and Operation Condor. [157] [158] [159]

Connection with tourism

The connection between terrorism and tourism has been widely studied since the Luxor massacre in Egypt. [160] [161] In the 1970s, the targets of terrorists were politicians and chiefs of police while now, international tourists and visitors are selected as the main targets of attacks. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, were the symbolic epicenter, which marked a new epoch in the use of civil transport against the main power of the planet. [162] From this event onwards, the spaces of leisure that characterized the pride of West, were conceived as dangerous and frightful. [163] [164]


State sponsors have constituted a major form of funding; for example, Palestine Liberation Organization, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other groups considered to be terrorist organizations, were funded by the Soviet Union. [165] [166] The Stern Gang received funding from Italian Fascist officers in Beirut to undermine the British Mandate for Palestine. [167]

"Revolutionary tax" is another major form of funding, and essentially a euphemism for "protection money". [165] Revolutionary taxes "play a secondary role as one other means of intimidating the target population". [165]

Other major sources of funding include kidnapping for ransoms, smuggling (including wildlife smuggling), [168] fraud, and robbery. [165] The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has reportedly received funding "via private donations from the Gulf states". [169]

The Financial Action Task Force is an inter-governmental body whose mandate, since October 2001, has included combating terrorist financing. [170]


The Wall Street bombing at noon on September 16, 1920 killed thirty-eight people and injured several hundred. The perpetrators were never caught. WallStexplosion1920.jpg
The Wall Street bombing at noon on September 16, 1920 killed thirty-eight people and injured several hundred. The perpetrators were never caught.

Terrorist attacks are often targeted to maximize fear and publicity, usually using explosives or poison. [172] Terrorist groups usually methodically plan attacks in advance, and may train participants, plant undercover agents, and raise money from supporters or through organized crime. Communications occur through modern telecommunications, or through old-fashioned methods such as couriers. There is concern about terrorist attacks employing weapons of mass destruction.

Terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare, and is more common when direct conventional warfare will not be effective because opposing forces vary greatly in power. [173]

The context in which terrorist tactics are used is often a large-scale, unresolved political conflict. The type of conflict varies widely; historical examples include:


Sign notifying shoppers of increased surveillance due to a perceived increased risk of terrorism 1080 Poisoning Scare At New World in Wellington.jpeg
Sign notifying shoppers of increased surveillance due to a perceived increased risk of terrorism

Responses to terrorism are broad in scope. They can include re-alignments of the political spectrum and reassessments of fundamental values.

Specific types of responses include:

The term "counter-terrorism" has a narrower connotation, implying that it is directed at terrorist actors.

Response in the United States

X-ray backscatter technology (AIT) machine used by the TSA to screen passengers. According to the TSA, this is what the remote TSA agent would see on their screen. Backscatter large.jpg
X-ray backscatter technology (AIT) machine used by the TSA to screen passengers. According to the TSA, this is what the remote TSA agent would see on their screen.

According to a report by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin in The Washington Post, "Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States." [174]

America's thinking on how to defeat radical Islamists is split along two very different schools of thought. Republicans, typically follow what is known as the Bush Doctrine, advocate the military model of taking the fight to the enemy and seeking to democratize the Middle East. Democrats, by contrast, generally propose the law enforcement model of better cooperation with nations and more security at home. [175] In the introduction of the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, Sarah Sewall states the need for "U.S. forces to make securing the civilian, rather than destroying the enemy, their top priority. The civilian population is the center of gravity – the deciding factor in the struggle.... Civilian deaths create an extended family of enemies – new insurgent recruits or informants – and erode support of the host nation." Sewall sums up the book's key points on how to win this battle: "Sometimes, the more you protect your force, the less secure you may be.... Sometimes, the more force is used, the less effective it is.... The more successful the counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used and the more risk must be accepted.... Sometimes, doing nothing is the best reaction." [176] This strategy, often termed "courageous restraint", has certainly led to some success on the Middle East battlefield. However, it does not address the fact that terrorists are mostly homegrown. [175]

Terrorism research

Terrorism research, called terrorism and counter-terrorism research, is an interdisciplinary academic field which seeks to understand the causes of terrorism, how to prevent it as well as its impact in the broadest sense. Terrorism research can be carried out in both military and civilian contexts, for example by research centres such as the British Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). There are several academic journals devoted to the field. [177]

International agreements

One of the agreements that promote the international legal anti-terror framework is the Code of Conduct Towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism that was adopted at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2018. The Code of Conduct was initiated by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Its main goal is to implement a wide range of international commitments to counter terrorism and establish a broad global coalition towards achieving a world free of terrorism by 2045. The Code was signed by more than 70 countries. [178]

Mass media

La Terroriste, a 1910 poster depicting a female member of the Combat Organization of the Polish Socialist Party throwing a bomb at a Russian official's car. Plakat La Terroriste.jpg
La Terroriste, a 1910 poster depicting a female member of the Combat Organization of the Polish Socialist Party throwing a bomb at a Russian official's car.

Mass media exposure may be a primary goal of those carrying out terrorism, to expose issues that would otherwise be ignored by the media. Some consider this to be manipulation and exploitation of the media. [179]

The Internet has created a new channel for groups to spread their messages. [180] This has created a cycle of measures and counter measures by groups in support of and in opposition to terrorist movements. The United Nations has created its own online counter-terrorism resource. [181]

The mass media will, on occasion, censor organizations involved in terrorism (through self-restraint or regulation) to discourage further terrorism. This may encourage organizations to perform more extreme acts of terrorism to be shown in the mass media. Conversely James F. Pastor explains the significant relationship between terrorism and the media, and the underlying benefit each receives from the other. [182]

There is always a point at which the terrorist ceases to manipulate the media gestalt. A point at which the violence may well escalate, but beyond which the terrorist has become symptomatic of the media gestalt itself. Terrorism as we ordinarily understand it is innately media-related.

Novelist William Gibson [183]

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously spoke of the close connection between terrorism and the media, calling publicity 'the oxygen of terrorism'. [184]

Outcome of terrorist groups

How terrorist groups end (n = 268): The most common ending for a terrorist group is to convert to nonviolence via negotiations (43 percent), with most of the rest terminated by routine policing (40 percent). Groups that were ended by military force constituted only 7 percent. RANDterroristGpsEnd2006.svg
How terrorist groups end (n = 268): The most common ending for a terrorist group is to convert to nonviolence via negotiations (43 percent), with most of the rest terminated by routine policing (40 percent). Groups that were ended by military force constituted only 7 percent.

Jones and Libicki (2008) created a list of all the terrorist groups they could find that were active between 1968 and 2006. They found 648. of those, 136 splintered and 244 were still active in 2006. [186] Of the ones that ended, 43 percent converted to nonviolent political actions, like the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. Law enforcement took out 40 percent. Ten percent won. Only 20 groups, 7 percent, were destroyed by military force.

Forty-two groups became large enough to be labeled an insurgency; 38 of those had ended by 2006. Of those, 47 percent converted to nonviolent political actors. Only 5 percent were taken out by law enforcement. 26 percent won. 21 percent succumbed to military force. [187] Jones and Libicki concluded that military force may be necessary to deal with large insurgencies but are only occasionally decisive, because the military is too often seen as a bigger threat to civilians than the terrorists. To avoid that, the rules of engagement must be conscious of collateral damage and work to minimize it.

Another researcher, Audrey Cronin, lists six primary ways that terrorist groups end: [188]

  1. Capture or killing of a group's leader. (Decapitation).
  2. Entry of the group into a legitimate political process. (Negotiation).
  3. Achievement of group aims. (Success).
  4. Group implosion or loss of public support. (Failure).
  5. Defeat and elimination through brute force. (Repression).
  6. Transition from terrorism into other forms of violence. (Reorientation).


The following terrorism databases are or were made publicly available for research purposes, and track specific acts of terrorism:

The following public report and index provides a summary of key global trends and patterns in terrorism around the world

The following publicly available resources index electronic and bibliographic resources on the subject of terrorism

The following terrorism databases are maintained in secrecy by the United States Government for intelligence and counter-terrorism purposes:

Jones and Libicki (2008) includes a table of 268 terrorist groups active between 1968 and 2006 with their status as of 2006: still active, splintered, converted to nonviolence, removed by law enforcement or military, or won. (These data are not in a convenient machine-readable format but are available.)

See also


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  2. Wisnewski, J. Jeremy, ed. (2008). Torture, Terrorism, and the Use of Violence (also available as Review Journal of Political Philosophy Volume 6, Issue Number 1). Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 175. ISBN   978-1-4438-0291-8.
  3. Stevenson, ed. by Angus (2010). Oxford dictionary of English (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-957112-3.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. Halibozek, Edward P.; Jones, Andy; Kovacich, Gerald L. (2008). The corporate security professional's handbook on terrorism (illustrated ed.). Elsevier (Butterworth-Heinemann). pp. 4–5. ISBN   978-0-7506-8257-2 . Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Robert Mackey (November 20, 2009). "Can Soldiers Be Victims of Terrorism?". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2010. Terrorism is the deliberate killing of innocent people, at random, in order to spread fear through a whole population and force the hand of its political leaders.
  6. 1 2 Sinclair, Samuel Justin; Antonius, Daniel (2012). The Psychology of Terrorism Fears. Oxford University Press, US. p. 14. ISBN   978-0-19-538811-4.
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  22. Edmund Burke – To The Earl Fitzwilliam (Christmas, 1795.) In: Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 3 (Letters on a Regicide Peace) (1795).
    This Internet version contains two, mingled, indications of page numbers: one with single brackets like [260], one with double brackets like [ [309] ]. Burke lengthily introduces his view on 'this present Directory government', and then writes on page [359]: "Those who arbitrarily erected the new building out of the old materials of their own Convention, were obliged to send for an Army to support their work. (…) At length, after a terrible struggle, the Troops prevailed over the Citizens. (…) This power is to last as long as the Parisians think proper. (…) [315] To secure them further, they have a strong corps of irregulars, ready armed. Thousands of those Hell-hounds called Terrorists, whom they had shut up in Prison on their last Revolution, as the Satellites of Tyranny, are let loose on the people. (…)"
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Related Research Articles

State terrorism refers to acts of terrorism conducted by a state, whether against foreign targets or against its own citizens. There is some disagreement about how to exactly define what is and what is not state terrorism, see "Definition" section below for details.

Counter-terrorism activity to defend against or prevent terrorist actions

Counter-terrorism, also known as antiterrorism, incorporates the practice, military tactics, techniques, and strategy that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategies include attempts to counter financing of terrorism.

Nuclear terrorism terrorism involving nuclear weapons

Nuclear terrorism refers to any person or persons who detonate a nuclear weapon in an act of terrorism. Some definitions of nuclear terrorism include the sabotage of a nuclear facility and/or the detonation of a radiological device, colloquially termed a dirty bomb, but consensus is lacking. In legal terms, nuclear terrorism is an offense committed if a person unlawfully and intentionally “uses in any way radioactive material … with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury; or with the intent to cause substantial damage to property or to the environment; or with the intent to compel a natural or legal person, an international organization or a State to do or refrain from doing an act”, according to the 2005 United Nations International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Religious terrorism is terrorism carried out based on motivations and goals that may have a predominantly religious character or influence.

Propaganda of the deed is specific political action meant to be exemplary to others and serve as a catalyst for revolution.

Islamic terrorism terrorist acts committed by Muslims, particularly violent Islamists, who claim a religious rationale for these acts

Islamic terrorism, Islamist terrorism or radical Islamic terrorism are terrorist acts against civilians committed by violent Islamists who claim a religious motivation.

Christian terrorism comprises terrorist acts by groups or individuals who profess Christian motivations or goals. Christian terrorists justify their violent tactics through their interpretation of the Bible, in accordance with their own objectives and world view. These interpretations are typically different from those of established Christian denominations.

A lone actor, lone-actor terrorist, or lone wolf is someone who prepares and commits violent acts alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group. They may be influenced or motivated by the ideology and beliefs of an external group and may act in support of such a group. In its original sense, a "lone wolf" is an animal or person that generally lives or spends time alone instead of with a group.

Cyberterrorism is the use of the Internet to conduct violent acts that result in, or threaten, loss of life or significant bodily harm, in order to achieve political or ideological gains through threat or intimidation. It is also sometimes considered an act of Internet terrorism where terrorist activities, including acts of deliberate, large-scale disruption of computer networks, especially of personal computers attached to the Internet by means of tools such as computer viruses, computer worms, phishing, and other malicious software and hardware methods and programming scripts.

Criticism of the War on Terror addresses the morals, ethics, efficiency, economics, as well as other issues surrounding the War on Terror. It also touches upon criticism against the phrase itself, which was branded as a misnomer. The notion of a "war" against "terrorism" has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that participating governments exploited it to pursue long-standing policy/military objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe upon human rights. It is argued that the term war is not appropriate in this context, since there is no identifiable enemy and that it is unlikely international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1566 United Nations Security Council resolution

United Nations Security Council resolution 1566, adopted unanimously on 8 October 2004, after reaffirming resolutions 1267 (1999), 1373 (2001) and 1540 (2004), the Council condemned terrorism as a serious threat to peace and strengthened anti-terrorism legislation.

Terrorism in India

Terrorism in India, according to the Home Ministry, poses a significant threat to the people of India. Terrorism found in India includes ethno-nationalist terrorism, religious terrorism, left wing terrorism and narco terrorism.

Terrorism in Russia has a long history starting from the time of the Russian Empire. Terrorism, in the modern sense, means violence against civilians to achieve political or ideological objectives by creating extreme fear. Terrorism was an important tool used by Marxist revolutionaries in the early 20th century to disrupt the social, political, and economic system and enable rebels to bring down the Tzarist government. Terrorist tactics, such as hostage-taking, were widely used by the Soviet secret agencies, most notably during the Red Terror and Great Terror campaigns, against the population of their own country, according to Karl Kautsky and other historians of Bolshevism.

Communist terrorism describes terrorism carried out in the advancement of, or by groups who adhere to, communism or related ideologies, such as Leninism, Maoism, or Marxism–Leninism. In history communist terrorism has sometimes taken the form of state-sponsored terrorism, supported by communist nations such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cambodia. In addition, non-state actors such as the Red Brigades, the Front Line and the Red Army Faction have also engaged in communist terrorism. These groups hope to inspire the masses to rise up and begin a revolution to overthrow existing political and economic systems. This form of terrorism can sometimes be called red terrorism or left terrorism.

New Zealand has experienced few terrorist incidents in its short history and the threat is generally regarded as very low. However, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has warned against complacency. This article serves as a list and compilation of past acts of terrorism, attempts of terrorism, and other such items pertaining to terrorist activities within New Zealand.

Suicide attack attack in which the attacker knows they will die

A suicide attack is any violent attack in which the attacker accepts their own death as a direct result of the method used to harm, damage or destroy the target. Suicide attacks have occurred throughout history, often as part of a military campaign such as the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II, and more recently as part of terrorist campaigns, such as the September 11 attacks.

Terrorism in Europe

There is a long history of terrorism in Europe. This has often been linked to nationalist and separatist movements, while other acts have been related to politics, religious extremism, or organized crime. Terrorism in the European sections of the intercontinental countries of Turkey and Russia is not included in this list.

Terrorism in Sri Lanka has been a highly destructive phenomenon during the periods of the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983–2009) and the first and second JVP insurrections. A common definition of terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government for political, religious, or ideological goals. Sri Lanka is a country that has experienced some of the worst known acts of modern terrorism, such as suicide bombings, massacres of civilians and assassination of political and social leaders, that posed a significant threat to the society, economy and development of the country. The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978 is the legislation, that provides the powers to law enforcement officers to deal with issues related to terrorism in Sri Lanka. It was first enacted as a temporary law in 1979 under the presidency of J. R. Jayewardene, and later made permanent in 1982.

National Agency for Combating Terrorism

The National Agency for Combating Terrorism is an Indonesian non-ministerial government department that works to prevent terrorism. BNPT is headed by a chief, Suhardi Alius, who is responsible to the President. When it was first launched, the leader of BNPT held the ranking of a civil servant but the Presidential Regulation in 2012 elevated the post of BNPT Chief to the ministerial level.


Further reading